You Do Not Have the Right to Hit Your Child

You don’t have the right to hit your child

“I’ll do whatever I like with my kids”

This comment. Whenever I see debates about parenting, I see this comment. It’s disgusting.

“I’ll do whatever I like with my kids”? We’re not talking about a piece of furniture here!

Children are people. We care for them and love them and guide them, but we do not own them. And we do not have the right to ‘do whatever we like’ with them.

Yes, much of parenting is individual. But some is not. This one is NOT. This one I will not accept other viewpoints on. This one is most certainly black and white.

If you are hitting your child, you are doing the wrong thing. You need to stop.

Why? Because hitting a child is not a parental right. I do not care if it’s ‘legal’ where you are, that is not a valid excuse. Many countries are now waking up and changing their archaic laws on various social issues. Morally and ethically there is no justification. You absolutely do not have the right to hit anyone.  Not your spouse, coworker, friend, parent, acquaintance, or family member. Age does not change that. Mental capacity does not change that.

Whether your parents did it to you, whether you believe you turned out ‘ok’, it doesn’t matter. It comes down to this: you do not have the right to physically harm another human being in the name of ‘parenting’.

As if we needed another reason, the research is now abundantly clear. There is no dispute. Hitting children (or whatever other name you want to call it that helps you sleep at night) is associated with anti-social behaviour, aggression, mental health problems and cognitive difficulties. What’s more, it doesn’t even work. To be clear, the research specifically looked at ‘smacking’ as well as abuse. They both had the same outcomes. No good can come of hitting your child. Every time you hit them you are not only damaging your relationship but their future potential.

So why do people so vehemently defend their ‘right’ to cause harm?

“Another way of making sense of this issue was suggested by John Bowlby, the British psychiatrist who inspired the field known as attachment theory. He argued that if you haven’t experienced empathic parenting, it’s hard for you to become such a parent yourself. The same might be said of unconditional love: If you didn’t get it, you don’t have it to give. People who were accepted only conditionally as children may come to accept others (including their own kids) in the same way… Such parents learn to think of love as a scarce commodity that must be rationed. They assume that children need to be strictly controlled, just as they were.” -Alfie Kohn

Breaking the cycle is hard; there’s no argument there. But it’s worth it. Your children deserve it! There are many many brave people out there doing it. Many people who still make mistakes, but who have accepted that children deserve better and committed to trying their hardest every day to change things. There are many children who are not punished or coerced and who are respectful and kind because they have been shown respect and kindness. Love does not hurt. It’s time for change.

“Some parents rationalize the use of punishment by insisting that they really, truly love their kids. No doubt this is true. But it creates a deeply confusing situation for children. It’s hard for them to sort out why someone who clearly cares for them also makes them suffer from time to time. It creates the warped idea, which children may carry with them throughout their lives, that causing people pain is part of what it means to love them. Or else it may simply teach that love is necessarily conditional, that it lasts only as long as people do exactly what you want.” -Alfie Kohn

The first step to breaking the cycle is to acknowledge that you do not have the right to hit your child. You simply must commit to a different way of parenting. Children absolutely do not need punishment in order to learn. They need unconditional love and acceptance. There is so much information and advice out there about respectful parenting. Start learning today. Change the future of your family and relationships.

Change begins with you.

You don’t have the right to hit your child

Recommended reading:

Parenting Without Punishment

What is Respectful Parenting?

Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn

Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg

Still not convinced? Still defending your right to hit kids? Read this.

35 thoughts on “You Do Not Have the Right to Hit Your Child

  1. No argument from me. (Apart from your admiration of Con of course.) Physically harming another is vile and goes against universal laws.

  2. Good article, as usual. I don’t understand why people can’t get this already. They don’t want to get it.

  3. It’s really sad the grandparents threatened to spank our kids. Reasons being: the Bible said so. You are lacking as a parent( because we dont spank).And my house my rule( when we visit). Our kids are only 4 and 1.

    • This book shows a different side to the bible justification if you are interested Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting (Little Hearts Handbooks) Kindle Edition
      by L.R. Knost (Author)

    • My mum smacked my oldest the other day (not because of being religious, though). It is really hard to deal with 😥 He had flicked an elastic band at her (intentionally and had already been asked to stop), and it hit her in the eye. I told her that in our family smacking and hitting is not ok, but it is doubly hard because not only an older generation, but she’s also (understandably perhaps) indignant about his treatment of her, so I’m now having to manage not only my son’s feelings but also my mum’s. In fairness this is not something she usually does, but even once it’s not ok, and she does s lot of the other things that aren’t respectful, such as constantly telling my kids to be good boys and telling them they’ll only get treats if they are good or if they eat all their food.

        • Absolutely! That said, I also don’t think it’s for me to swoop in and take control of a situation between my kids and other family adults and there I try to let others in the family handle situation that are directly between them and the kids, because I also don’t want to be dictating to other family members what to do. But with hitting it’s different because I absolutely will step in (of course!) It’s just frustrating feeling often like I have to moderate things, especially between my mum and my kids – partly because of things she does that don’t line up with how I want to parent, and partly because she needs a lot of listening to her feelings too (which of course everyone does, but she often does it in a way where I feel like I’m having to narrate and listen as I would in a squabble between two kids, rather than a child and his grandmother!)

        • But you wouldn’t stand by if you saw someone hit a dog or their wife, would you?
          If you would.. well you are wrong.

          • Oh goodness no! Did it sound like I stood by? Wasn’t clear then! I made it very clear that hitting kids (or anyone!) isn’t part of how we do things in our family.

  4. Sometimes I do find spanking (or other ways of inflicting discomfort) to be extremely beneficial as a parent–very rarely, but I do believe it has its place. One example is when a toddler is about to touch something dangerous–a hot stove, a dog’s bone, etc. A firm squeeze or slight pop of the hand gets the young child’s attention immediately and in a memorable way so that the child will instantly make a negative association with touching that thing. The idea being that the parent provides a small negative consequence so that the child avoids a much bigger natural consequence. I also spanked my children when they tested their boundaries as young children–and we are talking 2-3 pops with my hand over their diapered bottom. Obviously it hurt their feelings more than their bottoms. And that’s entirely the point. For me as a parent, I found spanking on very rare occasions to be very effective. My children often cried much more over other consequences than the rare pop to their bottoms. At ages 10, 8, and 4, they are past the age where spanking is really effective, but they are all very well-mannered, kind kids who have a really strong bond with both mom and dad.

    Now the real culprit-the one that many parents are guilty of, including me, and that I believe to be much more damaging long-term is just yelling. I was spanked as a child, but what I remember as far worse was how much my parents yelled at me. And despite my best attempts to avoid it, at times I find myself yelling at my own kids. Not one time have I ever struck my children in anger or unintentionally. Not one time have I regretted a spanking my children got, because it has always been a very carefully and deliberately used consequence. But how many times have I raised my voice at my children unintentionally? How many times have I damaged their hearts? And I regret it every single time. No, spanking is not the horrible parenting mistake this article implies it to be. Losing control is. Losing the ability to be in control of your tone of voice or the words that come out or the volume they rise to. That is the true parenting mistake that is doing damage to our children. That causes aggression or lack of confidence or self-esteem. That causes children to question a parent’s love. I am confident if I were to ask my kids what is one thing I have done as a parent that they wish they could have changed, they would say they wish I did not yell at them. I don’t think spanking would even be on their radars.

    I am very conscious of it, and I try SO hard never to raise my voice. But occasionally I do.

    • Firstly, lets not use fluffy language to make ourselves better. It’s called hitting.

      Secondly, however you want to frame it, the research says it is undeniably detrimental.

      Thirdly, you have absolutely no right to hit people. Whether you mistakenly believe it is ‘effective’ or not.

      • Wow! We will just have to agree to disagree on this one. I am certain if you met me in real life, you would find a kind, loving parent, who has a very close relationship with her children.

        I am just more surprised than anything at your scolding tone with me when you have been nothing but gentle and kind with every other commenter. But hey, clearly this is something you feel very passionate about. I get it.

        Sure, you can call it hitting. That doesn’t offend me a bit. I feel 100% comfortable with the decisions I have made as a parent to discipline my children. We are all different people, and we all have different approaches to parenting. I can assure you, my children have not been harmed or damaged in any way from the few times they were spanked, or hit, or however you want to label it. You do you, and I’ll do me. And our children will grow up in their own ways and be amazing people.

    • I would have to disagree… there are still better, less detrimental ways to warn them of dangers. (& what if you have a spirited child who only does it more until you snack harder and do he does it more and you smack harder… where do you stop? Never ok to use force… not a little, not a lot.) While yelling is also disrespectful, as you say, it’s clear, even in your words, that smacking is just as bad for their heart:
      “Obviously it hurt their feelings more than their bottoms”

      • Natalie–I appreciate your thoughts and can understand where you’re coming from. I am sure your experiences, research, and personal beliefs have led you to the position you take on this topic, and I think that is exactly what you should stick with when parenting your children. I have studied child development for well over 20 years. I am a teacher (both in public school and as a homeschooling mom) and a parent of three. Based on my own research and significant amount of experience with many children and my experience as a parent, I believe there are times where negative consequences are necessary. I have raised my children, and my experience tells me that when spanking is used correctly, it is not something you have to keep doing more and more or harder. It must be used correctly, intentionally, in a loving manner, and in control. As far as hurt feelings, well that is just part of discipline. In my opinion, kids need discipline. And at some point, the discipline will hurt their feelings. I am ok with that! My youngest gets her feelings hurt just walking around. If I tried to keep my kids from getting their feelings hurt, I would fail ALL day long! And that wouldn’t be preparing them for adulthood, when you have to learn how to deal with having your feelings hurt on a daily basis. That’s just life. Anyway, I stumbled onto this blog because someone shared it on facebook, and I was curious to read it. I love hearing others’ thoughts and opinions, and I love to respectfully discuss these issues. I probably don’t share the same beliefs as the majority of people who follow this blog, but I have enjoyed reading a few articles and comments here. Child development and parenting are my passion and my calling. And I believe there is no one right way to parent a child. I believe we are given the children that fit us best, and we just have to have faith that we know best how to parent them.

  5. Here are some articles with studies that would oppose your statement that spanking is always detrimental. You can feel strongly about it, but that doesn’t make your belief universally true. It’s still your belief.

    http://goodparent.org/corporal-punishment/research-on-corporal-punishment/evidence-favoring-the-use-of-disciplinary-spanking/

    https://www.thenewamerican.com/culture/family/item/548-new-study-finds-spanking-is-good-for-kids

    http://www.newsmax.com/t/newsmax/article/345669

    • If someone told you that research showed that hitting your wife was good for them, would you think it was acceptable? No, because morally and ethically it is abhorrent.
      The point is hitting another person is not ok. That is universally true. Children are people.

      • I respect your opinion and believe there’s a reason that you have been given a passion for this issue. Good for you for sticking to your convictions. I totally get that kind of passion.

    • A husband who beats his wife is called “a monster.”
      A wife who hits her child is called “a good mother.”

      We now know what is the underlying cause of violence.

      Hurt people hurt people.

  6. I love this. It’s unbelievably frustrating to me to have this conversation with people. I usually just start saying things like, “I understand what you mean, the other day, my husband hit me. He was completely loving and intentional and controlled when he did it, but I really needed to learn my lesson that I can’t keep talking to him that way. I feel this has been beneficial for me and our relationship.” Obviously, this isn’t true, but when you say things people say regarding their children, but invert it to be about adults, or even flip it to be about younger people hitting the elderly, it really shows how unhealthy (yet ingrained) this mindset is.

    • You really can’t compare how you treat your children to any other relationship. I also don’t discipline my husband, bathe him, feed him, wipe his bottom, nor does he do these things to me. There is no logic in the idea that how you treat your spouse or other people extends to how you treat your children.

      I understand that in your mind, you truly believe that you are right on this issue, but so do others who believe that spanking is okay. I think the difference is that many who choose to spank can acknowledge that it is a personal choice, and that there is no universal right or wrong on this.

      Parenting is such a personal experience, and no two parents do it all exactly alike all the time. We don’t need to judge each other–in the end, our kids will all grow up and hopefully be productive citizens and kind people.

        • Where we fundamentally disagree is that you believe it is child abuse to hit a child, and I do not. I believe it could be, but it is not always child abuse. Obviously, we will never agree on this issue. My point was simply that it’s not the same type of relationship. I would not hit an adult with a disability, nor would I hit anyone else’s child unless their mom had expressly given me permission. But I would squeeze their hand with a firm NO if I were trying to get their attention and stop a behavior quickly. And a pop on the bottom is really no different, in that it is a physical consequence for a behavior. I have never physically harmed my children by spanking them.

          • I wouldn’t hesitate to hit another adult if I felt the situation warranted it. If another person were to physically threaten someone I love or me, I wouldn’t hesitate to fight back. I have a feeling any other mom, including you, would do the same. If I felt hitting would improve a situation, I would do it without reservation. I wouldn’t hit another adult in my care because it isnt my right to do so. It is my right (legally and morally) to hit my child if I feel it should be done. Like I said before, just because it is your personal belief does not make it universally true. I respect your beliefs and certainly feel you have every right to own them. Just as much as you want to have the right to raise your children however you see fit, I also want that right. What you and I might see as detrimental to a child’s well-being probably looks very different. It is all subjective.

          • Hitting others is morally wrong.

            Hitting children causes neurological deficits as well as psychological ones.

            The science is in.

        • What if your husband hit you? Even if you still have a close relationship with him?
          Any form of hitting is abuse. 100%
          No matter what. No matter how well it worked.
          No matter how you feel about it in your heart of hearts.
          No matter how much you love someone

          • Lisa,
            I already responded to another similar comment above about comparing children to spouses. You can’t compare your relationship with your spouse or anyone else to your relationship with your child. You do all sorts of things for and with your child that you would never dream of doing to another human being.

            I do not agree that any form of hitting is abuse 100% of the time. In order for anything to be considered abuse, there has to be injury involved. Your belief is that hitting is abuse–that is not a fact; it is an opinion. I have a different opinion. What if you accidentally hit someone? Would that be abuse? That is a form of hitting. What if you hit someone jokingly, like if a husband tickles a wife, and she smacks his hand to get him to stop? Or if he playfully smacks her butt? Would that be abuse? What if a stranger reaches out to touch your baby in your shopping cart at the store, and you instinctively hit their hand away? Would that be abuse? What if your child hits you? What if your child hits someone else? Is your child an abuser? What if your child reaches out to touch the hot stove and you instinctively slap their hand away? Did you just abuse your child?? Would you seriously tell a mother that who was upset that she hit her child without thinking? Would you tell her that she abused her child? I don’t know what kind of person goes through life without ever striking another human being. I doubt anyone on this page has made it this far in life without hitting another person at some point. Nor do I think any of us has never been hit before. Hitting is part of the human existence. It’s just something that happens. It is a form of physical contact. It is in no way 100% abusive every time it happens.

            I was just in the store tonight when I heard the checker tell another shopper that she drank energy drinks and smoked all through her pregnancy and her kids are fine. I couldn’t disagree with her more! I hated hearing that. It made me so sad that she had not had better examples and education prior to getting pregnant. But when she checked me out, she was kind to me, and I was kind to her. It is not my business how she chooses to treat her body or her children (aside from outright neglect and abuse that I actually witness), and as much as I disagree with her choices and beliefs, she still deserves to be treated with kindness. My point is that you don’t have to like the idea of hitting children. You can downright hate it if you want. But you cannot take the hatred you have for it and project that onto another person. You cannot isolate that single behavior and define an entire person by it. You have no idea when you meet someone what their stance is on spanking, and it doesn’t really matter. Why can’t we just acknowledge that we may have different opinions, and that’s just life?

  7. It is called the Convention on the rights of the child and USA is the only country in the world that has not signed it. Like, every other country agreed a long time ago that hitting a child is a crime.

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