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Is it right to beat a child?

Beats-and-Licks-main-imageTo beat or not to beat? That’s the question being asked by a new film that explores whether it is right to smack children

By Lester Holloway

It’s a subject that sharply divides opinion, with some parents believing that beatings are part of Caribbean and African cultural heritage, and that getting good licks “never did me any harm.”

Others argue that violence is unnecessary; a failure to verbalise discipline which puts barriers between adults and children.

One woman chose not to hit her daughter has now made a short film about the issue. Licks ‘n Beats is a personal perspective of Patrice Lawrence, a mother whose Caribbean family have traditionally smacked their children. She says in the film:

As a child I was hit by my mum, and she was hit by her mum. And although smacking cuts across all communities, sometimes it seems that the power of physical discipline has become entwined with our Caribbean identity. If we want children who do have a real sense of justice then I think we really do need to start thinking about children’s rights.”

OBV Blog caught up with Lawrence, who explained that the issue was setting boundaries and communicating with children. She said: ‘Just because I don’t smack, doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in discipline and good manners.’

Patrice-Lawrence-table

Patrice Lawrence

Parenting was not about ruling with a rod of iron, but about creating a love for learning, and sharing her experiences so that her daughter can learn from her.

But not everyone shares the same perspective. Edutainer Leo Muhammad, of The Real McCoy fame, has a new comedy show called Honey I Beat The Kids which explores this issue.

He told OBV Blog that while children should not be badly beaten, parents needed to reserve physical discipline as an “ultimate sanction.”

Muhammad said: ‘There is a direct connection between lack of discipline and children going off the rails. It is a law of nature that everything needs guidance and discipline.

‘The guiding principle is love. I admire what [Patrice Lawrence] is trying to achieve, but the reality is when you have the type of influences on children today, sometimes words are lost.

‘Some parents are terrified of disciplining their children because people say you can’t touch the children. But then the children think they can do anything without consequences. But the reality is that in life, there are consequences. But by that time it’s too late.’

LEO MUHAMMAD eFLYER-Side One

A flyer for Leo's show

Muhammad said he had a “real problem” with the state telling black parents what to do, saying: ‘When you consider the history of what the state has done to our children, from slavery onwards – and still haven’t apologised – state interference is compounding the evil.’

The Licks ‘n Beats film features Hackney vicar Rev’d Rose Hudson-Wilkin, who says that parents beat their children “out of love.”

Speaking in the film, she says: “I don’t believe that children have any rights not to be smacked, carte blanche. I’ve always said to my children that the only rights that they have is to go to school, to get an education, to be respectful in the home, and respectful to their teachers. That’s the only rights I’m interested in. Everything else? Non negotiable.

“What I see in Britain is people not having a line that says child/adult. So right now we’re telling our 16 year old that they are adults, and they’re not. We’re leaving our kids to grow themselves, and that doesn’t happen in the Caribbean. In the Caribbean, we grow them.”

Of course, the administering of heavy beatings is not unique to the Caribbean. Many parts of the world take the same approach. The discipline very different from mere ‘smacks’, with belts, boots, and sticks of wood used against the child.

Some believe that there is nothing ‘traditional’ about routine violence by parents against their offspring. That the brutality of enslavement may have contributed to child beatings passed down the generations.

New research by Professor Murray Strauss of the University of New Hampshire in America claims that children who are regularly physically disciplined suffer from a form of post-traumatic stress disorder and that such punishment can leave them in a state of fear and hinder their ability to learn. He is presenting his findings today at a conference on Violence, Abuse and Trauma, in San Diego, California.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that patterns of behaviour are changing rapidly, with many young black parents opting not to smack their children. It marks a significant break from previous generations.

But a strong strand of opinion links the reduction of parental beatings with an increase in youth crime, educational underachievement and general indiscipline.

However Lawrence says the two are not related. Problems with the behaviour of young people are not down to the absence of ‘licks’, but the absence of boundaries, guidance and role models.

•    Honey I Beat The Kids is taking place for one night only at The Black Grape, London N15 on 22nd November. Tickets £15. Call the box office on (020) 8881 8189. For more information call Claudia on 07985 371 457.
•    Patrice Lawrence can be contacted on patrice200@hotmail.com

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2 Responses

  1. I’m against it; violence begets violence. People need to ask themselves where this violence against children comes from? Simply saying it’s part of our history is not good enough…

    Beating a child isn’t discipline, it’s child abuse.

  2. Spare the rod… spoil the child!!!

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