I have some thoughts on the topic of striking your child and the unhealthy mental and physical consequences that can result for the young human in your care. But to begin, let me state that I am aware how common corporal punishment can be in the home and I know that there are those of you who may have slipped or lost control in a hot, reactive flash of anger. I am very aware, from personal experience, of the effect that a child’s negative behaviors can have in causing us to feel and think things that we would not otherwise entertain. I have always believed that hitting or making physical contact with a child is a non-starter, and I have sought alternatives throughout my career as a teacher and caregiver. If you have crossed the line to physical punishment, I am not here to judge you. My intention is to make you aware that there are better options and to give you some food for thought.
With parenthood comes the responsibility of understanding what our roles are in the nurturing of young minds and hearts. There was a time (and sadly remains in some places today) when striking a child to teach them discipline was seen as an acceptable practice. Try and recall anytime you may have been struck by your parent(s), or gotten into a fight that came to physical blows; or just imagine getting hit. I can be pretty certain that the majority of you would say that being hit is not an enjoyable experience and that the “lesson” learned is not one of being enlightened or rehabilitated, but rather of fear.
“An important rationale for the use of corporal punishment has historically been that the pain, injury, humiliation, and degradation it inflicted would deter the offender from committing similar offenses in the future. …The claim that corporal punishment is an especially effective deterrent has been refuted by empirical evidence“ Britannica
Now imagine a young person, your child perhaps, being the target of your “spanking, slapping, pinching, pulling, twisting, and hitting with an object.” Amy Morin, LCSW.
I think if you stop and truly think of the enormously damaging impact being struck by someone you trust to keep you safe from harm, even if that innocent, young child, or teen, angers you SO much, you might rethink your tactic. And the consequences are real:
“…as developmental neuropsychiatrist Martin H. Teicher reveals, scientists are discovering some startling connections between abuse of all kinds and both permanent debilitating changes in the brain and psychiatric problems ranging from panic attacks to post-traumatic stress disorder.” Martin H. Teicher, M.D., Ph.D. October 1, 2000
Wounds That Time Won’t Heal: The Neurobiology of Child Abuse
“The impact of physical abuse on a child’s life can be far-reaching. It is especially devastating when a parent, the person a child depends on for protection and safety, becomes a danger. Some children develop traumatic stress reactions.”
National Child Traumatic Stress Network
“Aside from the immediate physical injuries children can experience through maltreatment, a child’s reactions to abuse or neglect can have lifelong and even intergenerational impacts.
Childhood maltreatment can be linked to later physical, psychological, and behavioral consequences as well as costs to society as a whole. These consequences may be independent of each other, but they also may be interrelated. “ April 2019. Child Welfare Information Gateway
With proper structure, mindfulness, realistic rules, communication and compassion there is no reason to ever lift a hand to your child in anger. There are numerous alternative consequences for unacceptable behaviors but the foundation is built on your relationship with your child. I have written about the effectiveness of Mindful Parenting and to save space here I recommend you go back to the blog post and read about developing that relationship and recognizing your child as an individual; their own person. https://specialedrising.com/2021/05/20/mindfully-parenting-your-special-needs-child-part-i/
Lauren Steele writes about this and Sharon Silver of Proactive Parenting says it well; “Studies have shown that the most effective way to foster healthy relationships with children and give them the ability to learn and utilize self-control is through positive discipline. According to the book No More Perfect Kids: Love Your Kids for Who They Are, positive discipline is based on minimizing the child’s frustrations and therefore reducing misbehavior rather than giving punishments. The “Golden Rule” is the guiding light with positive discipline — encouraging children to feel empowered, in control, and good about themselves while also building a positive parent-child relationship. “You can’t change whom your child is,” says Sharon Silver, founder of Proactive Parenting. “But you can make adjustments so that they have the opportunity to learn about who they are and be the best version of themselves within the boundaries you set.” Lauren Steele Jan 26 2018, Fatherly
If you feel the temptation to use your hands to change your child’s behavior I suggest that you walk away. Intentional ignoring and later revisiting when all parties are calmer will allow for clearer heads to prevail. By having a plan prior to an incident that incorporates rewards and consequences you can avoid circumstances that may lead to that temptation. This is a far better approach and establishes lines for child and parent. With this understanding in place, the occurrence of an outburst on the part of your child grows less and continues to move in the direction of eventual extinction. Meanwhile, the rage that builds within you, that might cause you to consider physically lashing out, also dramatically decreases which helps to avoid going to a darker place.
This needs to be a paradigm shift within you and how you see and understand discipline. It is critical that you understand that hitting has no place; not a slap on the lap, the face, the shoulder, …nowhere, ever is it acceptable.
Peace and Keep Rising!
Sad Fact: Among the states that allow teachers to physically punish their students are the following: Wyoming, Texas, Tennessee, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Missouri, Mississippi, Louisiana, Kentucky, Kansas, Indiana, Idaho, Illinois, Georgia, Florida, Colorado, Arkansas, Arizona and Alabama.
Sad Fact: Journal of Family Psychology; April 2016: The more you spank your children, the more likely they are to defy you and to develop issues including anti-social behavior and cognitive difficulties.