Violence with Children: Cruel, planned beating or Habit of hitting without Self-Control - 24 Feb 14

I started writing about parents hitting their children last week in a letter to Indian parents. There were many responses and I think it struck a chord with many people who see that this is not actually the right way. Several people from the west, too, have responded, telling that while it is not that common and definitely not seen as the norm in their countries, there are people who use violence in their education there as well. Today I would like to explain the two different kinds of violence that are common – and differently perceived by the people exercising it:

1. Planned and intentional, physical Punishment

This is the kind of violence that is used as corporal punishment in schools as well. For this punishment, a teacher or parent often also uses a stick, a belt or something similar to hit the child, mostly on the buttocks but sometimes in a very cruel manner on the fingers or other body parts as well. There is a plan behind this kind of beatings: the parent wants to better the child. The child is called to a certain spot where this punishment will take place and the child is often informed before, thus increasing the fear of the child.

The thought is that the child will not do certain things because he or she is afraid to get punished in this way. Not only doesn’t it work, it also brings lasting damage to the child’s psyche and in particular to your child’s relation to you. Do you really want your son to be afraid of you? That your daughter sees you as a monster with a stick in her worst nightmares?

2. Hitting out of Habit or sudden Anger

While also many Indian parents would call the above way of hitting your child violence, most would not even consider this second version as anything wrong. It is the slap on the child’s bottoms or the head when he again spilled his glass of water. It is pulling fighting siblings apart by their ears. It is the slap in the face when your child starts throwing a tantrum, bit you in anger, did not listen to your rules or painted the walls with permanent marker.

You hit the next second, out of a sudden impulse, an anger, a frustration that you could not keep back. You don’t even have the patience of one second to consider your feelings and actions – but for raising a child you need lots of patience! You have not even learnt to let this anger subside before touching your child again and these are the cases where parents, when thinking about, would say themselves it was not necessary to hit.

The problem is however that you don’t even notice anymore yourself! It has become a habit. Such a habit that you say ‘I don’t hit my children’ although you are doing it all the time.

Both forms of violence are straight-out wrong.

There is one more: verbal violence. This one is not to be underestimated and that’s why I will write about it tomorrow.

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