What It Really Means When You Physically Punish Your Kids

Think back to those first moment looking into your partner’s eyes, falling in love with everything about them.

Think about the feelings you had at the exact moment when you knew you had conceived a child together.

Recall those first cries in the delivery room, their soft skin against your hands and your face.

Those feelings as you held this amazing, yet oh so fragile little life close and guarded from the world.

You helped create this incredible living being. You knew you would lay down your life to protect them from even the slightest harm, physical or emotional.

You spent those first months, nearly non-stop, doling out focused attention, caring , delicate handling and teaching — always teaching.

There was the excitement of crawling, the first steps and the first words. All the while you chatted endlessly with this little bundle of neurons and you supported your infant each and every inch of the way as they became a toddler. And then at some point you came to a crossroads. You would either continue to take the time to speak to your child and explain the more complicated things they were coming upon… and they would be increasingly more complicated… or you would simply give them a swat, or a spanking, to keep them on track, while perhaps inadvertently teaching them a different sort of lesson.

Rather than focus on right, wrong, or, more realistically, the many shades of grey that lie in between right and wrong, you would instead teach your child that when they were caught doing something you deemed wrong, there would be consequences. Of course the lesson that we the swatted learned was not what was right or what was wrong. We learned that we could do whatever we wanted in life so long as we did not get caught.

Drift back in time again, to those first months with a newborn — the many long sleepless nights with the intermittent (or nonstop) crying, howling, and screaming. You know, like when they were, say, six months old. Why didn’t you just start smacking them then to get compliance?

It wasn’t because they were small and helpless; a toddler or even a pre-teen is still small and helpless. It wasn’t because somebody might see you; you were alone in the dark. Perhaps it was because you were alone in the dark. And the only one that their crying, their incessant crying, was hurting was you.

It hurt your heart. You burst with love and pride for your child.

But then in just a few short years this changes: now you are in public, and their meltdown is embarrassing you. This is a you problem, not a them problem. You care just a bit less about what their problem is and far more about being judged by complete strangers as a parent with an out of control and unruly child. So you take the shortcut. Rather than ‘use your words’ as you admonish your own child to do, you use your rough, aging hand against their soft, youthful cheek, face or buttock.

Why is this happening? For the approval of strangers? To silence a crying child disturbing strangers for a few minutes? Is the comfort of others worth sacrificing the bond of safety your child previously felt when around you?

Your were their protector, their safe harbor, right up until that first smack.

Now you are unpredictable, you are the animal in the wild to be watched closely, to guard your emotions and feeling from.

Of course your love is still there, but perhaps the pride in your child less so. Certainly you have sacrificed the pride they once held for you.

Make no mistake, your hitting your child is 100% a ‘you thing’, it is not not a ‘them thing’.

They are learning nothing constructive; they are only learning to be destructive. They are learning the shortcut to a desired solution. The simple path. To hit takes only a moment. To explain and to teach takes skill and time, neither of which the individual compelled to hit somebody a mere fraction of their size and strength possesses.

So as you teach your child that hitting is a solution — and rest assured, this is what you are teaching them — do not despair when they hit their siblings, their friends, their spouses, and their own children. You have taught them this solution. And when you are in your golden years, aging, hard of hearing, and perhaps starting to lose your faculties, keep in mind that you did not teach you children patience. So when they yell at you in public, or give you a swat to correct your errant behavior, recall that it was your hand that taught their hand to do what it is in turn doing to you.

When you teach with the hand, talk with the hand, you inevitably are responded to with a hand.

In your final days, as your loving sweet infant who has grown to a mature adult gives you a smack now and then, know that they still love you and that it hurts them more than it hurts you.

You will be both be hurting.

This much will be true. Thought Catalog Logo Mark


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