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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?

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

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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.

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