Every parent will know the awful feeling of having a child throw a tantrum in a supermarket. But one mum lost her cool in the heat of the moment – and now she faces the threat of three years in jail.
The Perth mum, 34, slapped her four-year-old son across the face twice after he took a bite out of an apple that she hadn’t paid for in a supermarket. She was charged with assault after a fellow shopper reported her to police.
The woman’s husband, John, tells Radio 6PR officers pulled her over in the shopping centre car park and told her she would be arrested or get a visit from the Department for Child Protection in the next 24 hours. They also checked over her three children in the car.
“Under pressure of bad looks and you know, people do frown upon parents who let their kids have hissy fits, (she) reacted poorly,” John, 32, says. “She slapped my son to the side of the face, which was probably uncalled for, but it was done. He was rebelling at bit … she clipped him at the side of the face, not necessarily aiming for that.”
Three hours later, officers visited their home and arrested her in front of their children, taking her away in a police van. John says a police officer gave him the impression they wouldn’t see her until the court case, up to six weeks ago. He says his children were mortified to see the arrest.
“The four-year-old who was slapped had no recollection of where he was smacked any more. That was totally a thing of the past, there were no markings. All he could remember was that he got his mum in trouble,” he says.
The mum will face court on March 12 charged with common assault, but John says she should have just been given a warning. He says there is no history of abuse against the children and their son was not injured.
“I’m 32 years old and she’s 34 … we received that kind of discipline as children,” he tells 6PR. “There was no warning … I know things have changed over the past decade, you need to know this is not acceptable. By default we were meant to know what happened to us as children shouldn’t be passed on without any forewarning.”
It comes a few days after Pope Francis told his weekly general audience that parents could smack their children – as long as their dignity was maintained.
The Pope says parents must show forgiveness but also “correct with firmness” while not discouraging the child, reports The Independent.
“One time, I heard a father in a meeting with married couples say, ‘I sometimes have to smack my children a bit, but never in the face so as to not humiliate them’. How beautiful! He knows the sense of dignity! He has to punish them but does it justly and moves on,” he says.
But National Association for People Abused in Childhood founder Peter Saunders says the comments are “very misguided”. “It is disappointing that anyone with that sort of influence would make such a comment,” he says.
The UN human rights committee last year recommended that the Catholic Church amend its laws to ban the corporal punishment of children, including within families.