Let me begin by letting you know that violence against children is a hard limit for us at Jara Parenting. We do not tolerate any form of violence toward a child, be it physical, mental, emotional or otherwise. We therefore maintain a zero-tolerance policy regarding the use of corporal punishment in parenting. Here is why you should too.
A child can never be taught to be more responsible than an adult. No matter how you teach, you simply cannot expect a child to think and act more maturely than the adults who care for them. This would be an unrealistic expectation. Therefore, it is unacceptable that a defenseless child should suffer a caregiver’s violence as the consequence of their behavior. Think about what it would take for you to receive anybody’s violence and not return it in any shape or form. Think about how it would feel to be shoved, smacked, slapped, kicked, punched, hit with a shoe or other object. Now think about what you would have to think and believe in your mind, for you to simply take it and not retaliate. I’ll help you out. You would have only two options: it is either you truly find yourself deserving of this dehumanization, or you know yourself to be better or stronger and in a position of power/control over your abuser. This is what a caregiver is demanding of a child when they deliver a beating. They are expecting this child to think of their “self” and either see someone utterly deserving of humiliation (and not just in the moment), or someone who has power and control over them. No person can or should be required to believe either of these images at any point in their childhood.
Of course, this is exactly the experience that many of us have endured from our own caregivers. I have heard several adults talk about the time they “earned a beating” in childhood, as though the adult’s violent behavior was more justified than their own childish behavior when they were children. If nobody has told you yet, let me be the first. THAT WAS NOT OK. As a child, you did not deserve violence from any adult. More importantly, your child deserves better from you. Whether you recognize it or not, parent, you were not put on this earth and given this child so that you can repeat your parents’ mistakes. There are new rules to parenting in 2021. These new rules demand that you do better.
Gone are the days when parents would allow themselves to lash out in violence in order to hide their own vulnerability. Your own growth as a human being, and the growth of future generations, depends on the work you do to break that cycle of violence.
The use of corporal punishment is not the child’s behavior. It is the caregiver’s behavior. Please understand that the moment you choose to cause pain and/or discomfort to a child’s body, we are no longer talking about the child’s behavior. We are dealing with your own aggressive impulse. It is therefore your responsibility to do the personal mental/emotional work that is required to understand and control this aggressive impulse. It is not the child’s responsibility to keep you happy or continue to find ways to appease you. If you do not model the self-control you want to see, you can hardly demand it of a child. It is their responsibility to simply be a child. It is the caregiver’s responsibility to provide safe and conscientious care. If you are a parent who struggles with this kind of aggression, please seek consultation to learn some of the myriad more acceptable alternatives for correcting child behavior. We shall no longer normalize violence in any home that houses a child.
As a caregiver, you are modeling to your child/ward how to be in this world. If you raise them with violence, you are showing them that violence is how you get people to comply with your wishes. It should be no surprise when they begin to aggress toward siblings and peers in order to get their way. I will save the statistical report regarding the rise of childhood deaths from child abuse. I won’t even talk about how these deaths are often at the hands of parents or caregivers. It is heartbreaking and terrifying to me that anybody still feels the need to defend this behavior, so I will say it again: we shall no longer normalize violence in any home that houses a child.
A WORD ON CULTURE. Yes, I have heard some of the cultural arguments for violence against children. To this I say, culture is not a fixed unchangeable entity. Culture is you and I. It changes when we choose to change. It may be the family tradition to use violence as a means of control. This may have been the case for the past 52 generations or since time immemorial. It is still unhealthy and unacceptable. You did not deserve it as a child and your child does not deserve it from you. It is ok if you have made this mistake in the past. There is no perfect parent. I urge that we own our mistakes rather than excuse them. Let us model the level of responsibility we are demanding from our children. Only then can we trust that we have indeed done our best parenting. Please say it with me: we shall no longer normalize violence in any home that houses a child.