violence-against-children-vanuatuA parent, when hitting a misbehaving child, doesn’t generally believe they are being violent. They believe they are ‘disciplining’ their child and cite children’s aggression and failure to comply with a request as the most common reasons for hitting them.

Many parents experienced physical punishment themselves as children. Whether it was hitting, pinching, shaking, smacking on the face or bum, many boast that ‘they were hit as a child and turned out just fine!’ But is it ‘just fine’? Especially in this day and age where we have access to information and research has increasingly shown that hitting your child can cause long-term harm?

For some children, parents may truly believe that hitting them is the only way to send a lasting message. Especially for children who are very young (not infants), and reasoning, taking away privileges or any other form of discipline doesn’t work with children in that pre-school age range. Some parents believe that hitting them may shock them into behaving better. But does that really work? And as that child gets older, is it appropriate to continue hitting them or would it be more effective to find other ways to discipline? And if physical punishment is acceptable in your home, what are the chances that in a moment of anger you might resort to this punishment when you shouldn’t, or be excessively aggressive?

While we must try support each other in our parenting journey, we also have the opportunity to advance into 2020 with more compassionate parenting styles. Armed with new knowledge and information, we can still be the authority figure without resorting to violence. We can communicate to our children in a way that teaches, rather than punishes. Just because our parents supported physical punishment, it does not mean we have to.


Here are a few reasons why you shouldn’t hit your children:

Hitting models hitting

The same discipline techniques you employ with your children are the ones they are most likely to carry on in their own parenting. Studies show that children from spanking families are more likely to use aggression to handle conflicts when they become adults.

Spanking demonstrates that it’s all right for people to hit people, and especially for big people to hit little people, and stronger people to hit weaker people. Children learn that when you have a problem you solve it with a good swat. A child whose behaviour is controlled by spanking is likely to carry on this mode of interaction into other relationships with siblings and peers, and eventually a spouse and offspring.

Hitting may lead to abuse

Punishment escalates. The danger of beginning corporal punishment in the first place is that you may feel you have to bring out bigger guns: your hand becomes a fist, the switch becomes a belt, the folded newspaper becomes a wooden spoon, and now what began as seemingly innocent escalates into child abuse. Punishment sets the stage for child abuse. Parents who are programmed to punish set themselves up for punishing harder, mainly because they have not learned alternatives and click immediately into the punishment mode when their child misbehaves.

No one can learn when they are afraid.

When you are afraid, it is biologically impossible to learn and implement higher-order thinking. The fear response triggers the fight or flight instinct. If you want your child to learn something, it’s critical to reduce fear rather than increase it.

Hitting children teaches children to lie to avoid detection or to avoid you.

Most people do what they want to do, unless the risk of detection is high. Punishment teaches children to avoid detection by avoiding his or her parents. It damages your relationship and trust with them and they will not be able to open and honest with you in fear of getting hit.

Source: Ask Dr. Sears

This article was originally published in the Vanuatu Daily Post’s February edition of the Life and Style magazine.