Is hitting your child acceptable? What is the difference in “spanking” and “hitting”? Two moms, from two continents share their viewpoints and observations. Do they have all the answers? No, we’re fairly sure no mom could possibly, but we do believe in the power of conversation. We believe we can collectively encourage better practices through sharing knowledge, science and our experiences. And here’s a place to start!
Let’s admit it—Parenting is not easy! There are days when you just want to pull your hair out and scream. There are moments when you think how carefree your life was before you had kids and there are times when you are so mad that you actually raise your hand to hit your child… and on some rare occasions, that does land somewhere on your child’s body.
I know a lot of people wouldn’t ever admit to having hit their child even once (because that would put them in the category of a bad parent!) but in reality, a lot of us have done that, and regretted it later on. Does that make us a bad parent? Well, it depends. If you feel ashamed of your action and vow never to repeat it, then, NO! After all, parenting is a 24-hour job that stretches one’s patience limits to extremes at times. BUT if you’re doing this repeatedly without any guilt and believe that spanking/yelling is just another way to “discipline” your child, then probably you need to sit back and re-analyze your parenting style.
Recently, famous Indian cricketer Virat Kohli shared a heartbreaking video of a 4 year old girl being harassed by her mom for not being able to do some basic counting. He commented:
“The fact that the pain and anger of the child is ignored and one’s own ego to make the child learn is so massive that compassion has totally gone out of the window. This is shocking and saddening to another dimension. A child can never learn if intimidated. This is hurtful.”
The video sparked a collective outrage and people started accusing the mother of being a tyrant and totally heartless. However, this is not the story of just a single child, but millions of others who experience physical discipline at the hands of their parents. And the sad part is that parents justify beating their children on the grounds of “disciplining” them. Often, parents don’t mean to physically harm the child but sometimes, what begins as a well-intentioned gesture to discipline a child ends in seething rage and a sound beating.
Also, in Asian countries, there is a lot of pressure on children to perform well in studies. Every parent expects their child to excel, right from the beginning. The pressure to get into the best grad school, college, high school, elementary school and even preschool, is rising. Everyone is expecting their kid to turn out to be an Einstein, forgetting that each child is different and has different interests and passions. It is not uncommon in such a situation for the parents to be physically abusive if the children fail to meet their expectations.
Harsh parenting and its side-effects:
Past research proves that any form of physical punishment is likely to backfire and have negative impact on a child’s mental development. Kids whose parents regularly yell at them or threaten them with aggressive punishments are more likely to drop out of high school or college than their peers, even if they are getting good grades.
Children who are exposed to harsh parenting at an early age are more likely to feel unloved and rejected. As a result, they look for acceptance and validation elsewhere and end up trusting/loving their friends more than their parents. Such kids also often end up being more aggressive, indulge in sexual activities at an early age and exhibit risky behavior like shoplifting/stealing.
Studies have also shown that parents who were spanked or given other physical punishments as kids were more likely to spank their own children. This is because when children are brought up being spanked at the slightest mistake, it is only natural for them to believe that physical force is an acceptable method of problem solving.
Is there an “ideal” parenting style?
A lot of parents have asked this question to themselves at some point of time—am I doing it right? Whenever your child throws a tantrum at the supermarket or misbehaves, you tend to question yourself if you are too soft with him. Do you need to be a little stricter? Other times, you just yell at your kids for being troublesome, see them crying and then curse yourself for being too harsh.
Basically, there is a very thin line between being harsh and being strict. While spanking a child is never an ideal option, nor is bringing up your child in an environment where there are no rules at all. So what is the best way to deal with child tantrums and moods? How can you discipline your child without being too harsh? We are listing below a few tips that might help you walk the fine line between harsh parenting and permissive parenting:
Be mindful of your actions in front of your kids:
Always remember that your kids are watching whatever you do. Children have impressionable minds. They learn what they see. Now it depends on you what kind of example you want to set in front of them. A child who sees his parents behave in a positive manner is going to imbibe that in his nature. On the other hand, if you are constantly in a bad temper and screaming at people, you are teaching your child disregard and disrespect.
Make a set of rules for your child and be consistent in applying them:
It is very important that a child understands the importance of discipline in life at an early stage. A child should know what is acceptable behavior and what is not. There should be a set of rules that your child knows he should not break and if he does, he’ll have to face the consequences. For example, no ice-creams on weekdays, no TV until the homework is complete. If your child does break them, let him face consequences like loss of certain privileges—no bedtime story or no dessert tonight.
Also, be consistent in applying these rules. If a child gets punished for something on one occasion and gets away with it the next time, that is going to make him feel confused.
Don’t be over-indulgent:
Loving your child and spoiling him are two very different things. Just remember that getting your child everything he wants (not necessarily needs!) is not showing your love. A spoilt child can never understand the importance of things in life and grows up to be an insensitive adult.
Listen to them when they’re talking to you:
Encourage your child to communicate openly with you. He/she should be able to share everything under the sun- right from their little successes to their deepest fears- with you without any hesitation. But for that, you have to be an attentive listener. Your kids are only going to confide in you if are a really good listener.
Put that phone away while spending time with your kids:
These days, no matter where you are, you can see people glued to their phones at all times. Not many people realize that kids absolutely HATE it when their parents spend more time on their phones instead of with them. This makes them feel unloved and unimportant. If you are one of those cell-phone addicted parents, it is time to change your priorities because you are not only neglecting your children, you are setting a bad example too. Each day, fix some time that you spend only with your kids without the distraction of your smartphone.
Stop comparing your children with other kids:
Your child comes home and proudly declares that he got an A grade in his test. You’re happy for your baby and congratulate him. Then you go on to ask how his friends have fared and he sheepishly lets you know that his best buddy got an A+. Now the mom, who was pretty happy about her son’s grade a few seconds ago, suddenly starts to think it is not good enough. “If he can get an A+, why can’t you?”
Does this scene sound familiar? If yes, then welcome to the club of parents who often end up comparing their children with others, whether knowingly or unknowingly.
Please understand that every child is different. Children are sensitive individuals and they do not take too well to negative criticism. So instead of comparing them with other kids, focus on their strengths and help them get better at those. Praise them on their little achievements and indulge only in constructive criticism, if you have to.
There’s a famous saying that goes: “In order to get respect, give respect”. You can’t expect a child to respect you just because you are his parent and a few years older than him. Conduct yourself in such a manner that your child automatically comes to respect you. Think of him as an individual in his own right and respect his choices and decisions.
Spanking is never a solution:
When a parent is hitting his/her child, the message that the little one gets is: “Since I am bigger and stronger than you and you’ve annoyed me, I have every right to hit you!” Children who are spanked will grow up to believe that it is alright to hit others who are not as physically strong as them.
Also, spanking a child for not being good in academics is never going to work. It will only make your child hate studies. So instead of hitting them when they are unable to grasp a seemingly simple thing, just look out for ways to make the learning process fun for them. Use practical examples, fun stories to get across your point. After a few hours of learning, give them a little brain-break.
Set up frequent playdates with their friends:
Kids absolutely LOVE playdates. Try to schedule frequent playdates for your child by inviting his friends over and think of some fun games that they can enjoy together. Try not to let them watch too much TV and instead, encourage them to solve some puzzles or other simple mind-games when they get ‘bored’ (which they surely will, after a while!).
Don’t yell at your kids…or at your spouse in front of your kids:
Yelling at your kids is only going to show them that whoever speaks the loudest, gets whatever they want. After a while, your kids might start talking to you in the same volume and manner. Also, try avoiding any kind of arguments with your spouse in front of your kids. While it is true that every couple has disagreements, you need not fight in your child’s presence. A child, being too young to understand that it is just a temporary phase, gets scared when he sees his parents shouting and fighting and undergoes emotional trauma.
To conclude, we may say that good parenting is all about nurturing children in a loving environment so that they grow up to be self-confident, good-natured and cheerful adults. It involves instilling values like honesty, kindness, empathy, self-worth and cooperation in your children. It means believing in your kids and motivating them to achieve their dreams… And this requires keeping your aspirations and expectations on the back foot and giving wings to your children to help them fly and achieve success in a field of their liking.
If there’s one lesson learned you could share with moms from all around the world, what would it be? Let us hear from you in the comments below and share your unique wisdom and experience with other moms like you!
Author: Pooja J.