Hitting, spanking, pinching, squeezing, paddling, whipping, swatting, smacking, slapping, washing a child’s mouth with soap, forcing a child to stand or sit in painful positions for long periods of time, punching, beating, kicking, biting, burning, or shaking.
It’s frightening to think about those things happening to a child—and often a very young one.
We don’t allow a husband to hit a wife; and we certainly don’t let one stranger do that to another. And an adult who is not a parent can never lay a hand on a child without fear of prosecution. But when it comes to one’s own children, too many people still think physical punishment is the most effective—and entirely acceptable—way to get a child in line.
Surveys reveal that more than 60% of adults in the U.S. think it’s okay; and 50% still hit their child or inflict some type of physical punishment/abuse in an attempt to correct or change their child’s behaviors.
I can’t stress strongly enough how damaging—and unnecessary—it is…. 100% of the time. If hitting a child is not wrong, then nothing is wrong. Let me explain.
Your professed goal when you hit (I use hit to mean any of the actions described above) is to teach your child a lesson, to make sure he or she doesn’t do something that is rude, dangerous or disrespectful.
But hitting does not work, it makes things worse, and there are effective alternatives. Research shows that children who are hit by their parents are more likely to develop antisocial behaviors and act more aggressively toward their peers. Hitting scars the child-parent relationship, and leads children into depression, anxiety, drug use, excess drinking, and an increase in suicide attempts. When children who have been hit grow up, they are more likely to abuse their own children or spouse and get in trouble with the law.
What Does Work?
- Step Number One is to be good to yourself. You need to do whatever it takes to make sure you are not so stressed, overtired, angry, or frustrated that you lash out at those nearest and dearest, including your children.
- Get regular exercise—it can help dispel stress and tension.
- Avoid drinking or drugs to ease your moods (they backfire).
- Ask for help and advice from friends, family – or professional counselors, if you’re overwhelmed. You’ll be surprised at how willing people are to lend a hand.
- Take time to understand how children are constructed: that is, learn about infant and child development. Children are a delightful combination of adult abilities (to understand and share emotions and ideas) and childish behaviors, like wandering attention and emotional outbursts. But come on—they’re just children…and that’s how they’re made!