It’s Less ‘Carrots and Sticks’ and more ‘Carrots and Carrots’

27th May 2022


Earlier this year, the government in Wales outlawed smacking children, meaning that children are now given the same amount of protection against assault that adults have had for centuries.

The topic of how we discipline our children is a sensitive and personal matter that doesn’t often make headlines. As a father of two young boys, I know what it’s like to be challenged by my children and I know how difficult it is to keep calm when boundaries are being pushed.

One of the first tests for me came when one of my boys climbed up on the sofa behind me and whacked me over the head with his Thomas the Tank Engine plastic toy! Insult was literally added to injury when my son proceeded to laugh in an evil-villainous fashion. I raised my voice and told him firmly, ‘Son, that is not funny!’ I hoped the volume and tone of my voice would shock him into understanding his actions were bad. Instead, he stood his ground, looked me in the eye and said, ‘Bit funny though, Dad… bit funny!’ He was only two at the time.

My initial anger subsided into having to supress a smile as I tried to remain in control of the situation. I simply took his favourite Thomas toy away from him and told him he could have it back when he said sorry. And once he had said sorry, I praised him for being a grown up and taking responsibility for his actions.

Amazingly, opinions still vary on whether it’s okay to slightly smack a child when they’re naughty; some think it’s a valid parenting tool. Others say violence is never acceptable under any circumstance. The Welsh government, along with 60 other countries, now have laws that say the same.

The research shows that far from correcting the child’s behaviour, corporal punishment makes the child behave worse, not better! Studies have shown that children who are smacked are more likely to be more aggressive – not surprising if their parents have shown them that hitting someone can be justified. Worse still, children who are smacked are more likely to experience anxiety and depression.

Coincidently, last month at the Oscars, when Chris Rock made a ‘joke’ about Will Smith’s wife, Smith hit him. Again, opinions vary: some say Smith was defending his wife. Others, this is a clear example of toxic masculinity. Afterwards, even Smith himself said: ‘Violence in all of its forms is poisonous and destructive.’

But he also defended his actions by saying he ‘reacted emotionally’.

Isn’t that what’s happening when we smack our kids? An emotional reaction to a frustrating situation?

Running a team of creatives has taught me that the ‘carrot’ is mightier than the ‘stick’. Praise over pressure ultimately makes people happier and happy people are more productive and care about their work. Which means we create much better children’s products as a result.

Thankfully, to date, none of my Collaborate team has felt the need to assault me with a Thomas the Tank Engine toy or slap me around the face. (Although I’m sure they have been tempted at times!) Running a busy, creative studio with demanding schedules and, at times, stressful deadlines, is comparable to bringing up a young family. You must truly understand and respect your team in order to motivate, empathise and negotiate with them. That’s the only way to deliver the best results for our clients.

In my own opinion – for what it’s worth – is that it’s best not to hit your children. But if they outlawed shouting, I could be in trouble! That’s an emotional reaction too, but (hopefully) one with less lasting damage.

We’ve created lots of books about controlling emotions… Maybe we should send a copy to Will Smith.

If you would like our emotionally grounded team of creatives to help develop books on ‘hard-hitting’ subjects, get in touch with us me, at [email protected]