Do You Hit Your Child To ‘Discipline’ Them?

What we do for our kids is not a favour to them; it is our duty as parents who gave them life. You have no right to hit or abuse your child.

Trigger Warning: This deals with violence against children, child abuse, trauma caused by this abuse, and may be triggering for survivors.

It is very shocking to see that a large majority of parents believe in slapping and spanking their children as a necessary part of ‘disciplining’ them. Hitting is the way they try to establish their authority over their children and ‘to correct their behavior,’ as they put it.

Why do such adults hit children?

  1. To discipline them
  2. When the child underachieves in studies
  3. To make the child obey them
  4. To stop their misbehaviour like throwing tantrums
  5. To vent their own frustration and anger

*names changed to protect the privacy of individuals

One of my neighbours named Kiran* had a specifically disturbing habit of hitting and shouting at her four year old son – Karan*, at the drop of a hat. Sometimes her angry shouts used to reverberate in the entire colony. If Karan falls or hurts himself, instead of comforting him, she used to go and slap him hard on his tiny cheeks. He used to beg his mother to not hit him.

The early signs of anxiety were clearly visible in the boy – he was very clingy, he found it hard to concentrate during his class, he was not able to sleep properly and was frequently unwell. Unlike the other kids of his age, he did not eat properly from his lunch box during his lunchtime. He used to get irritated very often and used to hit other smaller kids when left alone with them. Karan’s father also used to hit him (although less frequently and less severely than the mother) at the slightest provocation.

Kiran used to hit her son so that he could get ‘good grades’ in school. The poor child was in pre-primary class at that time. I mean, what wretched person can hit a four-year-old for under-performing in his class!

Was Kiran taking out her anger at her in-laws and husband on her helpless son?

Kiran needed some introspection as she herself was unable to write a proper leave application in Hindi or in English, or do the basic primary class mathematics! I was shocked one day to find our that her language skills were equal to that of a fifth grader.

(Not knowing is not a bad thing per se, but how can you spank a little child for not meeting up your expectations when you yourself are sub-par at certain things. And even if you are perfect in everything you still cannot hit a child. And maybe that also caused self-esteem issues in her that led to her behaviour towards her child?)

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Kiran’s husband was an engineer and she used to live with her in-laws. They always taunted her for not being fair enough and not bringing enough dowry. They always used to say things like, ‘our son could have gotten a better bride than you.’ Kiran never had the courage to confront these utterly inappropriate remarks and insinuations. She abused her in-laws behind their back, but in front of them she was always submissive and meek.

This is the mark of a weak personality. They never confront the powerful but always bullying the weak. Because they know that the weak cannot retaliate – a child is a far less powerful target for grown-ups.

This kind of behaviour towards kids can hard them forever

Several studies have suggested a direct link between children who are physically hit/spanked by their parents and anxiety, depression, suicidal tendencies, alcohol and drug abuse later in their adult life. These kids also become indifferent to their parents when they grow up.

Children who are hit regularly by their parents also are at high risk of become aggressive as adults affecting their social and emotional life. They are at more risk of abusing their partner, bullying their peers and so on.

There is growing evidence that suggests that corporal punishment in early years of life is directly linked to reduced intelligence later on.

Children who are spanked till (or later) six years of age are at risk of not gaining math skills, language and vocabulary skills, and academic failure at higher classes.

Parents who spank their children are weaker people. Hitting a child is simply one way in which their weakness shows.

My point is those weak people who hit their kids, are always meek in front of those who are in power. They do not have the courage to speak up to injustices happening to them, but they have a free ride with their kids.

Kiran always used to convince others about the pains and daily tribulations she goes through for her child. She used to tell that she wakes up in the night to give him medicines, once she was awake the entire night to sponge him to relieve his fever, even if she is going to an outing, she cooks healthy food for her son and so on.

First things first, as parents these are not favours we are doing to our kids. This is our duty. Plain and simple.

That doesn’t give us the right to hit them and leave psychological scars on their fragile minds forever.

Parents, please introspect

  1. Please understand that the act of hitting a child cannot be undone ever. It can never be compensated by any number of hugs, kisses, apologies or presents that you give him/her later.
  2. It is your duty to provide your children with as many happy experiences and memories as possible. Beating them only creates ever lasting negative feelings and emotions.
  3. Physical punishment causes pain and emotional hurt to kids.
  4. It also lowers their self-esteem and make them fearful.
  5. As adults these kids are susceptible to drug and alcohol abuse, anxiety and depression.
  6. They are more likely to become rebellious and show aggressive behavior towards others.
  7. It can cause mental health issues like anxiety and mood disorders years later in their adult life.

What you can do

  1. First things first, you need to stop hitting your child right away, no matter what.
  2. Observe and acknowledge and focus on your own feelings first.
  3. Calm and pacify yourself first – drink a glass of water or go out in the lawn.
  4. Children imitate your behavior. A calm and peaceful parent is what they need. They do not need a furious, angry and mad parent. Your calmness will spill over to them and they will become less fearful of you and calmer.
  5. If you regularly hit your child, maybe it’s high time you see a counselor yourself. Maybe you need support and help for your own past experiences and traumas.
  6. There are several non-aggressive ways of disciplining a child – time out, setting limits and telling them about consequences.
  7. With slightly older kids you need to listen to them patiently and talk to them about their fears and anxieties.
  8. Last but not the least, apologize to your child for your past tantrums and spanking and promise them that you will not repeat them. Needless to say, keep your word.

Image source: a still from the film Taare Zameen Par

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About the Author

Swati Pandey

Greetings! I'm Swati, a passionate yoga instructor and a dedicated writer. I am on a journey to share the transformative power of yoga through my teaching and to inspire and connect with others through read more...

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