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Your child is the apple of your eye and you would do everything in the world to keep him safe. But sometimes, a situation can get a little out of control and your ability to make rational decisions disappears in the heat of the moment. Since you are certain to feel guilty later, it helps if you understand and deal with it before you end up making a horrifying parenting mistake!
Any parent is sure to hit the roof if he finds that someone hit their child. It could be a teacher or a playground bully; whoever it is, they are sure to be on the receiving end of the parent’s wrath. So what changes when it is the parent itself who becomes the abuser?
Why do Parents Hurt their Children?
Most parents are part of a peace-loving population, who don’t believe in violence for violence’s sake. But everyone has their own personal ‘tipping point’ for anger, beyond which logic loses and rage wins. Add to it any kind of stress – job insecurity, financial woes, broken marriage or just a bad day – and things can easily spiral out of control.
In India, where ‘culture’ is given haloed status, the established tradition of disciplining children is true to the phrase ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’. Most people agree that a well-deserved spank now and then doesn’t hurt, and it is even necessary in some cases. Sometimes, the tendency to harm children can be deep-rooted in the parent’s own childhood. Adults who were abused as children often find it hard to break the pattern even when they realize that it is a destructive habit.
Why is this Dangerous?
While one might argue that a mild spank or a little slap or knock is no big deal, the problem is that it is a very slippery slope to chronic child abuse. What is considered commonplace in most South East Asian nations is viewed as abuse in many other countries to the point that the child can be separated from her parents and put in a foster home. There have been innumerable cases where a parent’s rage got the better of him and a routine spanking turned into a fractured arm or broken ribs.
Even if there aren’t any physical injuries, the emotional after-effects are deep-rooted and just as damaging, if not more. If you try to remember a situation in your own childhood when you were hit by a parent or teacher, the memory is quite likely to be tinged with a good deal of sadness, humiliation and feelings of helplessness. A child that is hurt today will grow up with similar feelings that will stay with her throughout her life.
Other than personal trauma, spanking a child as punishment actually sets the stage for more violence later. You are teaching your child that violence is an acceptable method for resolving conflicts, especially when the other person is weaker than you.
How can Parents Deal with such a Situation?
First of all, you need to realize that just because your child is physically weaker than you and is dependent on you for all her needs, it isn’t okay to hit her whenever you think it’s necessary. Tend to anger easily, repeat this to yourself every day, so that it gets ingrained into your psyche. Here are some more tips for parents who hurt their children:
- Whenever you feel the urge to hit, just stop and walk away. Walk away from your child or the mess or whatever it is that’s aggravating you.
- Sit in another room for a while and take deep breaths, blowing the air out through your mouth. This helps to soothe your nerves and calm you down. Count to ten and backwards if necessary.
- Establish a rule of ‘0% tolerance for violence’ in your home, and make it applicable for every single member of the family. So it’s not just parents, but even siblings can’t hit each other.
- Most situations like these arise due to a disturbed mind and a body that is not well-rested. Ensure that a proper routine is followed throughout the day for parents and children, with enough time for sleep, exercise and healthy meals.
- If you still feel that you can’t help lashing out at your children, then you might have a problem that requires professional help. Don’t feel ashamed about seeking therapy; you should be proud that you’ve taken the next step to a more loving family life.
We live in a world that is flooded with stories of all kinds of violence. From individual crimes to genocides, there is no dearth of horror stories that make us wonder about the legacy we’re leaving our children. Let’s make it better by starting with ourselves – maintaining a household where everyone loves and respects each other is a sure way to help our children realize the dream of peace everywhere.