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Sunday 12 August 2012

Insight SBS: 'Tough Love' - Disciplining Children

Disciplining children: it's tricky territory. What's acceptable and what's not, and what's anyone's business anyway.

This week, 'Insight' on SBS focuses what is acceptable when it comes to disciplining children, with parents and professionals speaking out on the topic.

Some clips below, but first a word about my take on discipline.

For me, my personal favourite when it comes to discipline is giving a 'threat' through gritted teeth ["stop this right now, or we are not going to playgroup" - or a variation of that]. Works a treat. Jolts my daughter into action to stop whatever behaviour is not on. My son, well... with his mild autism diagnosis it's a whole other area I have had to master. Suffice to say, he also does not get off lightly - there are just alternate ways I approach it. Pacifying him with what calms him - while showing Mummy means business - works. And sometimes it doesn't.

Here is the promo clip for the show: 

And here are some pretty powerful clips from the show:

Insight looks at the different cultural and generational attitudes to keeping kids in line, and it's clear every parent seems to have their own boundaries.

Researchers like Andre Renzaho from Monash University say that migrants from collectivist cultures often find Australian parenting styles too laidback, and are surprised to learn that smacking can be frowned upon. Of course, there are also many people born here in Australia who say there is nothing wrong with the occasional smack.

Corporal punishment is actually legal in Australia, so the question remains whether parents should have the freedom to discipline their kids as they see fit.

The program will look at other methods of keeping kids in line – from time out, removal of
smartphones and games, withholding food, or, as one of the guests puts it simply, “the look” [I am a HUGE fan of that one.]

Guests include:

Temple family
Jeremiah, his wife Eyodele and their four children are originally from Sierra Leone. Jeremiah
says he uses various methods to discipline the kids, with the most severe being a smack. Eyodele says she prefers not to smack, favouring talking to her kids instead. Jeremiah is adamant his children grow up embracing both the Australian and Sierra Leonean cultures.

Doomadgee family
Alec Doomadgee grew up in a traditional Aboriginal family in Doomadgee in remote Queensland. He remembers being told dreamtime stories to encourage him to behave. Alec has five children and now lives in Sydney. Although Alec doesn't shy away from smacking, his sons Bailey and Zach say that sometimes all it takes is a disapproving look from their Dad for them to get them in line.

Renu Varshney
Renu Varshney believes smacking is the lazy option. She and her husband have never
smacked their sons who are now aged 20 and 16. Renu was smacked as a child and prefers to communicate with her sons rather than use physical force.

Jenni Young
Jenni is a single mother who warns her son first before resorting to a smack. She feels it’s
important to establish boundaries early. She says she hasn’t needed to smack eight year old Connor for a year because the embarrassment factor is a big deterrent for him. Jenni doesn’t feel guilty about smacking him and is confident that her discipline methods will benefit him in the future.

Andre Renzaho
Associate Professor Andre Renzaho says people need to stop seeing western styles of
parenting as superior to that of other cultures. Andre has looked closely into the parenting
challenges faced by migrants and refugees in Australia and is the Director of Migration, Social Disadvantage and Health Programs at Monash University. Andre and his wife Catherine have drawn up a contract with their twin sons and daughter to promote good behaviour.

Pinky McKay and Larissa Sampson
Pinky McKay has written a book for toddlers and says discipline techniques such as smacking, putting children in the naughty corner and shaming are inappropriate. Pinky has five adult children including daughter Larissa who is a psychologist and has a son of her own. Larissa says there’s plenty of cross-cultural research showing even occasional smacking increases aggression in children.

Insight is hosted by Jenny Brockie and airs every Tuesday at 8.30pm on SBS ONE.

For more, go here:  http://www.sbs.com.au/insight/ or like the Facebook page here https://www.facebook.com/InsightSBS

To follow the Twitter conversation, here's the hashtag: #InsightSBS and you can follow the show  https://twitter.com/insightSBS and host Jenny https://twitter.com/JenBrockie


  1. Won't miss this... looks very interesting. EVERYONE has an opinion on this. I will say, though, unless you are already a parent, and your child is over age two, you won't understand what YOU would do when placed in that position to discipline your own child...

  2. Larissa makes some very fair - and kinda scary - points. Look forward to this... thanks Josie.

    Peta K

  3. I have smacked my kids - lightly, and never in intense anger - and plan to continue to do so. It's my business how I rear my kids, nobody else's. This was they can understand boundaries and learn to respect authority. And I don't care what any expert says about it...