Australian parenting expert and father of six, Dr Justin Coulson
A psychologist has given his opinion on whether slapping a child is still okay, after a controversial experiment comparing the parenting styles of ten Australian families debuted on Monday night.
Weighing in on issues raised in Channel Nine’s new reality TV series Parental Guidance, co-host Dr Justin Coulson has warned that spanking is never helpful.
“Being a parent pushes your limits. It pushes your buttons. It makes you question everything about who you thought you were, ”he said.
“But the research is really clear. Spanking does not serve our children well. It doesn’t help them grow or develop.
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‘Strict’ Christian father Andrew is slapped by his eldest son Luke during a challenge in which they swapped roles for the day on controversial new reality show, Parental Guidance
The father of six went even further, claiming that spanking can damage and “shrink” a child’s brain.
“In fact, just recently, new studies have been published that explain how harsh punitive parenting practices, including spanking, are associated with reduced brain size,” he explained.
He added: “Children live what they learn. It is important to think about what you want them to be.
Hosted by Dr Coulson alongside mother-of-two Allison Langdon, Parental Guidance has already sparked heated debate after the first episode introduced viewers to ‘strict parents’ Andrew, 39, and Miriam, 41.
The couple are raising children Luke, 12, Grace, 10, and Tim, five, with strict rules and physical punishment, including spanking.
Others included “natural” parents who live together in a tent and let their children read “when they’re ready”, as well as a couple who treat their daughter like an adult in a “French style” of parenting.
Persistent parents have been put to the test in a series of challenges against their children.
The first challenge – in which the kids were given a card and tasked with directing their parents via Adelaide CBD – went smoothly, with confident son Luke informing his father, a strict Christian minister, Andrew that he “has this” .
But a second challenge that saw kids and parents swap roles for an “opposite day” quickly showed cracks appearing in NSW’s dad’s regulated approach.
The Next Experience: Parenting Guidance sees Allison Langdon (right) and Dr Justin Coulson (left) moderate as parents clash over their different styles
The kids were given free rein to green light activities for their parents, Luke and Grace quickly reverted to a disciplinary approach that included threatening punishments and wielding a wooden spoon.
At this point, Andrew and Miriam admitted to occasionally using spanking as a “correction” tool to discipline their children.
“Alright, guys, just to make sure you understand that there are certain forms of discipline. OK?’ Luke said, spoon in hand as he happily orders his father to go to his room.
Grace then brings the spoon to her mother in a semi-serious manner, prompting Miriam to exclaim, “Please stop slapping me. I don’t like that.
Same-sex couple Brett and Tony and their children (pictured together), who are two pairs of twins born on the same day to two Indian surrogates
While the exchanges were fun, the other parents, sitting on a Tribal Judgment Council similar to Survivors, expressed concerns about how the children were learning to deal with the issues.
Andrew defended himself by saying, “With corporal punishment we see a slap as a tool in a parenting toolbox – and by no means the first.
But one of the group members hit back, “Be careful what you internalize there.”
Mother Donna, 40, who, along with her husband Yann, is a follower of the French parenting style of treating children equally, went further.
“We would never slap our child. We are very attached to it. It is a form of abuse, ”she said.
Liadhan and Richard home school their children (pictured together) from their tent and let them learn to read “when they’re ready”
Andrew clapped, “My parents slapped me in the face and I have no resentment towards them.”
Donna replied, “Stockholm Syndrome.”
In what is perhaps the most emotional moment of the episode, Andrew finally admits that the role reversal exercise has caused him to re-evaluate some of his principles.
“After that challenge, yeah, we were kind of faced with, you know, is that really how they see us?” He thought.
The group is unanimous in rejecting corporal punishment, but when Langdon asks how many have slapped their children in the face, half the hands in the room go up.