The Slap, a drama aired on the ABC recently based on Christos Tsiolkas popular novel of the same name, has generated much public discussion about the way in which we bring up our children and in particular how we should discipline children and who has the right to do so.
Although the drama unfolds around the issue of someone hitting another person’s child and whether that constitutes assault, the more interesting question it seems lies beneath the surface of that action. Most people in this day and age would probably hold the view that another person should not be able to hit your child, and would see Harry’s final action in the Slap as disproportionate to the situation (remember that Harry first lifts Hugo up thus disarming him of the dangerous bat swinging, but then responds to a kick by Hugo by slapping him across the face). By the time Harry intervenes everyone it seems is quite sick of Hugo’s behaviour. The issue is, why was Hugo’s behaviour allowed to get to that stage in the first place?
We are shown on numerous occasions leading up to the “slap” that Hugo is out of control, spoilt and used to getting his own way. Although the other adults around Hugo’s parents seem to have this view, when Hugo’s behaviour affects the other kids and Hector and Aisha’s property (remember that lovely scene of Hugo pulling the plants out) they all allow Hugo’s behaviour to be excused on the grounds that he is “little”. Interestingly, the only people who point out the unfairness of this is the other children.
Reserving the right of disciplining children to only the parents of that child, allows us not to “interfere” with a person’s parenting choices (something which originates in liberalism’s protection and emphasis on individual rights…..I should have the right to parent how I want), however it doesn’t work on a community level on several levels. Our behaviour affects our interaction with others and how others interact with us. An appropriate response to bad behaviour indicates to a child that society will not accept that behaviour, just as appropriate responses to “good” behaviour indicate the opposite . It is an important learning tool as a child is learning about their world and socialization. Without these responses from the people around them, children grow up without the tools they need to regulate their own behaviour.
Although this issue is raised in the context of parenting, it is also equally as applicable to adults. As members of a community, we have a responsibility and a moral imperative (if we want the people in our community to behave in certain ways) to develop appropriate responses to the behaviour of others. Not doing so indicates that that behaviour is acceptable when really it is not. In this day and age, it is simply too easy to bypass involvement on the basis that it is none of our business, or believing that if we “get involved” we are being “judgmental” on how another person has chosen to live their life. This is an easy way out when other people’s behaviour does affect how we live in our community. Although as adults we are responsible for our own behaviour in a way that children are not, we are continuously developing our moral views as our circumstances change. Perhaps therefore it is time to bring back some dialogue about our moral compass and why it is important that we have one. So the next time you don’t agree with something I have done, please feel free to comment!