“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!
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.
Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn
Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg
Still not convinced? Still defending your right to hit kids? Read this.