Hitting Children

by Jinryu

While I was in a criminal law class the other day, the idea of “legal chastisement” came up.  Basically, the idea of whacking your children when you think they’ve done something wrong.

I know a lot of people who were beaten as children.  I wasn’t one of them.  Not that I needed it: my parents used psychological warfare on me. I also got more than enough bullying during elementary school.


A lot of people make a case that when it comes to parenting, sometimes your children are just bad enough that you have to beat them.  I don’t agree with that.


Some of the people in class even went on to say that they were beaten as children, but that it was okay, because they were horrid children who deserved it. I don’t agree with that either.

What I wanted to say was “well, maybe if your parents loved you more, they wouldn’t have beaten you.”  But that would have sounded really harsh, and people wouldn’t have understood what I meant.  Let me qualify that statement then.  It’s not that I would have meant that they weren’t lovable.  It was the parents, who didn’t love.


And that’s not necessarily an evil thing.  IF you go back a generation or two in Asian families for example, family is more about duty than it is about love in the modern, western romantic sense.  There is a love in older chinese families, but it goes with confuscian ideas of the group being more important than the individual.  What I”m getting at is that in the old days, for Asian families as well as many other families, an intention to love children had nothing to do with anything.  I won’t get into Asian family philosophy, but what I’m getting at is that in new generations, we’re no longer living at the cusp of extinction.  We have enough food on our plates.  We are living in luxury.  You don’t need your kids to work the land or to ensure that you retire comfortably.  There is no excuse for having children who you do not intend to love.


Hitting children is, in summation, a cowardly, lazy shortcut to your own failures at communication.  It isn’t the child who is out of control– it’s the parent, who doesn’t have any control.  Violence is that bridge– it diverts the attention from the issues at hand to an overbearing continue/stop decision regarding physical pain.


Training children is a lot like training dogs– but there’s one major difference.  Dogs come in all sorts of different breeds, some of which were simply not made to be socialized with humans.  Human children are human– the potential is there.


Children don’t understand the use of violence– they only understand that they are being hurt.  I work at the National Children’s and Youth Law Centre in Sydney– I see it all the time.  Most of the time, children’s request are “when can I move out?” or “when can I leave home?”  The question isn’t “Why do my parents hit me?”  My professor tried to bring up a point, which, unfortunately, was mostly ignored by the class: when you hit a child, a child doesn’t understand why he’s being hit.  The association made in the minds of most youths after sustained child abuse is usually that they get hit because mom or dad was angry.  They don’t associate it as linked causally to a bit of bad behaviour.  Children don’t feel they deserve to be hit– but when they ask when they can leave home, it’s because though they feel they know what they like and don’t like, the fact is, they are being hit, and whther they like it or not.  It becomes a fact of their existence.  

Later down the line, such acceptance of violent behaviour as a means of communicating displeasure leads to women (and, for that matter, men) suffering from battered women’s syndrome, or for them to perpetuate violence on others.


Think about the parallels here.  Can you imagine what the world would be like if everytime a coworker did something sneaky, you could spank them?  Would you give them a knock on the head?  If your girlfriend or boyfriend was in a bad mood and refused to reasonable? If they threw a tantrum?  Would you beat them to tell them to smarten up?


Why aren’t these sorts of behaviours justifiable against adults?  Ohhh, right: because they’re adults.  Because “we” and “they” are supposed to be rational, and we can communicate things to them.  New for you: adults can be rational and still act badly.  And the law is, you can’t even punch a convicted felon without getting in trouble for it.


So why is it that somehow, we are accepting the hitting of children, who are physically and mentally more vulnerable than adults?


I think that there’s this idea that if the punishment is fair, and that if we’re not talking about downright unreasonable child abuse, that it should be okay to hit a kid every now and then.  It serves some greater purpose, right?


I’ve never had children.  However, I’ve worked with children for years.  I’ve worked with some of the meanest and most badly behaved children you’ve ever seen– kids can barely run straight, who are already punching, kicking, and going at eachother with scissors– and I’ve never had to hit a kid.  And I’ve always turned them around.


I’m not saying that everyone can do it– I’m saying that it is possible, and you can learn and teach yourself to be an adult who communicates properly with children.


Children didn’t ask to be born.  You have no right to take shortcuts or substitutes towards building a proper relationship, since you put them in a position to piss you off.


I appreciate that parents never know what to expect, and some people don’t even want to be parents.  But for all the things that people could do to make the world a better place– it starts with how you treat your children.