Don’t Hit Your Kids

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Look, this is not complicated. We are Homo sapiens. “Thinking Man.” Think for a moment about how you teach your kids right from wrong. I think you need never hit your children. You and your kids will share lives for the next 50 years. They will be adult for 30 of these years. You want a good relationship with them; one based on love and camaraderie and fun? Then don’t freaking hit them when they’re little.

Let me tell you a quick story.

I was a high school teacher. One evening, at parent-teacher conferences, I fell into a hallway conversation with a Dad I knew fairly well. We somehow got on the topic of spanking. He thought spanking was a necessary form of discipline. I told him he was wrong. (It’s important to the story that you know he was slight, in the flabby skinny way that men in lousy shape often are. I’m a gym rat who spent a lot of time in a dojo getting my ass kicked by really good martial artists. I know pain.)

I said, “Well, you know, I’m pretty certain that I’m tougher than you. And I’m really certain I can beat the crap out of you. Just on the basis of fear, you know, of pain and injury, I can probably make you do whatever I want. But I don’t think that smacking you around is going to do much for our relationship going forward. So, why hit your kids, since you’re stuck with them forever, and anyways, you love them?”

I’ve heard plenty of people try to rationalize spanking behavior, as if there was some reason that it’s okay to hit small people. Here are a few of the most popular justifications.

The Bible. A Proverb says “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish them with the rod, they will not die.” Fact is, the kids sometimes die. Check out the followers of that bat-crap crazy Michael Pearl. His followers have been implicated in the deaths of at least 3 children by following his tenets about corporal punishment. While I am reasonably certain that you will not pluck out your eyeball after checking out the rack on a blonde in yoga pants at Target, I am not at all certain that your “Oh, but I won’t get carried away,” will not be forgotten in the midst of a child’s meltdown in the aisle at the grocery store.

How’s your 8 year old son doing? I heard he was having some problems at school-getting into fights at recess, picking on the kids in the younger grades. You work with him about solving differences without resorting to his fists? You do realize that he watched you spank his 4 year old sister the other day when she wouldn’t put her toys away. “Do as I say, not as I do” is a really lousy parenting technique.

I’m a parent, too. I understand we have a tough job; every kid is different and we’re all sailing through uncharted waters. I get frustrated. But when you hit your child in anger and frustration, you teach your child to act without thinking. If you take a moment, and hit them after you’ve calmed down, you’ve taught that ‘might makes right.’ This, of course, isn’t really true.

Who has more power-Brock Lesner, or Bill Gates?

If you truly feel you have hit to your kid, because you’ve run out of options, let me make two suggestions.

1) Your expectations for that child, of that age, in a given set of circumstances, are unrealistic, or …

2) Take a moment to understand why you are unable to search the Internet for reasonable parenting advice with the same zeal with which you research your fantasy football picks.

Then there is the popular: “I got hit and I turned out fine.” You’ve confused contemporaneity with causation. Just because two things occur at the same time does not mean that one is responsible for the other. The Bears didn’t win because you wore your lucky socks, or sat in your special spot. Neither does your “turned out fine” have anything to do with getting your butt smacked with a broomstick when you tried to swipe a cookie before dinner.

Here’s the real deal — you didn’t “turn out fine.” You turned out thinking it was okay to hit someone smaller and weaker than you just because you can. That is called bullying. Or child abuse. Or being a lousy human.

Are you a guy who says, “I like things the way they used to be?” Back when our women couldn’t vote, had sex with us when we felt like it, suffered spouse abuse in shame and silence, made us sandwiches, and generally were treated as second-class citizens — that sort of guy? You’re familiar with Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery? In a small town, there is an annual lottery, in which the ‘winner’ is stoned to death by the other members of the town, including one’s own family.

Why do they have ‘the lottery?’ Because it’s the way things have always been done.

It is time to become a Homo sapiens; a thinking man, a wise man. Learn to raise your children with love and kindness, not with fear and intimidation, and reap the benefits for the rest of your life.

DStan58 is a teacher, a writer, a dad, a voice-over actor and poet. He's a melanoma survivor and a pulmonary embolism survivor. He's bringing sonnets back,

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