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Am I being unreasonable to not smack my son when he throws a tantrum and lashes out at me?

(153 Posts)
teaandcakeplease Sat 24-Jul-10 20:18:55

I am a mumsnet regular, however I've never started a topic in AIBU, so please be gentle with me but I genuinely need to know if I am being unreasonable.

Bit of background: I have 2 children aged almost 3 and 18 months. My husband left me for a 21 yr old in October 2009 (short version of this, long one in relationships somewhere wink). So I am a single parent bringing up 2 DCs on my own.

I do not have stairs as I live in a flat, so rather than a naughty step, my DD gets sent to stand by the front door when she behaves appallingly. This seems to work quite well for her and then after a few minutes I have a chat with her about why she shouldn't have done X and go and say sorry to Y. If she does something even more horrendous I take her favourite toy away for a set period of time after a warning. Anyway this works well for her at the moment and her behaviour is improving lately. I know there is still room for improvement in how I deal with things and am swatting up on books at the moment though.

My son has recently begun to throw tantrums when I say "no" to something. This usually involves flinging himself backwards and screaming and kicking his legs. He usually calms down after a few minutes. Distraction often works as well I find, as he is so small and tricky to reason with. In fact my son is very tenacious and goes back to things over and over again, that he knows he shouldn't do. So I try to arrange my flat to be child proofed to the best of my ability, to avoid these constant battles and the ones I cannot avoid I try to be consistent on. However when he is very tired sometimes his tantrums become more extreme and he may hit out at me. I usually say a firm "no" and he stops.

Anyway (sorry for the long explanation) today at my parents he kept repeatedly trying to do something, I'd tried saying "no", tried distraction, tried taking elsewhere etc and eventually he got very frustrated and very cross and hit out at me, I said a firm "no" and he stopped. He was very tired, it had been a long day and I was leaving theirs soon. My Dad at that point told me I should have smacked him and I said "surely when I'm trying to teach him that lashing out isn't acceptable, it makes no sense to smack him, to teach him to stop smacking me?" He walked off out of the room at that point cross with me. In fact several previous times at my parents, they have taken it upon themselves to smack my children on their wrist, when they're doing something they do not agree with. Which I've found tricky, they do not warn them first and sometimes it seems extremely minor the reason they've chosen. I suspect some of their reasoning is that now I'm a single parent, they think I need some help to bring the children up hmm My mum also told me today that if I do not come down hard on him and then at school they're not allowed to challenge childrens behaviour properely anymore either, that basically he'll become a tear away as a teenager. I said he's not going to become a tear away, I do not give in to him and remain consistent when he throws tantrums and I said he is only 18 months and his sister was tricky at this age as well.

I know my parents have a problem with the fact that smacking is something I am not keen on, I have been known in the heat of the moment to do it and have felt awful afterwards but I know that it is not the best option sad and I try very hard to use other methods. But am I being unreasonable to not smack my son when he throws a tantrum and lashes out at me? Is he going to turn into a tear away if I do not discipline him more harshly at 18 months? I'm so tired of feeling like I'm not a good enough parent, my parents smacked me so much as a child though and I do not want it to be the first resort with my children sad

Sorry it's so long. So what do you think ladies (or gents)?

purepurple Sat 24-Jul-10 20:24:29

You sound like you are doing a good job. Just keep on doing what you are doing. You know that you don't need to smack. There are much better methods of discipline. Smacking is normally done when people lose control and it is counter-productive in that it teaches children that physical violence is the way to solve problems. The key to disciplining children is to be consistent in whatever method you use, and have firm boundaries.

clemetteattlee Sat 24-Jul-10 20:24:55

Your DS is the 18m old right? I think the idea that if an 18m old doesn't behave then it is a sign of future behaviour problems is ridculous.
You need to be firm and consistent and it sounds like you are being. Both of mine were tricky as toddlers (as were many, many that I know). DD is now five and although she has an attitude on her at home(!) she has lovely manners, and is "delightful" at school - ie she is a normal child.

Toddlers have tantrums because they can't control their behaviour. Smacking someone so vulnerable is an abuse of power IMO.

autodidact Sat 24-Jul-10 20:27:25

yanbu. You sound like you are doing a great job in difficult circumsatnces. His behaviour is perfectly normal for his age and you are helping him learn to control himself very well, giving boundaries that are firm but not harsh. I would be very angry indeed if my dad or in-laws smacked my children. Can you see less of your parents until you are feeling more confidence in yourself or do you find them supportive/helpful apart from this?

tethersend Sat 24-Jul-10 20:28:36

Teaching a child not to hit by hitting is counter-productive, and sends a message which is -at best- confusing.

You are doing it right. Trust yourself.

reallytired Sat 24-Jul-10 20:29:02

Smacking only teaches children that hitting is OK. You are right not to smack. It is really hard with an 18 month old baby as you cannot reason with them. He will not become a tearaway teen just because you don't smack. Children need discipline rather than violence.

I used to use the travel cot for time out when my son was small. If my son misbehaved or threw major tantrums then I used to put him in the travel cot for 1 minute. It was a safe place to throw a tantrum. The naughty step is a bit of a waste of time with a pre verbal child.

Chunkamatic Sat 24-Jul-10 20:29:46

I think if you are against smacking then you should not smack your son, and nor should anyone else.

You sound like you are dealing very well with his behaviour. Being consistent is key. I would wholeheartedly agree with the logic that teaching someone not to smack by smacking them is bonkers.

You are his mother and it is up to you how your children are disciplined. I would be livid if my parents undermined me in such a way, I have to say.

Keep doing what you are doing. He is not a tearaway, he is 18mths old and learning his way in the world. With a mum as lovely and caring as you sound I'm sure he won't go far wrong. I think your parents have probably forgotten what normal 18mth behaviour is like.

mollymawk Sat 24-Jul-10 20:30:20

You sound like you are doing fine. Parents come from a different generation who thought that smacking was OK. I think it isn't, for exactly the reasons you have given. So YANBU.

teaandcakeplease Sat 24-Jul-10 20:32:03

I do try and see less of them. I've also explained I do not want them to discipline my children like that and to let me decide recently but I know they disapprove and I am tired of my mum claiming he's going to be a tear away if I do not smack him.

HumphreyCobbler Sat 24-Jul-10 20:33:04

You are right and they are wrong.

How silly to extrapolate out 18 month old behavior to teenage behavior.

WhatsWrongWithYou Sat 24-Jul-10 20:33:12

Your mum's talking bollocks.

I was smacked as a child and resolved never to do it myself and my three are definitely not tearaways - they're happy, well-adjusted kids of 9, 12 and 15.

For me, although knew instinctively I was right, I found certain parenting books useful. One was 'Positive Parenting' by Elizabeth Hartley-Brewer, the other was "How to Talk.." - often mentioned on MN.

I'm sure there are lots more. I found these useful for finding other ways to deal with children's behaviour, so that you're definitely in charge but they ultimately learn to control their impulses through choice rather than fear.

Fwiw, I actually don't agree with 'naughty steps' or exclusion for bad behaviour, but I know a lot of MNers practise it.

WhatTheDeuce Sat 24-Jul-10 20:34:43

Owner of an extremely stroppy, awkward and very lovable 4 year old boy here and I don't see any reason for smacking, particularly at 18m.

It's all frustration and inability to articulate and communicate their feelings/ wants at that age.

With younger son 2.6 yrs I look wounded and upset and he immediately appears contrite and "loves" me better. Elder one would have laughed in my face at that age.

Would also like to point out I'm regularly praised for my sons' behaviour and rightly so. They are excellent.

You are doing a great job. Only critism is...stand up for yourself and your children to your parents. You are more than able to raise them on your own and secondhand, unwanted and outdated parenting techniques are not doing any of you any good.

2blessed2bstressed Sat 24-Jul-10 20:34:48

YANBU - I can count on the fingers of one hand how often I smacked my dcs - they're now 13 and 9 - and it was always a fright thing (on my part), e.g. ds1 reaching for hot coffee mug had hand smacked away.
My parents were both "smackers" as most of their generation were, and I suppose they're right in the "well it never did you any harm", I certainly don't feel traumatised and I love them both dearly..BUT...this is just one of a number of parenting decisions where they and I have differed enormously, particularly since ds1 is profoundly autistic and they initially believed there was nothing wrong and I was just being panicky. However, I have educated them grin, and they now do everything they can to support MY decisions and MY parenting style - and really, I'd be lost without them!

teaandcakeplease Sat 24-Jul-10 20:39:02

I have the "how to talk" book WhatsWrongWithYou but haven't had time to read it yet but plan to very soon but Positive Parenting sounds good. I'll buy it.

Sitting here feeling tearful after yet another day with my parents making me feel like I'm getting it all wrong. So thank you for being gentle.

Lynli Sat 24-Jul-10 20:39:17

You are definitely doing the right thing, not smacking. If he is in a safe place, I would let your son have his tantrum, just walk away and ignore it.

My DM smacked my DD, so I smacked her, she said I was out of oder. Apparently you are only allowed to hit people who can't fight back.

SalFresco Sat 24-Jul-10 20:39:46

I can see why you are tired of it. They should not be smacking your children when they know you don't want them being smacked. My MIL is always going on about there being no discipline in schools nowadays and it is just ridiculous. You are a thoughtful parent attempting to discipline in a consistent way, and they are undermining you. YANBU

SalFresco Sat 24-Jul-10 20:41:06

grin at Lynli I might try that on my MIL!

Firawla Sat 24-Jul-10 20:46:46

yanbu at all!!!!!
your parents are being very U
i think they are taking it as a critisim though that you dont want to smack, because they smacked you they feel you think you are better than them or too good for smacking, that kind of thing? thats the feeling i have got here.

Meglet Sat 24-Jul-10 20:49:22

yanbu. Two wrongs don't make a right and won't make either of you feel any better.

lynli shock grin.

doggiesayswoof Sat 24-Jul-10 20:51:13

Your parents are wrong on this one. Stick to your guns. If your mum's argument was correct, I suppose there would have been no "tearaways" in her generation because everyone smacked their children then, didn't they? I would be livid if my parents disciplined my DC like this - and you've made it very clear you don't agree, so they are undermining you pure and simple.

How to Talk is a very good book but prob more useful for slightly older kids imo.

I'm feeling rotten tonight because I smacked 6yo DD today. It's not part of my plan as a parent and I try to do what you do. In fact you sound like a great role model - and a very loving, fair and consistent mum.

peeringintothevoid Sat 24-Jul-10 20:51:45

YANBU at all.

My DD is 'challenging' grin and was a difficult toddler (aren't they all?!). My mum basically told me I had to smack her or she'd never learn, so I did, and it doesn't work for DD at all. Her default reaction to it was ALWAYS to hit me back (she's too much like me!), and it really didn't help. I've smacked her since as a last resort, and it's never left me feeling good about myself - even when I felt justified in doing so. I think that how you describe your parenting method is FANTASTIC - patient and nurturing and just right with your discipline. Don't be bothered by your misguided parents; know that they are operating on an outdated operandi!

RhinestoneCowgirl Sat 24-Jul-10 20:55:01

YANBU - I have an 18 month old and smacking her would serve no purpose as she is still a baby! Have a nearly 4 yr old and wouldn't smack him either.

You sound like you're doing all the right things and consistency will pay off in the end. Don't let your parents make you feel tearful, you're doing really well coping on your own.

doggiesayswoof Sat 24-Jul-10 21:00:15

Just a thought, if you think you are getting it all wrong

When my DD was two, I had a routine meeting with her keyworker at nursery to go over her progress. They had a checklist with expected behaviours for her age.

On the list were tantrums, hitting, kicking and biting, pulling hair and grabbing toys etc.

The keyworker had ticked all the boxes for DD shock and basically told me they watch kids much more carefully if they DON'T have tantrums etc, because it's so much the norm.

I mean I knew this stuff, obviously, but to see it in black and white and have her tell me it was OK really brought it home - I actually went home and cried with relief that it was not my fault.

Sorry - that was a long rambly way of saying your DS is going through a normal stage of development and you are not "causing" it.

WurzelBoot Sat 24-Jul-10 21:01:28

Teaandcakeplease, it sounds like a miserable situation all round, and it's a shame that your parents aren't on side with you about this.

The problem is, I fear that this is just going to keep happening and keep happening and you're going to have more tearful days.

Is there any chance you can sit down with your parents when nothing has sparked a conversation, and explain that you love them, they raised you just fine, but you're choosing to do something different with your two. Tell them you appreciate their closeness with your children, but you're uncomfortable with anyone smacking them, including yourself. If you can somehow balance that you appreciate their help and support, but they need to understand that you are the Mum, and your way is what is going to happen on this.

I agree with the others; YANBU on any level.

Ezma Sat 24-Jul-10 21:07:28

It's up to you to do what you think is right for your children and your parents should respect that. Things might have been different in their day as they may believe but you are the parent to your children and their support should be directed at helping you in the way you choose to parent your children.

I have similar comments from my mum about how smacking was the norm when I was little and at times when my DS of 2.3 really pushes the boundaries I have to admit that there is a point when you think Grrrrrr and wonder if your parents are right but you just take one look at them, take a deep breath and realise that at such a young age they are only just learning what to do and they are not knowingly doing something that we as adults perceive as wrong.

It sounds as if you have got the whole thing pretty well sussed in terms of teaching your children how to behave and I hope that I can be as successful as you with my DS.

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