To think that perceptions of child abuse have changed a lot over the years?

(119 Posts)
extremepie Mon 11-Feb-13 20:34:51

Been reading some threads on here recently that have got we thinking about the definitions of 'child abuse' and how it has changed a lot over time.

Some things that were quite commonplace 20 years ago would now leave people gasping in horror but at the time it was just seen as discipline and, by extension, good parenting.

The example that springs to mind is the whole 'washing child's mouth out with soap if they swear' - quite normal when I was a child but now would land you an appointment with social services.

Why the shift for one generation to the next? Why have attitudes changed so dramatically to how we discipline our kids when, generally speaking it seems that people are growing up more badly behaved now we don't use these 'abusive' practices anymore? Abviously I am generalising but AIBU to wonder why things have changed so much?

extremepie Mon 11-Feb-13 20:36:03

Oops, bad iPhone spelling!

willesden Mon 11-Feb-13 20:49:06

Forty years ago, on my aunt's wedding day, my great uncle decided that she had 'cheeked' him so he took his belt off and beat her with it. She was wearing her wedding dress. A lot has changed in one generation.

HollyBerryBush Mon 11-Feb-13 20:54:16

willesden that would be 15 years after my aunt married a bloke who thought he could take a fist to her, she whipped him and bloodied him with a dog lead. He never raised a hand to her agian and they had a good and loving marriage.

I doubt my aunt or your uncle would be held up as paragons today.

PolkadotCircus Mon 11-Feb-13 20:56:12

Err I don't think normal families behave like that.

Not sure where you grew up extreme, but even twenty years ago where I am washing a child's mouth out with soap and water and the like would have been deemed extremely poor, and abusive, parenting.

Your final paragraph is something that the older generation has believed about the younger for hundreds of years so while what is/isn't acceptable does change, the reaction to that change has been a constant.

P.S. YANBU in terms of the shift, but YABU to imply that it is a negative one.

gordyslovesheep Mon 11-Feb-13 20:58:18

feminism and various campaigns around the right of women and children opened the doors to 'closed family' situation - rape with in marriage was legal until the 1990's - thankfully we are understanding that women, men and children ALL have rights - equally to be free from fear, pain and abuse

gordyslovesheep Mon 11-Feb-13 20:59:20

and yes I agree - normal families in my childhood (1970's) didn't behave as violently as those outlined above

HollyBerryBush Mon 11-Feb-13 21:00:51

There was a great phrase a while back, sorry to the poster who came out with it as I cant attribute it to you - "you cant apply todays standards to yesterdays legislation" (I might have a word or two wrong in that)

tethersend Mon 11-Feb-13 21:01:21

Increased awareness of abuse has meant that children who speak up about being abused are believed in a way they weren't thirty or forty years ago.

I'd call that progress.

hellhasnofurylikeahungrywoman Mon 11-Feb-13 21:01:39

There has been a change over a good many years. Back in the late 40s, early 50s my mum was told that if she ever spoke of the sexual abuse she was enduring again she would have her mouth washed out with soap and she would be struck dead, she was told that by her own mother. Needless to say the abuse in that household wasn't only sexual, it was physical and emotional as well. I hope today that it would be picked up by outside agencies and causes for concern would be raised by schools and neighbours as we, as a society, are more aware about what constitutes abuse.

Tee2072 Mon 11-Feb-13 21:05:13

Yes, yes, that's right. This is the first generation that has ever been undisciplined.

"The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for
authority, they show disrespect to their elders.... They no longer
rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents,
chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their
legs, and are tyrants over their teachers."

Usually attributed to Socrates (B c. 469 / 470 BCE D 399 BCE (age approx. 71)). May have been Plato ( B: c. 428–427 BCE D: c. 348–347 BCE (aged c. 80))

VeremyJyle Mon 11-Feb-13 21:05:29

I was just discussing with MIL the issue of other people disciplining my children, if I am there or not and they misbehave bloody well tell them off! She feels the opposite, like she would be treading on my toes. shock
When I was younger of course you were told off by other adults, you may not have liked it but it stopped you misbehaving. Why should my own think they can play up other people? Yet so many other parents I know are infuriated when their children are told off! Not sure where that shift has come from either.

Oh and as a side point, my half brother had told my MIL that my dad (his step-dad) used to 'beat' him which I laughed off as we all got a whack off my dad, not just poor victim step-son grin

HollyBerryBush Mon 11-Feb-13 21:05:33

normal families in my childhood (1970's) didn't behave as violently as those outlined above

I agree, but then we didnt have disruptives in school, drugs were not common place, children were still respectful of their elders and had common manners and courtesy, men doffed caps and stood for ladies - all of which today are just so bloody awfully mysoginist and we clearly didnt let children express them selves at the expense of others learning. sufficiently

thebody Mon 11-Feb-13 21:06:00

I grew up in the 70s and 80s.

For me the 70s was an era of no pressure at school but excellent results. Roaming free all the holidays and going home for tea, no one checking on you with a mobile, no car so had to get trains and buses at age 9+ and all alone of course. Getting smacked regularly at home and at school almost daily

I was made to chew chalk for talking in class.

But it was also a time of sexism and appalling racism.

Some better some worse.

HollyBerryBush Mon 11-Feb-13 21:06:45

^^ I love that Socrates post - I do it in assemblies once a year grin

Poor hard done by kiddie winks!

Tee2072 Mon 11-Feb-13 21:08:15

So misunderstood, the poor kiddies, for thousands of years. grin

Tryharder Mon 11-Feb-13 21:09:48

We were discussing this at work today. Remember Mandy Smith? Sam Fox (who went topless in the Sun on her 16th birthday iirc), Wildchild Emma Ridley. Etc etc. It was so mainstream...

Dawndonna Mon 11-Feb-13 21:09:48

I grew up in the sixties and seventies. I tried going to the police about my parent at one point. They laughed and took me back to her. She beat me up, again. She was a headteacher at a local primary school, she had a cut glass accent and a double barrelled surname. She was a nasty abusive woman who should not, under any circumstances be allowed within ten feet of a child.
Do I sound bitter?

thebody Mon 11-Feb-13 21:10:02

Yes love Socrates quote. Makes you not despair if life really.

WilsonFrickett Mon 11-Feb-13 21:10:34

We were beaten in school, often with leather belts.
Sexual abuse was incredibly common, but never spoken of.
There was no such thing as marital rape, because a married man had the right to have sex with his wife whenever he wanted.

Yep, things have changed. Thank god. I don't think any of the things above contributed to raising polite, respectful children though.

thebody Mon 11-Feb-13 21:11:16

Dawndonna, awful, do you mind if I ask how this had resolved for you?

Tee2072 Mon 11-Feb-13 21:14:00

thebody every time someone complains about how awful children are these days, I drag that quote out.

Children haven't changed. Hopefully the way we treat them has.

MrsKoala Mon 11-Feb-13 21:15:19

I think the concept of neglect has changed.when I grew up 70s and 80s it was quite common to just tag along with what your parents did. No special child centric plans were made. Sit in the pub corner and be quiet type of thing. Also we were left alone a lot from a younger age. Obviously all different depending on people but it seemed quite normal.

"Abviously I am generalising but AIBU to wonder why things have changed so much"

Firstly the introduction of Human Rights and the rights of a child.

Secondly, research into the effect of different types of punishments on the emotional/pychological wellbeing of a developing human being (child).

As knowledge increased, the law changed as the Government became responsible for the wellbeing of anyone classed as "vulnerable".

Parents no longer owned their children had could no longer do what they wanted to them.

It developed along with the welfare state and the Governmnet pledging care.

gordyslovesheep Mon 11-Feb-13 21:15:47

I agree, but then we didnt have disruptives in school, drugs were not common place, children were still respectful of their elders and had common manners and courtesy, men doffed caps and stood for ladies - all of which today are just so bloody awfully mysoginist and we clearly didnt let children express them selves at the expense of others learning. sufficiently

erm none of that reflects my experience - sorry - I grew up in a fairly deprived area - we had badly behaved kids in school, graffiti, drugs where massively common (my mums friend and mother of 3 ended up a heroin addict) and I was always encouraged to express myself and have opnions

The 1989 Children Act was a big turning point.

SashaSashays Mon 11-Feb-13 21:17:57

I have wondered about this, and I know I'm dredging up the mn obsession but is class in some way relevant.

Having discussed a similar topic at work recently. I grew up in the seventies, I was smacked, once or twice got the whacker. I never did have my mouth washed out with soap but I knew of lots of children who did, I was told I'd be given something to really cry about (which was recently labelled abuse on another thread), toys binned, dinner removed etc. I grew up in a poor working class council estate in inner London. There was a noticeable difference between the discipline in the upbringings of my colleagues who had middle class type upbringings and those who were like me.

Its something I've been pondering.

However yanbu that there has been a shift, I'm not sure if its that we've all become a lot less emotionally repressed or more child and youth centric as a society.

thebody Mon 11-Feb-13 21:21:15

Tee it is now a quote I have to learn. Fantastic.

I grew up in the 70's/80's in the area that i live in now.

It is less violent now and now at leat the perpetraitors are punished.

There is certainly less child abuse/neglect and less DV.

Drugs have replaced alcohol, but the effect isn't any worse, on the children growing up amongst that, tbh.

People have rose tinted glasses when talking about the past.

Dawndonna Mon 11-Feb-13 21:24:45

Thebody I just don't have anything to do with her. She's 77 now and still a nasty manipulative old bat. However, I have a supportive husband, understanding siblings and fabulous children. My oldest is 28. He left home at 18 and he has come almost home every weekend since, and not just to get his washing done! I think that says a lot, taking into consideration that I left at 17 and have never been back.

Dawndonna Mon 11-Feb-13 21:25:34

what nonsense! He has come home almost every weekend since! Sorry, I don't even have wine as an excuse this evening!

babanouche Mon 11-Feb-13 21:30:03

Reading this has made me think about how young we are in our evolution. Yes, I do realise how wanky that sounds. I read somewhere that were slow to change because we learn our parents habits and can only improve on them in a limited way.

HollyBerryBush Mon 11-Feb-13 21:31:27

I went through my teens without a care in the world. If a bloke pinched my arse, he'd get a slap back - and I was safe knowing he'd know why he got a slap back - today a girl would probably get a full on punch in the face.

I worry all the time when my boys go out - I worry that they will be in the wrong place at the wrong time and get shanked. I worry someone will slip something into their drink/they will we stupid enough to try something.

Conversely I worry if you have 2 equally matched lads having a spat that when I was growing up it was sorted with a bloody lip and a hand shake - today its an assult and ruins your life.

The whole world is just pearshaped.

I think I prefered it when I was growing up.

ComposHat Mon 11-Feb-13 21:43:21

It is quite an interesting question, when do children get rights independent of their parents? Something I need to consider in my PhD.

It is a gradual process and it is in constant conflict with the notion that the authority of the state should stop at the front door of the home and shouldn't interfere in the 'private' world of the family. I'd argue that this position was gradually eroded across the second half of the nineteenth century and was utterly shaken by the Boer War and fears over the degredation of the British 'race'.

The 'tipping point' I'd argue is the 1908 Children Act which served as a beach head from which the state extended its rights and responsibilty over the child.

timidviper Mon 11-Feb-13 21:44:43

I don't think it is the removal of these "abusive" punishments that is leading to poorer behaviour but is the removal of the clear, defined boundaries and standards of behaviour. E.g. Using an example given above: 'Don't swear or I'll wash your mouth out with soap' has not been replaced by 'Don't swear or I will ground you/confiscate your phone/similar' but has gone to 'Please don't swear'....'Please don't swear'...'Please don't swear'...with no effect or consequences.

My children are in their early 20s and I am often shocked by the posts on here from younger mums who do not seem to understand the importance of setting boundaries in young children as a precursor to good behaviour when they are older. Often it is for very nice reasons "but he's so sweet/I love him so much/etc" but there does seem, now, to be an attitude that the world should be child-centric which I think is storing up problems

Dawndonna They say the best revenge is living well and having such a lovely family is the best way to refute your horrible mother. Well done.

SashaSashays Mon 11-Feb-13 21:48:30

I don't know much about the 1908 Children Act, but I know in the Victorian era and shortly after the idea of a childhood really took off, as well as compulsory schooling, workers rights for children, do-gooding the advent of Barnardos etc

All of these organisations did things which by now would be considered quite appalling but yes I suppose the really big change was when childhood became a 'thing' and then people started to work towards what a childhood should and shouldn't include.

babanouche Mon 11-Feb-13 21:51:57

I don't know that kids are more badly behaved at all. If they are it's probably got more to do with not having the freedom to express their energy the way we used to do.

ComposHat Mon 11-Feb-13 21:55:49

Sasha George K Behlmer's Child Abuse and Moral Reform in England, 1870-1908 is a pretty good and readable account of this process.

But it is interesting to think that our concept of childhood as a specific life-stage is no more than a couple of hundred years old.

SashaSashays Mon 11-Feb-13 22:04:34

Thanks Compos, I have to admit I'm not a great reader but at some point I intend to take a look.

I do think its very interesting and its something that often enters my head in debates about things being age appropriate on letting 'kids be kids'. I'm not quite sure what my views on it are, I do wonder if as it is in effect an invented concept whether its now just something reinforced to sell us products or if should even be valued as highly as it is and then I also wonder about how invented it actually is.

I understand from my own family and the little reading I have done that the idea of childhood took a little longer to seep down into the working class, (but this was mainly because of financial limitations within families i.e. children had to work to survive) so I'm not sure if I think that has continued up until recently or even now.

Bunfags Mon 11-Feb-13 22:10:30

I think we've made a lot of progress, but there are some things that I think were good for us. I remember my friend and I coming home to either one of our houses after school and cooking ourself stuff. Not just bunging stuff in the oven, but making flapjacks. confused I think that would be frowned upon with 10 year olds these days. I think it encourages independence though.

goodmum123 Mon 11-Feb-13 22:11:16

Dawndonna, sorry about your terrible childhood. Bought a tear to my eye. Glad you are happy and hot through it (hugs) x

goodmum123 Mon 11-Feb-13 22:11:42


WilsonFrickett Mon 11-Feb-13 22:17:02

YY to childhood being a relatively new 'thing' I grew up in a mining community and from the little research I've done, children were adults from the age of 8, down a pit bent double picking up shale and dragging it in carts up to the surface. I would suspect they didn't have the energy to be 'badly behaved'.

MrsKeithRichards Mon 11-Feb-13 22:24:28

Can we not minimise abuse and confuse abuse with misguided and outraged discipline? Child abuse isn't defined in a black and white manner.

It was only a few generations ago Mary Ellen had to be protected against abuse by using the already in place animal cruelty laws because none existed for children. Abuse hasn't changed.

ComposHat Mon 11-Feb-13 22:31:50

I understand from my own family and the little reading I have done that the idea of childhood took a little longer to seep down into the working class, (but this was mainly because of financial limitations within families i.e. children had to work to survive) so I'm not sure if I think that has continued up until recently or even now

Yep absolutely. The notion of a universal childhood isn't something that emerged until comparatively late, certainly working class children were the last to benefit from it.

nokidshere Mon 11-Feb-13 22:46:38

I agree, but then we didnt have disruptives in school, drugs were not common place, children were still respectful of their elders and had common manners and courtesy, men doffed caps and stood for ladies - all of which today are just so bloody awfully mysoginist and we clearly didnt let children express them selves at the expense of others learning.

Sorry but I grew up in the 60's and 70's and you are looking through rose coloured glasses I think!!!! Children have been the same since time began and, as someone else said, its only the way we treat them that has changed - thankfully for the majority of us, for the better.

Poverty was worse then than it is now. No coming home and cooking flapjacks for us - we would have been lucky if there was stale bread to eat! Moonlight flits were common, strikes and unrest weekly events. If we got hit at school for being naughty then we got hit again at home for getting hit in the first place! Rulers and canes were commonplace, as was washing out mouths with soap. Drugs were more widely available than they are now and sentences for offenders lighter.

The problem (as I see it) is that discipline has become a dirty word and so, for many, they just avoid it completely. It is perfectly possible to have rules and discipline without being abusive and without being seen as an ogre by your children. I wouldn't want my children to live in the world that I did but nor do I want them to grow up without respect and kindness for others.

extremepie Mon 11-Feb-13 22:52:09

Sorry, I didn't mean to imply that it was a bad thing that 'times have changed' - if they hadn't my 6yr old DS would be sweeping chimneys for a living!

It's not that children in other generations have never misbehaved (or course they have!) but it seems like the development of, say, smacking from discipline into abuse is a fairly recent one.

That isn't a bad thing necessarily, I didn't realise some of the laws brought in to give children rights were that recent, I imagine that has a lot to do with it.

I suppose I started thinking about it because I was smacked as a child, not just the odd smack on the leg but was regularly hit with a wooden spoon, belts and slippers - I used to go swimming at school with spoon shaped bruises on my legs. Yet I never felt that I had been abused, just disciplined, as I assumed (perhaps wrongly) that most other children were. It just never felt abnormal or wrong, no one at school ever noticed or said anything about it (which reinforced the fact that it was 'normal' to me). I'm certain, however, that the way my parents punished me and my siblings would definitely be seen as abuse now (I'm only 27 btw, so this wasn't that long ago!)

GrowSomeCress Mon 11-Feb-13 22:54:47

I have actually heard people on MN suggest that shouting at a child is abuse grin

Bunfags Mon 11-Feb-13 22:57:50

DP was smacked with spoons and had his mouth washed out whith soap and water. I was shock when he told me. His mum was very strict, but I think my folks we more liberal, lentil weaving teacher types. They would still give us a bollocking and send us to be without dinner. It was scarey.

Also, we were never allowed to have a drink back in those days. I remember kids would practically have to beg for one when they were out with parents or family. Do you think this has caused a lot of UTI's and kidney stones?

thebody Mon 11-Feb-13 22:58:46

Dawndonna, good for you, and yes it's a tribute to you as a mum that older kids come home, with or without washing! At the end if the day your mum has reaped what she sowed and serve her right.

Bunfags Mon 11-Feb-13 22:59:37

Do they have to rouse teenage DC in the morning?

I have actually heard people on MN suggest that shouting at a child is abuse grin

If yes, I want to know how. If they don't have teenage dc, it will all become clear then.

thebody Mon 11-Feb-13 23:00:52

Holly your post re your older children, spot on exactly how I feel when my Dss are out.

SashaSashays Mon 11-Feb-13 23:09:02

I really understand the last part of your post OP, I've been told on mn that my siblings and I were abused as a child when I've described our upbringing. When I've gone into detail regarding DH's childhood, which was mainly spent in the Caribbean there have been lots of shock comments.

However both of us, and all our siblings are very close to our parents, feel very loved by our parents and are quite horrified at, what we felt was just us being disciplined in a way our parents felt was right at the time, being termed abuse.

My family is really involved in boxing, when I've mentioned this on mn, its been said that my parents and now I have forced our children into a culture of violence and that it is a form of abuse, SS should be called etc etc etc

I think that, possibly because of some of the careers posters are involved in they are hyper-sensitive to the topic and don't give a true picture of overall societies attitudes (and based on how many kids I see out and about getting a walloping, they really don't).

extremepie Mon 11-Feb-13 23:09:33

GrowSome - I have actually heard that myself....from social services!

MrsKeithRichards Mon 11-Feb-13 23:13:22

extremepie you thought it was normal because it was your norm. That doesn't mean it was right and I think the people that seen your bruises and kept quiet let you down.

I'm only 2 years older than you. My dad was very handy with his fists for completely stupid reasons, annoying him really, not actual discipline. We learnt not to annoy him, avoid him too. I was still copping it at 15 and after chatting to close friends I realised it wasn't normal. I told him it wasn't normal, that he was out of order. It stopped.

I think my mum let me down by not saying that to him, but maybe it was normal to her. My sister's are a good bit older, they moved out as soon as they could.

In fact now I think about it, it still seemed normal to my mum. We were at a family party recently and joking about kids as teenagers, the hassle they cause. I heard my mum saying to a cousin 'oh the bother we had with her, total nightmare, almost broke us up' and I'm thinking I wasn't that bad.

MrsKeithRichards Mon 11-Feb-13 23:19:56

But you can't say shouting at a child is never abusive.

Sure, we all resort to it occasionally, it's pretty ineffective and is a sign of losing control. The frequency, the aggression behind it, what you're shouting could all make it abusive.

It's a big area full of grey bits and looking at occurrences in isolation won't give you a definition.

extreme - yes, that makes more sense.

I'm with MrsKeith on this one though - there's a difference between 'normal' in a given situation (for an extreme look at some of the child bride/arranged marriage cultures around the world) and right.

extremepie Mon 11-Feb-13 23:37:28

True MrsKeith, if you are constantly screaming at your kids (as my eldest sister used to do) that is pretty abusive. Unfortunately the didn't turn out too way, so also not very effective!

Sometimes I wonder why it took so long for society to realise that beating your children into submission was not right - just habit I suppose!

Lollydaydream Mon 11-Feb-13 23:59:51

I do not think for a second that children are more badly behaved en masse than a generation or two ago. It is rose tinted glasses and over reporting.
There clearly has been a shift in how we treat, or aspire to treat, children, over a greater period. I often wonder how much this is due to our ability to control the size of our families. It clearly is harder to control a large family and whereas now in general you only have a large family if you plan it and have an aptitude for managing children in the past it wouldn't have been a choice and parents would have been under greater strain. Also in simple, generalising terms we now choose to have our children, rather than them 'happening' to us; does that not put us more in a position where we feel we have chosen to have them and must do the best we can for them.

stopgap Tue 12-Feb-13 00:03:59

Another working-class product of the 70s and 80s, and my parents were handy with screaming, slapping, occasional bad language and lots of mean comments. My husband had a middle-class upbringing, never slapped in his life, and he is far less prone to agitated outbursts over trivialities.

I also recall pupils having their mouths washed out with soap and water, as well as teachers lobbing board dusters, kids dragged across desks and plenty of slapped lower legs. Most of this, sadly, took place when I was at primary school.

sashh Tue 12-Feb-13 04:54:34

Abviously I am generalising but AIBU to wonder why things have changed so much

A whole generation of parents who decided, 'my child will never experience what I did'.

Every generation has thought that, but we now have things discussed on TV and radio, things on the internet, friends we can phone (not every house had a land line in the 1970s) so this is the first generation or two that has the power to change things, not just the desire.

HollyBerryBush Tue 12-Feb-13 05:57:52

One of the other parents at mini soccer, so thats 10 years ago, was a retired headmaster, said the biggest abuse of children was time. Parents no longer have time for them. They throw money and gadgets but never time. That largely is why society is so much more dysfunctional than we remember it simply because of parental guilt at having no time therefore poor behaviour is endemic, chastisement is rare, punishment never followed through. A lost generation where there are few boundaries but a lot of demands for 'rights'.

He'd seen a lot in his 40 years.

seeker Tue 12-Feb-13 06:18:58

I don't think normal families washed mouths out with soap or took belts to children in the past.

And I think the people who did then probably still do now.

NopeStillNothing Tue 12-Feb-13 06:54:52

Well I'm your age OP and it certainly wasn't the "norm" when I was growing up to go to school with marks on your body! I'm quite shocked that the school ignored it so recently.

Most generations experience a dramatic shift in parenting styles. It's due to children growing up and realising the mistakes of their parents.

It's a good thing.

Goldenbear Tue 12-Feb-13 07:27:03

I can't say that your description aptly describes my experience and my childhood was more like 30 years ago. My parents childhood was in the 50's and early 60's and their personal set ups where not like this either.

I had one friend in the 80's who was smacked around the face once in front of me and on her bum- I was horrified and wasn't allowed to play around her house as a result. I went to a private school from 2- 11 and in that setting the punishments where things like standing against a wall in the playground facing the wall. If you messed around at lunchtime you had to sit on your hands - oddly, for a set time. In the classroom you were sometimes kept in at break.

I have to say the teenage children in my locality are really polite, far more so than where I went to secondary school in South London. I remember lots of violence, especially racial. My brother's friend was badly beaten up by a load of racist teenagers.

I also remember 3 households along my road where domestic violence was occurring. A man chucked a tv out of the top window in one of these DB incidents but myself and my mum and Dad where away, my 15 year old brother had stayed home and was allowed some friends to stay, they all went over to help the woman and the police were called. Another man regularly beat his wife and children. My Dad told me about the Local GP who regularly raised a hand to his wife to.

Tee2072 Tue 12-Feb-13 07:37:10

This thread makes me glad I didn't grow up in the UK.

I'm 44. None of this was acceptable in the US when I was growing up in the 70s and 80s. We learned about child abuse in school and how to help our friends if we suspected.

PolkadotCircus Tue 12-Feb-13 07:59:04

So true Holly.

I think coaxing and begging(just why would anybody do that with a child) or even the worst of the lot ignoring and indulging dreadful behaviour are incredibly damaging.All are relatively new ways of parenting I guess so we're just starting to see the fallout.

Calm,firm but authoritative parenting is supposed to be best, the calm bit I could work on a bit from time to timegrin.

OTheHugeManatee Tue 12-Feb-13 08:24:38

Polkadot - I think you're right. It's conceivable that a generation who grew up with liberal, child-centric parents will think 'my parents let me down by never giving me boundaries' and lead a backlash returning to much stricter methods with their own DC.

It's also suggestive that narcissistic personality disorder has been on the rise in recent years. Psychologists think NPD can have it's roots in over-praising and lack of boundaries.

I think future generations of psychotherapists will have entirely new challenges to deal with in a client population who lacked for nothing material but received no discipline, no guidance and only scraps of time from their overworked, guilty, well-intentionedly liberal parents and feel terribly let down as adults.

Morloth Tue 12-Feb-13 09:15:35

My parents didn't do any of that stuff, I am 36.

I can remember a smack though and I remember what I did to deserve it, (I was about 8) and bloody hell did I deserve it, I deliberately pushed Mum to breaking point, I can remember doing it really really clearly.

The kids I see around me now are pretty much like the kids were when I was a kid. Kids don't change much IMO, the toys do and the activities do, but kids are pretty much kids.

cory Tue 12-Feb-13 09:23:11

"Why have attitudes changed so dramatically to how we discipline our kids when, generally speaking it seems that people are growing up more badly behaved now we don't use these 'abusive' practices anymore?"

Are you sure they are growing up more badly?

If I had to choose between spending the day with a bunch of 12th century teenagers and a bunch of 21st century ones, I'd choose the 21st century bunch every time.

(The churchmen of the Middle Ages admitted openly that the Crusades were very much about the fact that young people were out of control: since they were obviously going to kill somebody whatever you did, it was better if they did their killing somewhere else.)

Even the things my granddad got up to with his brothers and told as funny stories afterwards would land you in court these days, and he grew up a very law-abiding citizen.

The kind of fighting and attacking smaller children that was routine in playgrounds in my childhood would get you expelled these days.

I think our tolerance for bad behaviour has diminished enormously, so we perceive more bad behaviour.

The police went round our local youth club the other month and asked for the culprits after a neighbour had called them out.

Their crime? They had been kicking a ball in a cul de sac.

We got a letter home because our ds immediately confessed that he had been there. It was quite clear from the letter that nothing had been damaged and nobody had been hurt or harrassed: the neighbour was upset because he saw a group of 12yos playing in the street and the police took his concerns seriously.

Imagine that happening 40 years ago!

cory Tue 12-Feb-13 09:25:08

As for teachers, they were not necessarily respected because they had the right to corporal punishment: I have spoken to several teachers of that generation and they mention the culture of playing tricks on teachers (tin tacks on chairs anyone?) and covert cheekiness that could easily send a new teacher into a breakdown. The only difference was- it was the teacher who got blamed for not controlling the class.

Remember that scene in Goodbye Mr Chips where the dying headteacher has to take classes because the teacher cannot control the class and they are pouring water down his neck ("silly fool, got hysterical" is the HT's comment). No sympathy for the teacher, no sense that maybe there is something wrong with the behaviour of boys who will do. This is a nostalgic book about a successful private school teaching privileged boys.

And what about Kestrel for A Knave, for a portrait of a state school in the 60s? The author had been a teacher, he was describing what he had seen.

fromparistoberlin Tue 12-Feb-13 09:29:26

perceptions of EVERYTHING have changed, why single out child abuse?

we no longer have a death penalty
we no longer burnh witches
we no longer send babies to boarding school (opps we still do that one)

EarlyMorningBaconDemon Tue 12-Feb-13 09:38:48

I've been told that my upbringing was abusing - and I am a bit hmm about it because, to me, it never seemed like it!

I was smacked when I did something wrong, and was sent to my bedroom. If I didn't want to eat, then I sat at the table in silence until everyone else had finished, and I wasn't allowed anything in substitute - so if I didn't eat the food placed in front of me, I went hungry and it was my decision. If I didn't stay within earshot of the house, I wasn't allowed a video at bedtime.

Really basic stuff, or so I thought! Apparently it's abuse?

MrsKeithRichards Tue 12-Feb-13 09:42:31

cory that's shocking, no wonder we have a rubbish football team and lazy kids!

I was brought up with my mum telling me to ignore the No Ball Games signs on the only grasses patches in our scheme, I've allowed my own son to play on these areas. People need to get a grip!

NothingIsAsBadAsItSeems Tue 12-Feb-13 09:42:58

The example that springs to mind is the whole 'washing child's mouth out with soap if they swear' - quite normal when I was a child but now would land you an appointment with social services.

Surely not? Is it too late for me to call them?

I do think children today are far worse than when my parents were children or even when I was a child, probably due to the 'child abuse'--cough, cough... Discipline-- they suffered...

MrsKeithRichards Tue 12-Feb-13 09:47:45

example Are you really only 27 and saying that washing someones mouth out with soap was normal when you were a child? I'm 29, it wasn't normal between my peers and I, in fact it never happened. It wasn't normal.

MrsKeithRichards Tue 12-Feb-13 09:48:10

Doh! I mean extreme, obviously.

Bunfags Tue 12-Feb-13 10:49:44

I am 36 and my parents would say "I'll wash your mouth out with soap and water", but never did it. It was just one of those things they said back in the 80's I think. We were a tad middle class I s'pose, so I was smacked a couple of times and looking back, I can see why. I didn't know anyone who had ever had their mouths washed out with soap and water or who was smacked on a regular basis.

If we didn't want what was on offer for dinner, that was tough titties, but I don't see anything abusive about that.

My DP had mis mouth washed out with soap and water and was slapped round the side of his head for being naughty. I don't think he would describe his childhood as abusive. His family all seem very functional, most of them are nice people and they all get on well.

seeker Tue 12-Feb-13 10:54:03

"I agree, but then we didnt have disruptives in school, drugs were not common place, children were still respectful of their elders and had common manners and courtesy, men doffed caps and stood for ladies - all of which today are just so bloody awfully mysoginist and we clearly didnt let children express them selves at the expense of others learning."

Where was this, Narnia? grin

cory Tue 12-Feb-13 10:57:48

My mother was a teacher in another country in the 60s and 70s. She used to come home and regale us with stories of disruptive British children and disruptive British schools garnered from the staff room copy of the Daily Mail.

That was when smacking was common in the UK and corporal punishment still allowed, but both were a distant memory in Sweden.

I remember our horrified delight at those tales of hooliganism in a distant land. grin

sosooootired Tue 12-Feb-13 11:49:24

i had an aunty who always threatened me and my cousins that she'd box our ears...i still wonder what that could have entailed!

my dear mother thought it was terribly 'common' to shout and threaten children but she also had a horrible and short temper and would unleash a torrent of abuse, slapping and dragging me about by my hair. i can see her discipline techniques were really to instill terror, she could stop me in my tracks at 50m with a glint in her eye - seriously.

needless to say my own parenting went completely the other way.
is it so ridiculous to say that 'shouting is abuse?' if it's hateful and mean then of course it is.
i've always thought it terrible to tell a child to 'shut up' better to encourage them to be quiet with other phrases - but i'm being challenged with third dc now...!

SashaSashays Tue 12-Feb-13 12:05:47

I did some thinking about this last night, after posting. Why do DH and I, and other people for that matter, seem ok about the way our parents were when some others clearly find the same treatment very upsetting.

The only conclusion I can come to is the context. I always felt very loved, my parents told me they loved us. I may have occasionally thought they were being a bit mean when they shouted at or smacked me but I never questioned they loved me.

I know on mn people are shock at parents threatening things about sending the child away, my parents did this, it never upset me as I knew they never would, I just realised they were really cross with me and I needed to pack it in.

All those sayings; box your ears, knock you into the middle of next week, you won't sit down for a week, wring your neck, skin you alive, knock your block off etc were common place in my childhood but never upset me, DH is the same. Sometimes yes I got smacked or whacked or flicked or pinched, again never really upset me. I was told to shut-up or piss off or whatever but also didn't find it upsetting.

In the context of an otherwise loving home, and clearly said without genuine malice I think they can just be like water off a duck's back. Similarly the way my siblings and I treated each other, was abysmal but it was never treated as anything more than a bit of a rivalry.

flippinada Tue 12-Feb-13 12:24:30

This pops up every so often on MN (as in RL, I would imagine).

I grew up in the 70s and 80s. so 30-40 years ago. Smacking was certainly used widely and regarded as normal; I remember being smacked and I used to read a comic where badly behaved children were smacked for their misdemeanours - you don't see that now.

Things like the belt and having your mouth washed out with soap and water were certainly not normal. My parents were certainly not right on hippy types and they would never have considered that as a method of discipline. I remember vividly being smacked at primary school and it was humiliating and horrible; capital punishment in school was outlawed fairly recently I think and a good thing too. No-one should be hitting small children (or indeed any children).

People who are reminiscing about the halcyon olden days where kiddie-winkers didn't cheek their elders/take drugs and doffed their caps to old ladies or whatever because smacking are wearing rose tinted specs . Those problems have always been with us. Now we just know more about it. And as others have said we are more open about child abuse and children are more likely to be believed. That has to be a good thing.

That said, discipline is certainly an issue but physical violence is most definitely not the answer to it.

MrsKeithRichards Tue 12-Feb-13 12:29:22


sashh Tue 12-Feb-13 12:39:21

we no longer burnh witches

We never did, they were hung.

I remember a discussion in school with the teacher when I was about 7, The discussion was about parents smacking children.

I got a gold star for knowing the answer was, 'because they love you'.

I've had my mouth washed out with a very soapy flannel, properly scrubbed.

No one, as far as I know, pulled my mother up on it, it was seen as her choice.

Being smacked / hit was common in my life. I didn't think to question whether it was common for other people, it didn't occur to me.

skullcandy Tue 12-Feb-13 12:39:31

one example of how things have changed in discipline in the school environment.

my dad regales us with stories of the woodwork teacher hitting the students with a lump of '2x4' and the english teacher throwing board rubbers back in the 50's/60's as well as the whole ruler/cane across the knuckles.

my brother was stapled to the wall by the one teacher in the early 80's.

by the late 80s, the teachers weren't allowed to touch you and the kids knew it.

These days parents complain if the teachers so much as raise their voices or call the children names, and nurseries aren't allowed to label children as naughty when telling them off for something.

Bunfags Tue 12-Feb-13 14:02:34

Stapled to the wall! His clothes hopefully?

I started secondary school at the endn of the 80's, but there was never any physical punishment in first or middle school and it was still legal back then.

Latara Tue 12-Feb-13 14:23:54

I'm 36 & remember the threat of ''i'll wash out your mouth with soap & water for swearing'' as a child. It never happened but then i never swore.

But at age 18 I swore at my dad & got a smack in the face, no hesitation.

It didn't occur to me that this was wrong as i'd been smacked as a child.

I love my parents & understand that their backgrounds were harsh, the punishments i had weren't as bad as some friends - one girl got beaten by her dad with a slipper as a teenager quite regularly. She never did anything 'wrong' as far as i could tell.

I heard my Uncle threaten his 4 yr old granddaughter recently with a smack in the mouth - from the way she went quiet i'd guess that he does smack her if she plays him up - which shocks me now, but seemed normal as a child for me.

Bunfags Tue 12-Feb-13 14:27:43

My mum slapped me round the face one during a row. I was about 16 at the time and looking back, I was being a complete bitch. She would have needed the patience of a saint to NOT slap me. I drove her to it in all honesty, so looking back I don't feel as though I was abused in any way at all.

I can count the rest of the times I was smacked on one hand.

SashaSashays Tue 12-Feb-13 14:49:46

Yes MrsKeith, Pinched. Why that requires italics I don't know?

I was never slapped round the face, not by a parent anyway. Always the arm or bum for me.

MrsKeithRichards Tue 12-Feb-13 14:59:48

Because it's quite a viscious thing to do to a child, and really bloody sore. Why would they pinch you? It's sad to think that you think that's ok, jsut goes to show how ingrained and normal these things can become. Awful.

All those sayings; box your ears, knock you into the middle of next week, you won't sit down for a week, wring your neck, skin you alive, knock your block off etc were common place in my childhood but never upset me, DH is the same. Sometimes yes I got smacked or whacked or flicked or pinched, again never really upset me. I was told to shut-up or piss off or whatever but also didn't find it upsetting

It's really sad that you didn't find these things upsetting, just accecpted them as what your parents done. But that's what children do, accept their norms. That's why parents get away with serious abuse for so long.

I'm going to assume you wouldn't do any of these things to your child now? Does that not make you think, looking back, that your parents were wrong to use such techniques with you?

MrsKeithRichards Tue 12-Feb-13 15:00:46

(The italics were for emphasis, I should have said, that and I was quoting you, I use them for quoting, but emphasis as well as I do think it's pretty terrible)

SashaSashays Tue 12-Feb-13 15:11:01

I think you're jumping to the conclusion that it was in a really aggressive manner, which is probably my fault for not explaining. It never hurt when I was pinched, a bit like if you've ever had your bum lightly pinched wink was just something done to get my attention. There were quite a few of us kids and we would invariably ignore my poor mum and dad, particularly out and about where it wasn't appropriate to shout our names to make us listen, a very light pinch or flick happened. We often jokily pinched our parents back when we wanted their attention.

I don't think my parents were wrong and I'm the same with my children. I had a really happy childhood, and as I've said I really adore my parents. I always felt safe and loved. Those things never did upset me and I can't see why they would. Example, 2 days ago I went upstairs to find our main bathroom, covered in paint, it was everywhere I started ranting about how I could wring DS's neck, other Ds came up and laughed, I told him to sod off before I boot him up the backside. They just laugh at me or roll their eyes. They know I wouldn't do those things, I wouldn't even smack them on that situation so I can't see why it should upset them.

OxfordBags Tue 12-Feb-13 15:17:22

The perception of child abuse has changed, child abuse hasn't changed. The things we think are unacceptable now were still unacceptable then. Perception doesn't necessarily change what a thing is. Many people would have thought it awful to smack their kids or wash their mouths out with soap in the past, it's silly to believe everyone was the same, just as they are now.

PessaryPam Tue 12-Feb-13 15:35:26

These days we have parent abuse.

Bunfags Tue 12-Feb-13 15:42:05

I know exactly what you mean Sasha. I my mum used to tell me she'd have my guts for garters.

I seriously wonder what the next generation will think. Do you ever wonder about this? There are bound to be things we do today that will have people clutching at their pearls in a few years time.

skullcandy Tue 12-Feb-13 17:49:54

its already started Bun, people already pearl clutching at the 'naughty step'

ooooh, mustn't call it a NAUGHTY step, its Time Out
oooooh, shouldnt put children in 'time out' its isolationist.

Fuck me, by the time my kids are adults they'll be letting their kids run riot with a wan smile because any kind of control or discipline will be frowned upon because we must upset the ickle darlings with things like rules, oh nonononono

SashaSashays Tue 12-Feb-13 17:58:39

I guess it will take time to filter through. My eldest DC is 21, has a child, both he and the babys mother are ok with smacking and parent similarly to me/her parents, but probably a watered down version, as I did with my children.

I suppose within our family the changes are smaller so will take longer. Had I never continued any of my parent's techniques then I imagine my children would be doing an even more watery version of that.

Isolationist though? Seriously? That can't be true.

Bunfags Tue 12-Feb-13 18:04:30

Apparently you can't have a bag of crisps or choccie biccy in a lunchbox now skullcandy.

Time out isolationist? confused

DS is a teenager now. I am always interested to read MN threads about younger DC, and I always think it's amazing how quickly opinions change. Sometimes I think it's a good job things are different, other times I think people are turning into soft lads and lasses these days.

MrsKeithRichards Tue 12-Feb-13 18:37:52

So the way you were disciplined influenced you and now your children? And your comfortable with this?

SashaSashays Tue 12-Feb-13 18:50:46

MrsKeith are you asking me?

OxfordBags Tue 12-Feb-13 19:20:01

Skullcandy, there are plenty of ways to have discipline and rules without things like Time Out or naughty steps, FFS. It's not a choice between harsh or letting kids take the piss.

Hesterton Tue 12-Feb-13 19:24:19

One big influence was the growth of interest in psychology as a science. People were beginning to openly link adult behaviours with childhood experience, and realising that humanely treated children as a norm was more likely to lead to rational and more humane society.

I think it's true - my school was brutal as a child, my school now as a teacher 40 years later and in a more deprived area is far nicer.

On the surface things may have seemed better in the 60s and 70s, but it could be hideous for many on the fringe, the disabled, gay people, etc.

Anna1976 Tue 12-Feb-13 20:02:05

The point upthread about security and love making the difference to the behaviours is one worth making. I was never told off, smacked or threatened; never disciplined, and given no boundaries at all, just endless material crap.
But I grew up in a nasty household full of venom and resentment, knowing that I was unwanted, knowing that no matter what I did my parents and sister would neither like nor understand me. Constantly being fobbed off with a knowing smile, a nasty remark and some more expensive material stuff, used to feel like a slap in the face.
My parents were brought up in the 1940s and 1950s, with frequent beatings, mouths being washed out with soap, no food if they were bad, screaming yelling autocratic parents - they had absolutely no idea that there are ways of giving consistency and boundaries through kindness that don't involve irrational, autocratic violence and disrespect. They thought that the ony other way to do things was to give in and be martyrs seething with unspoken resentment.

skullcandy Tue 12-Feb-13 20:15:10

aaaaand Oxford just made my point so eloquently.

since when was naughty step or time out harsh?

Bunfags Tue 12-Feb-13 20:59:01

OxfordBags, so what is the politicall correct thing to do these days if you can't do time out or naughty step. I'm not being snipey, but genuinely curious, as when DS was a toddler it was the in thing.

Bunfags Tue 12-Feb-13 20:59:20

I meant politically correct

OxfordBags Tue 12-Feb-13 21:59:17

Sorry, skullcandy, I didn't get my point across very well, was rushing - I didn't mean time out or naughty step are harsh, I was referring to the attitude in general that you either have to use certain styles of discipline or let children run wild, which is nonsense.

Saying that, I think both time out and naughty step are pretty useless. They might stop a child doing the undesired behaviour there and then and over time make them learn to not do it, but they don't teach a child why they shouldn't do it (excepy mummy or daddy doesn't like it, which is a crappy answer) and, more importantly, they doesn't teach them alternatives to the undesired behaviour. I feel they set children up to constantly fail, because the child is merely being punished, not helped to find different ways of behaving and thinking.

Bunfags, I dunno what the politically correct thing is right now. I don't choose my parenting based on what is trendy. I guess what is big in some circles right now is sort of what I expressed above; not just punishing and disciplining as an end in themselves but giving them a chance to be good; old discipline models work on the presumption that children are always naughty or on the brink of naughtiness, which is a horrible and untrue way to view kids. I personally loosely practice attachment parenting, and I have virtually no behaviour issues with my DS, but he is a toddler, so cannot say how well this will continue to work as he grows. I do have friends who parent similarly with their older kids and they are also very well-behaved; this approach encourages children to be independent, handle responsibility well and be morally autonomous, even though most people mistakenly think it means letting kids run riot and take the piss. I just know I believe in listening to children and finding a way for everyone to be okay with the outcome of whatever, not just being the Big Boss over my family. You can discipline really well with positivity, IMHO; offering choices, encouraging kids to think about stuff, not just letting situations, etc., happen to them, but involving them fully in daily life. Again, easy with one toddler!

That's a bit waffly, sorry.

flippinada Tue 12-Feb-13 22:21:19

I agree with Oxford and Anna

I hate the model of parenting which is based on children being horrible little beasts that need to be controlled and forced into submission.

That does not mean raising a child with no boundaries or discipline, which is what people with a certain viewpoint tend to assume when you say you don't agree with smacking.

Btw, slightly off topic, someone mentioned this upthread - we did burn witches - in Scotland, but not England and Wales.

Bunfags Tue 12-Feb-13 22:29:03

No probs OxfordBags. Thanks for explaining. DS is 14 now, so it's a long time since the toddler phase!

The intention of the naughty step was nothing to do with assuming that children are always naughty. I understood it be a benign way of teaching cause and effect, as it can be hard to reason with a toddler. If they are angry at being thwarted, logic doesn't always work. So, you put them on the step for a few minutes and tell them why. They realise that they can't do that stuff, otherwise they have a few minutes on the step and they don't like it. You didn't punish toddlers for silly things of course, only naughty things like hitting people. This made sense to me and it always struck me as a sensible way to approach things. No physical punishment or even shouting. The idea was to be calm and firm and to be honest I see no harm in it, but each to their own. Child care 'experts' told you to do this back in my day.

I probably sound like a right old fart now.

JacqueslePeacock Tue 12-Feb-13 22:37:45

Flippinada, "capital punishment in school was outlawed fairly recently I think and a good thing too"? shock shock shock

I had no idea capital punishment had ever been legal in school! Am glad it was outlawed. grin

skullcandy Tue 12-Feb-13 22:38:03

i suppose it depends on HOW you utilise the timeout/naughty step.

I never just randomly park my kids on the step and then let them off with a simple apology at the end of their time.

I mix mine with the basics of '1,2,3, magic' in that i count the behaviour and the consequence for me saying '3' is a trip to the naughty step... at the end of which they come to sit by me and i explain why they were put there and what they did wrong and if they dont want to end up there again, they dont do what landed them there again.

I very rarely have to use the step, i very rarely get past '2' with either of my kids.

flippinada Tue 12-Feb-13 22:39:25

Bloody hell what a numpty I am Talk about typos... I meant corporal punishment blush

flippinada Tue 12-Feb-13 22:43:23

Surprised I didn't get picked up on that earlier actually...

JacqueslePeacock Tue 12-Feb-13 22:51:33

Phew - that's a relief!

CailinDana Tue 12-Feb-13 23:02:32

It's worth remembering that you view your childhood and your adulthood from two very different perspectives. Life in the 50s-90s had its own challenges for people, challenges we hardly have to face today, such as terrible maternity leave, legitimised rape within marriage, police turning a blind eye to abuse and domestic violence, open racism and homophobia, grinding poverty, massive lack of opportunity for women, etc etc. But as a child you would be oblivious to much of this. A pretty standard childhood is going to seem wonderful in retrospect because it was a time when you had no responsibility and no real understanding of the world. Naturally as you get older and start to realise there's more going on, the world seems darker and more scary. As you get older you start to lose touch with younger generations and you start to crave the certainty of what you knew when you were young - hence the craving for "the good old days." It's all about perception. When you consider people that speak fondly of surviving a world war (!) it seems pretty obvious that hindsight paints things in rather a rosy hue. No era was ever perfect -people were always people and they always made mistakes. It's just that seeing something from the outside or seeing something from the vantage point of a child skews your perception and makes it hard to make comparisons.

WRT abuse I think feminism has had a large role to play in making it more visible and less acceptable. Abuse, particularly sexual abuse, was often covered up or justified because it was men who were the perpetrators, for the most part, and women didn't have any voice to speak out about it. Added to that was the perception, still in existence today but less so, that women and children "asked for" abuse in some way which made it easy to just dismiss victims and allow men to carry on doing as they pleased. When you consider that even in 2013 a young woman can go on TV and say that children growing up too fast can "make men confused" it's not hard to see how abuse was justified in the past by saying that children led adults astray.

scarletsalt Wed 13-Feb-13 08:27:14

Erm, I had a nigh on idyllic childhood and am still very close to my parents, especially my mum. But I did get my mouth washed out with soap for swearing once when I was about 8 and was smacked a small handful of times (all by my mum, my dad was all talk no action!).

I was most certainly NOT abused and like to think that I am a well adjusted and mostly happy person who has good relationships with my family, DH and DS.

I am going to try not to smack my DS, but more for the 'you cannot tell a child not to hit and then hit them' reasons, than because I thunk it will scar him for life.

I think that is does minimise the term 'abuse' somewhat to ascribe the term to things like smacking (when it is rare and does not leave a mark), shouting or other mild forms of Punishment.

PeneloPeePitstop Wed 13-Feb-13 08:39:00

You might also consider that some 'disruptives' would have been in institutions. I for one am glad that is no longer the case. Hiding children and adults with disabilities away is wrong.

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