Yesterday, the dishes were piling up in the kitchen. I asked my wife to clean up the mess. I asked nicely and everything.
Well, my wife responded by saying that she was tired because of a long day. I told her that she needs to learn the value of hard work and to get the dishes done now. She replied, “Not now. Why don’t you do it if it’s that important to you to have a clean kitchen?”
So I did the only thing a loving husband could. I took off my belt and started whipping her with it. I told her how it was for her own good, how she needs to respect my authority as head of the household, and she’d better do as she’s been told and get those dirty dishes cleaned up.
But I only hit my wife because I love her.
I know. You’re gasping in astonishment, right? How cruel and terrible of me, right?
I agree. I think spousal abuse is absolutely horrible and I don’t believe for one nanosecond that beating my wife expresses my love for her in any way. But what if we changed the story? What if, instead of my wife, it was my 10-year old daughter?
I don’t know how you, specifically, will feel about that. But I do know that studies have shown that 80-90% of parents hit their children as a form of punishment and as a way to attempt to modify their behavior. The vast majority of these parents will tell you that hitting their children is right and appropriate and plenty will say that they hit their children out of love.
“But I only hit my kids because I love them.” It suddenly sounds so ridiculous, doesn’t it?
When asked what their reasoning is, many parents are be unable to give a rational answer other than, “I was hit growing up and I turned out okay.”
But now, if you are one of those 80%, I’m here to tell you that if you think hitting children is okay, then you didn’t turn out okay. Now, for the first freaking time in your life, think rationally about your parenting philosophy. Stop spewing the bullshit that was fed to you growing up and create an original thought on your own for once. Think about what hitting a small, defenseless child actually does to them.
And I seriously have to ask you, why are you so insistent on using physical violence against children? Why do you so vehemently defend a practice that has been repeatedly proven detrimental to a child’s well being?
If it is not okay to…
- hit your neighbor because you notice that he used markers to draw on himself
- slap a police academy cadet who struggles to pass certain qualifying standards, and keep slapping her harder until she passes
- strike a coworker because he didn’t complete his work to your exacting standards
- beat the elderly woman sitting at the table next to you because she clumsily knocked over her glass and spilled her Coke on the floor
…then it’s definitely not okay to do it to your own child.
Let’s think about this in another way. What happens if you hit an adult? That adult has the ability to either fight back (legal self defense), runaway from you, and/or call the police. If the law gets involved, then you’ll be cited, fined, and have a criminal record.
However, if you hit your child they can’t really fight back. Why? Because you are several times larger and stronger than they are. They could call the police, but that puts the child into a position where they have to report their only providers and to whom they have a strong biological (instinctual) attachment to. Furthermore, the law supports a parent’s right to hit their children, even though doing the exact same to an adult would land you an arrest for assault.
So tell me, does it make you feel good to beat on someone who is so much weaker than you that they can’t fight back? Are you truly so miserable that your only escape is to hit your children and make them miserable as well?
They can’t runaway. Where would they go for food and shelter? It’s not like a 10-year old can just get a job and move out — and even if they could, a 10-year old is neither mentally ready nor anywhere near developed enough to deal with the stresses and realities of “the real world.” That’s why they live with their parents. It’s the parents’ responsibility to take care of the needs of a child. Tell me, how does physically abusing a child (yes, hitting children is abuse) fulfill their needs and prepare them to meet the world?
And what happens if they call the police? The police will probably show up, berate the child for being disobedient, and call your abuse “parental rights”. Children have no escape from your abuse until they reach legal adulthood.
And what effect do you think parental bullying has on a child? Research has shown that being hit by one’s parents is one of the strongest indicators for future risky behavior such as sexual promiscuity, drug use, alcoholism (these things become their “escape” from the real world of abuse at the hands of their parents), and general failure in life (dropping out of high school, failing to get a college degree, failing to succeed in the work force or hold down a job, etc.)
I know what some of you are probably saying. Something like, “I was spanked growing up and I got a degree and high-paying job and blah blah blah… so explain that smarty pants!”
Yeah? And my mother smoked cigarettes the entire time she was pregnant with me, and I have no ill physical effects from it. In fact, aside from a physical disability (the result of a motorcycle accident), I’m pretty much in perfect physical health. Therefore it is not only okay for women to smoke while they’re pregnant, but it’s a good thing that we should be encouraging! Because, hey, my mother did it to me and I turned out fine!
Oh, except decades of research on the harmful effects of smoking while pregnant are well known and documented. Smoking while pregnant doesn’t guarantee your child will be born with health problems (as is evidenced by me), but it does increase the risks that they will.
Huh… well guess what other research we have pretty much irrefutable conclusions on? Over 60 years (yes, we’ve known about this FOR OVER 60 YEARS!!) of research that shows that hitting children is not beneficial, does not work to modify undesirable behavior, and is almost always harmful to a child’s development — especially mentally.
Remember when I said that children often turn to drugs or sexually promiscuous behavior (or a slew of other detrimental behaviors — worst case being suicide) as a way to escape their shitty life of being beaten and, thus, feeling unloved by their parents?
You’ve probably heard about the study that shows rats, once exposed to opiates, will voluntarily select drugs over water and food and literally starve themselves to death just so they can keep getting high. What you probably haven’t heard about is a similar study that showed whether a rat chooses drugs or water depends largely on their environment. This was discovered in the 70′s in a study called the Rat Park experiment.
Here’s the short version of the Rat Park experiment: One group of rats were forcefully given morphine for 57 consecutive days in order to addict the rats to the drug. Another group of rats were not drugged. After 57 days, the non-drugged rats were put in a standard laboratory cage and provided either regular water or morphine-laced water. The drugged rats were put in a custom-built “rat park” which was 200x larger than a standard laboratory cage and also contained play items.
What happened next might seem counterintuitive considering the propaganda you’ve likely been fed about drugs your entire life. The pre-addicted rats put in the rat park chose the plain water a majority of the time. The non-drugged rats put in the smaller cages chose the drug-laced water a majority of the time. The study has been repeated several times and produces similar results each time.
What does this tell us? It seems to tell us that many rats will turn to drugs as a way to escape a miserable environment, while rats who were already on drugs and placed in a better environment will often kick the habit and discontinue their drug use.
What do the results of a bunch of drug-addicted rats who kicked the habit mean for parents? For me, it’s obvious: there’s still time to save your children from either heading down the path of sex and drugs — or if they’ve already started down that path, to bring them back from it — by improving their environment. How do we improve their environment?
It’s really a lot simpler than you might think. All you need to do is provide a loving environment for your children. That is done by loving them and treating them the way you should treat someone you claim to love! How do you do that?
What little things do you do that shows your spouse you love them? Perhaps hugs, comments of praise, telling them you love them, accepting them for who they are, and so on. You know what makes you feel loved. Show your love by doing the same things that make you feel loved.
And what things show a person that you don’t love them? Things like yelling at them, making demeaning comments, put downs, making them feel inferior, and so forth.
“But Stu, demeaning my child makes them try harder!”
I recently talked to my oldest son and asked him how it made him feel when I yelled at him. His response was sobering. He said, “It makes me feel like I’m not even trying.”
It might be tempting to say, “See! He’s admitting that he’s not trying hard enough and that will motivate him to try harder!” Well, here’s how I see it.
Now it might be a stretch (though very little stretch if any at all) to conclude that what he’s saying is that it makes him feel worthless. But I think we can unquestionably conclude, at the very least, that he’s saying that it makes him feel worth less.
Do you think that causing your child to feel lesser of themselves makes them feel loved? And if simple words can make a child feel that way, how do you think being subjected to physical violence makes them feel?