Parents Hitting Children Is Wrong

Essay by SOliviaSJunior High, 9th grade August 2009

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What's so wrong with hitting children?Better to ask, "what's right about it?" Everybody agrees it is morally wrong to settle arguments between adult people with blows. But children are people too. Why should they of all people lack equal protection from all forms of violence - particularly when they are among the most vulnerable physically?Physical punishments are not only morally wrong, they don't work either. A whack on the bottom may stop children for that moment. But it won't stop them doing the same thing later on because being hit does not teach them anything useful. It doesn't teach them how you want them to behave, and it doesn't teach them to try to please you. Research evidence shows that children who have been slapped or hit are usually so overwhelmed with anger and hurt feelings that they cannot remember what they were punished for.

But is the ordinary kind of smacking that goes on in loving homes worth all this fuss?Yes it is - because violence really does breed violence and violence is a major problem in today's society.

We are not saying that hitting at home is the only cause of that violence, but we are saying that ending hitting at home would help to reduce it. Children model a lot of their behaviour on their parents. Parents who use physical punishment are directly teaching their children that physical force is an acceptable way to get what you want. If we want less violent adults we have to bring them up believing that physical force is not acceptable.

But aren't ordinary physical punishment and child abuse two quite different things?When serious cases of child abuse are investigated, they are frequently shown to have started with occasional smacks given in the name of discipline which gradually escalated into tragedies. Current acceptance of physical punishment causes a dangerous confusion. Most of those responsible for seriously injuring children are found to have been physically punished in their childhood.

And even light blows can accidentally cause serious injury to small children - eg `clips round the ear' have burst ear drums and permanently damaged hearing, and smacks catching a child off balance have led to falls and head injuries.

But children need discipline; what should replace physical punishment?EPOCH certainly doesn't argue against discipline or against consistent limits for children. The best responses to bad behaviour are always directly linked to it: parents' disapproval, irritation or anger, the removal of the toy or playmate the child is hurting, or the ending of the game or meal which is being ruined for everyone else. Rewards work better than punishments for children, just as they do for adults. There are already many parents who don't hit their children in any circumstances, but certainly believe in discipline and limits. You don't spoil a child by not hitting them.

The fact is that while there continues to be confusion over what is acceptable, hitting children is likely to increase stress and violence within any family.

In any case, why should children and only children wait for equal protection from violence until we've sorted out these other major social ills?Banning physical punishment - it does workOver five million European children are already protected from all physical punishment in their home as well as in institutions. Five European countries - Sweden (in 1979), Finland (in 1983), Denmark (in 1985), Norway (in 1987) and Austria (in 1989) have adopted laws, which prohibit parents hitting their children. The purpose in each case has been educational; to change attitudes, not to punish parents. There are no criminal penalties attached to the bans. The reforms have not led to a rush of children taking their parents to court over physical punishment, and numbers of children taken into care in Sweden and the other Scandinavian countries are low and reducing.

`Children are entitled to care, security and a good upbringing. Children are to be treated with respect for their person and individuality and may not be subjected to corporal punishment or any other humiliating treatment'4. The phrase "Spare the rod and spoil the child" is not from the Bible but from Samuel Butler's "Hudibras", a 17th Century satirical poem. The poem, like his novel, The Way of All Flesh, was written to expose and denounce violence against children.

While the "rod" is mentioned many times in the Bible, it is only in the Book of Proverbs that this word is used in connection with parenting. The book of Proverbs is attributed to Solomon, an extremely cruel man whose harsh methods of discipline led his own son, Rehoboam, to become a tyrannical and oppressive dictator who only narrowly escaped being stoned to death for his cruelty. In the Bible there is no support for harsh discipline outside of Solomon's Proverbs. By contrast, the writings in the Gospels, the most important books in the Bible for Christians, contain the teachings of Jesus Christ, who urged mercy, forgiveness, humility, and non-violence. Jesus saw children as being close to God, and urged love, never punishment.45. Punishment interferes with the bond between parent and child, as it is not human nature to feel loving toward someone who hurts us. The true spirit of cooperation, which every parent desires, can arise only through a strong bond based on mutual feelings of love and respect. Punishment, even when it appears to work, can produce only superficially good behaviour based on fear, which can only take place until the child is old enough to resist. In contrast, cooperation based on respect will last permanently, bringing many years of mutual happiness as the child and parent grows older.

Gentle instruction, supported by a strong foundation of love and respect, is the only truly effective way to bring about commendable behaviour based on strong inner values, instead of superficially "good" behaviour based only on fear.