I have a pretty debased sense of humor, but I worry about the proliferation of such “jokes”.
Aren’t these sentiments giving tacit permission to child abusers?
By laughing at it aren’t they really just saying it’s okay?
Once I was at the park with my kids and a bigger kid was pushing and shoving some of the smaller kids.
The tension built as the parents wondered whose kid this was and should we step in.
Finally the kid’s mom saw what he was doing.
She walked directly to him and smacked him harshly across the back of the head.
Several of the parents, whose kids had been bullied, burst into applause.
Surprised by the clapping she swelled up proudly and said “I’m old school.”
Being the big-mouthed jerk that I am (I was recently fired from my job for telling my pregnant boss that smoking was bad for the fetus) I said loudly so everyone would hear “Yeah well that school is closed. Now we TALK to our kids. Why do you think he is hitting people?”
Everyone just thought I was an asshole, but I was hoping maybe the child might have felt better and learned something from it.
My parents abused me and I thought it was okay to do that until I overheard other people admonishing my parents for it.
It would have never occurred to me that I didn’t deserve it had an adult not told this to me.
People are going to argue that hitting is effective, and yeah, well it is.
It is effective in stopping the behavior that you want stopped.
But it is also effective in destroying a child’s self-esteem, destroying trust between parent and child and it IS MOST EFFECTIVE AT TEACHING A CHILD THAT IT IS OKAY TO BULLY PEOPLE THAT ARE WEAKER THAN THEY ARE.
I am not going to drop statistics here.
Let’s face it, statistics can be manipulated to say whatever we want them to say.
But we all know that most bullies are bullied at home, right?
Bullying is almost always linked to child abuse.
The worst thing I see is the parent who smacks their toddler.
Did you know that the child’s brain has not formed enough to understand WHY you just hit them until they are around four years of age?
They cannot fully grasp behavior/consequence yet.
That part of their brain hasn’t fully formed.
If you hit a toddler they will stop doing the behavior that you wanted to stop, but not because they understood the punishment.
They will stop simply because they are traumatized and crying.
And when they are done with that they may very well return to the behavior and the cycle will start again.
Being a parent isn’t about being perfect.
We all slip up sometimes.
When Dravin was 5, he used to have this habit of throwing his head back really hard on the bed when he would lose at a video game.
He would be sitting on the edge of the bed playing and when his character would die he would just throw his torso backwards and his head would hit really hard on the bed and bounce back up.
I told him repeatedly not to do this.
I explained why.
I explained that he could injure himself or someone else.
I explained that something could be sitting on the bed behind him and it could seriously hurt him.
After that when I saw him do it, I would immediately shut the game off and ground him for the remainder of the day.
Then one day, I set Chloe, just an infant at the time, on the bed for a minute to change her diaper.
A second later Dravin’s head came back and scraped the side of Chloe’s cheek.
She was unharmed, but startled.
She began to cry.
I grabbed Dravin by both his arms and picked him up.
I screamed at him “ARE YOU CRAZY?! HOW MANY TIMES HAVE I TOLD YOU NOT TO DO THAT!? YOU COULD HAVE KILLED HER!!”
He ran out of the room traumatized and I picked up Chloe to sooth her.
I was in tears right there with her.
I was thinking about how scared she was, more from my yelling than from the contact with her cheek.
I was thinking about my little boy and what he must be feeling right then.
On one hand I was glad that he was scared.
Maybe it would stop the behavior, but on the other hand I knew I had went too far.
Once Chloe was soothed I went into his bedroom and I saw my fingerprints still pressed into his arms.
I was mortified.
I told him that I was sorry that I had picked him up and screamed at him.
I told him that I shouldn’t have done it.
I doubted myself.
I wondered if I was capable of stopping the cycle of abuse I had sworn I would not carry over from my own parents.
I felt like the worst human being in the world.
And the confusing thing is…
The behavior stopped.
Never again did Dravin slam his head back like that.
As parents we sometimes get a desired result from an undesirable behavior.
Of course the behavior stopped.
I traumatized my son.
But I wish I had just continued to ground him until he mastered the self-control required.
Or found another creative way to curb the behavior.
Because results are secondary compared to the relationship we have with our children.
If our children feel loved and safe and respect us, we will not have to go to extremes to get the result.
It will happen.
Some of these changes take months, even years, but they happen.
This is why being a parent is the hardest job in the world…and also the most rewarding if we let it be.
As one of my readers reminded me, we are giants to our children.
We do not need to strike them to get our point across.
The most effective method I learned was to lean down, put my hand firmly on my child’s shoulder, look them in the eye and speak slowly and seriously.
Your superior strength is felt, but a feeling of safety and security is transferred.
Your child knows that you are completely serious and there is no confusion about who the boss is.
It takes an incredible amount of love and patience to be a parent and most of us aren’t ready for it when it happens.
But if we make mistakes and forgive ourselves then we are that much closer to forgiving our child’s mistakes.
And when we do that, we are closer to healing ourselves.
By the way your comments are always welcome.
I am still learning 🙂