Thursday, June 19, 2008

Is it wrong to hit your children?

Parents since time became have debated the issue of whether it is appropriate to hit your children. There is no question in my mind that there is no need to hit children. There are several reasons for this:
1. Striking a child does not convey an argument: It tells the child that they way adults achieve what they want is to impose their will on others. This is the foundation for creating a bully rather than a compliant child. The parent of course feels compelled to raise the stakes as the child becomes desensitised to physical threats.
2. Striking a child conveys low regard for the child: Parents generally strike a child not for gratification but because its easy. Its a simply solution to a problem. It conveys the notion that they are not invested in their children. You might ask why? Well I dare say they didn't think having children would be so much work. They didn't think their child would be so rebellious. The fact that they are is a reflection on the parent. It shows that a parent is out of their depth, that they draw no sense of efficacy from raising a child. This has to impact on their self-esteem, if they already didn't have self-esteem. Parents with low self-esteem tend to produce children of low self esteem.
3. Striking a child shows no understanding of child psychology: Parents need to understand the motive power of children. The intent is no to manipulate them but to guide them. A child is a human being, and as such they have certain needs. They want to be loved or appreciated, they are curious, they want to explore and understand, and they have certain capacities to understand certain information at a certain age. It goes without saying that parental guidance has to be age-appropriate. If the child is not getting the message, its more likely because your message or approach is not age-appropriate. For older children, its readily apparent that kids appreciate their toys, they like being active, they like being the centre of attention.

Might the argument be made that confining a child to a bedroom or denying them toys is equally damaging to their psyche. I think that is true to some extent if the parent fails to convey to the child the reason why they are being punished. It it also important that a parent conveys the information before the child misbehaves. A great many parents will strike a child for not fulfilling their expectancies. This is not an instance of educating the child, but of externalising responsibility. If a parent does not give the child queues they can't expect a child to get it. The most important point is to empathise with the child.
The biggest mistake parents can make is to think that parenting is a natural gift bestowed on them. It is a choice and it is a challenge that requires skills. You have no built-in parental instincts. You need the tools to perform the task well, and if you are prepared you will derive a great deal of efficacy and pride from the task. The reward will be darling children that have every chance to become productive members of society. Children are pretty reslient, but get it seriously wrong and you will be in constant shouting matches, breaking up fights with their siblings, bailing them out of jail or identifying their body at the morgue.
I'm not suggesting that this is purely the result of striking your child. No parent is all bad, if only because they need moments of appreciation or love from their child, those maybe there are parents who resent every monment with their child, and vice versa. The implications are clear though - if you put junk into a child's mind he will unlikely come out a genius. If he is a genius, its not because of you, but inspite of you. Its because he developed positive standards of comparison, not from reflecting on your skills, but by comparing them with the skills of parents with good values. Children born into gettos I dare say have less possibility of developing such positive standards of value, but its not difficult. People are poor for different reasons.
Andrew Sheldon