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Monthly Archives: August 2017

Smack or not to smack? A sting in the tail.


Smacking cruelty or discipline


To smack or not to smack?  The debate rages on. Max Pemberton a journalist and NHS psychiatrist has caused a bit of a stir. He claimed that smacking doesn’t cause deep seated psychological damage to children.

The issue was also aired on GMT on Tuesday 15th August. “Parenting Guru” Sue Atkins  and  Pro Smacker Katie Ivens both argued their cases amidst some input from Jeremy Kyle.

In the wake of these opposing views – I’d like to invite Dr Pemberton and Ms Ivens to shadow me on a working day. A working day where the affects of child violence, often verbally disguised as discipline, are all too poignantly seen. In a few cases with tragic consequences.

In theory, many would agree that the occasional controlled smack carried out by a loving parent does not harm  kids in the long term.

Imagine a situation where your toddler suddenly runs into a busy road.  There’s no time call him back.  Instinct  ensures that you grab him, often roughly, by the nearest part of his body to prevent a tragedy.

This is necessary manhandling, fuelled by adrenaline. Most of us have done this and followed it up with a hug of relief, thankful our child is safe.  When a smack follows rather than a hug of relief, what is it really about?  Is it to teach? Is it an outward expression of parental rage, a venting of feelings of failure for taking the eye off the ball so to speak? Is it perhaps an asserting of adult control over a smaller individual?  Is smacking for the good of the child or to soothe the bruised adult ego?

In spite of this argument, there may be a case for smacking but consider this. If all parents’ had adequate ego control, positive coping strategies and good emotional regulation, perhaps controlled smacking might be acceptable on some occasions.

The hard truth is the abused children we clinicians meet up and down the country have never experienced a controlled smack in an environment of care.

The reality is that many children are physically abused daily under the pretence of smacking and good discipline.

When a parent loses control, and physically chastises a child (which is often how smacking happens), it is often explained as disciplining an out of control child.

The situation is often that the parent has snapped, has in the moment lost parenting skills and has instead  reacted physically to the child’s behaviour.

Smacking would be ok perhaps, if all adults could remain rational, calm and in control of their emotional regulation in times of stress,

The huge number of physical abuse cases are evidence that many parents have neither the emotional resilience or practical skills to manage their children’s difficult behaviour and resort instead to physical punishment.  A smack in the hands of an angry and out of control adult can escalate into extreme violence. This is often under the misguided notion of discipline.

Physical abuse is one of the primary causes of both attachment difficulties in children and more enduring mental health conditions. This is a primary reason why smacking is not acceptable. Smacking is the thin end of the wedge.

Written by Dr Chrissie Tizzard Chartered Consultant Psychologist



parenting Psychology Uncategorized0 comments

Words were originally magic – are they becoming black magic?

Words can be black magic

Words can be black magic

Why Trump needs to read De Shazer.

Words were originally magic is the title of the acclaimed book on solution focused brief therapy written by Steve de Shazer.

A solution focused approach believes, that the solutions to most problems can often be found in the words we use. This may at first take appear naive.

In essence, to develop a more positive life we each need to closely examine the words we use in daily life. We need a new story or narrative. Words offer the magic that is needed.

This belief system maintains that our problems persist because we keep on using the same old solutions. Solutions that never worked in the past to solve our issues. Put even more simply, we usually try to solve our problems by putting the same wrong key in the front door and then wonder why it doesn’t open.

By using different ‘words’ or ‘change’ talk about the future, by visioning or thinking about it differently – we are on the way to changing a situation. This is where the magic of words comes into play.

The words we use or do not use are central to  future outcomes.

This mode of thinking is also central to the belief of many seminal thinkers and the founders of existential psychology e.g., Husserl, Morleau Ponte, Heidegger and Foucault, the list goes on.

Essentially, we create our future reality and eventual fate, good or bad through the narrative we use.

What if the narrative we use is wholly negative? A narrative filled with threats and driven by megalomania and narcissism. This then suggests that words may also have the potential to become ‘black’ magic. In such cases we need to use a great deal of awareness and cognition to examine what is about to leave the lips.   The President of the United States, Donald Trump is spewing very frightening words directed at North Korea. The words are becoming darker. In this blackening of words, there is an even bleaker construction taking place. A construction that threatens much of humanity. Words have the potential to become reality.

Now, more than ever, it is time words were thought about with just pause and contemplation.

All humanity holds its breath.

De Shazer, Steve (1994) Words were originally magic, Norton, London.

Written by Dr Chrissie Tizzard – Consultant Chartered Psychologist and Chartered Scientist


communication Psychology0 comments