Children: To Hit or Not to Hit? (spoiler: NOT!)

The text in this image can be found at the bottom of the post.

Children Learn What They Live poem by Dorothy Law Nolte from http://www.docstoc.com/docs/158159649/Children-Learn-What-They-Live

Another facebook friend is advocating hitting children. In the wake of another local bullying incident, my news feed is once again spattered with variations on the meme of “If there was more of THIS {image of a child being spanked}, there’d be less of THIS {image of young criminals*}.”

The comments threads include laments about how parents are too easy on their kids, about how kids just need some old-fashioned discipline (or even boot camps) to keep them on the straight and narrow, and how “juvie” is way too soft on kids, full of video games and permissiveness.

The only thing they’re right about is that “juvie” is not going to make kids behave any better. But that’s not because it’s too soft. It’s because locking up children, controlling their every move, regulating when they can eat, sleep, shit, and talk to their peers, pepper-spraying them, holding them in isolation cells, keeping them in cuffs and shackles for long periods of time, shaming them, violating their boundaries and privacy, and otherwise using physical and institutional coercion to keep them in line is no way to teach kids how to behave prosocially when they are released back into the community.

All it teaches them is the same lesson that spanking teaches them: under certain circumstances, it is absolutely okay to use force against others. Especially if they are smaller than you. Weaker than you. Under your thumb. Unable to escape.

And frankly, except for maybe the pepper spray and the cuffs and shackles, juvie is a lot like childhood in general: Kids are controlled, coerced, spanked, yanked, shamed, and molded, teased and ignored. Forced to hug the uncles and kiss the aunties. Touched against their will. Not believed or not respected when they express their own experiences. So much of this is done with good intent and honestly because parents think they are doing the right thing. People think their children should be obedient. They think their kids owe them respect. They think children should be seen and not heard. They think they own their children, and that nobody has the right to interfere with how they raise, treat, or discipline them.

I call bullshit. We should all interfere. Families should not be private. Children should be heard. We should all be offering support to the parents and children in our lives. How can we make sure that what’s going on behind closed doors is nothing that hurts? Nobody has a right to raise their kids how they want without interference. Kids are not objects or property. They are the same people we were when we were little. And we rationalize it by saying “My parents spanked me and I turned out okay.” Fuck that. That’s like saying “I was a motor vehicle accident and I turned out okay.” So you survived the trauma—welcome to the club. You are NOT okay if you’re now hitting your own kids. You didn’t “turn out okay” if you have fully swallowed the beliefs that might makes right, and that it’s okay to hurt your own kids. You’re not okay if it doesn’t break your cold heart to know you’re scaring your children and teaching them that you are frightening and not safe for them.

And you are teaching your child that it’s okay to bully, to hurt someone weaker, to shame others or tease them or touch them against their will, or even hit them. You’re teaching your kid that these things are okay! Stuff that you’d maybe call the cops about if it happened to you!

Love, kindness, consideration, and respect for a child’s agency and personhood will not make your child into a criminal. But spanking and coercing your kid is teaching a lesson better left unlearned.

*Most often a group of white teens trying to look tough. Especially hilarious when their schoolbooks are spilling out of their backpacks.

——

Here’s the text of the Dorothy Law Nolte poem from the image above, for those who can’t access images:

Children Learn What They Live
By Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D.

If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.

Copyright © 1972 by Dorothy Law Nolte

Text taken from http://www.empowermentresources.com/info2/childrenlearn-long_version.html

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19 thoughts on “Children: To Hit or Not to Hit? (spoiler: NOT!)

  1. GettingrealwithPTSD

    This blog really got me thinking. I’ve always been against children being hit but never thought about families not being private and how people should interfere. I’d like to reblog this — if that is all right with you?

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. nissetje Post author

      Please go ahead and reblog (thank you for asking!). I’m glad it got you thinking. This is one of my big red buttons! People really blur the line between abuse and discipline, and I feel strongly that it should not be at an individual family’s discretion to determine that line.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  2. kraftycatcreations

    Love what you wrote – it is so true. I was brought up in a house with spanking as a punishment, plus my father had a very deep, loud voice. I both loved him and was terrified of him at the same time. My mother was very strict and did not allow us kids to make our own choices. I was lucky enough to have a wonderful grandmother who showed me unconditional love. It made me realize that there are different ways to bring up children and I strived to be more like her with my own kids.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  3. Pingback: Finished this book: Runaway: Diary of a Street Kid by Evelyn Lau | Barking Back

  4. honestme363

    I was fortunate, when I was young, to be able to escape for the summer months and enjoy life a little bit, without having to walk on eggshells all of the time. I like your concept ‘families should not be private’. If people were brave enough to voice their concerns, creepy inkling towards certain family members etc., perhaps less abuse would occur.? One can be hopeful.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. nissetje Post author

      Ah the walking on eggshells thing is so bad. Glad you also had an escape. I really believe that the idea that families are a private domain is really damaging to kids. Also to partners who are being abused. It’s so weird that we still allow this secretive bastion of unchecked power and authority.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      1. honestme363

        It’s true. Have you ever heard of parenting classes? Do they exist? Or is too touchy of an area that our society hasn’t broached it yet. I would like to believe that our society is changing, but I live in a small bubble here, have weeded out undesirable friendships so I am not exposed to too much chaos.

        Liked by 1 person

        Reply
        1. nissetje Post author

          Parenting classes are offered in this city, and I think sometimes they are mandated for parents whose kids have already been involved with the child welfare system. But there’s certainly no general idea that these classes are a good idea for any parent. I think they’re seen more as a resource for parents who are already “failing” or who are desperate. The idea of mandating them seems to raise a lot of anger and outrage. People perceive it as government interference into a private area, rather than a great resource.

          Liked by 1 person

          Reply
          1. honestme363

            True. And many of us cannot openly admit our faults and failures to ourselves, never mind walking into a building and saying ‘I need help. I am repeating the mistakes of my past. Please don’t take my kids away in the meantime.’

            Liked by 1 person

            Reply
            1. nissetje Post author

              RIGHT??? We are all the products of our own childhoods. It’s not like we wake up one day fully self-actualised and capable of brilliant parenting. There should be no shame in asking for help. In fact, it probably shouldn’t even be framed as “help” but rather a perfectly normal and common-sense way to prepare for and navigate parenthood.

              Liked by 1 person

              Reply
        2. nissetje Post author

          Also, I like your bubble. Too much chaos can be upsetting and even triggering. I weed out the drama because it’s just Too Much. But sometimes I only find out a friendship is undesirable after I’ve invested a fair amount of time / energy. Then I have to start the careful Backing Away Dance.

          Liked by 1 person

          Reply
          1. honestme363

            I know exactly what you mean. And I find it so disappointing when that happens. Recently,I have done that dance with people that have been friends of ours for over a decade. It is one of those cases that I couldn’t keep my gob shut and not say anything about their family dynamic. He has become unbearably controlling over the last few years. It crept up slowly and all of a sudden it was like my eyes were wide open. He didn’t appreciate me saying anything, me, a humble women in his house. I am also powerless to stop it or change it. So I dance away…

            Liked by 1 person

            Reply
            1. nissetje Post author

              It IS hard. And we all change over time. So stuff we might not even have noticed a decade ago is suddenly unbearable. Or not suddenly, it creeps up, as you said. I’m sorry that happened to you. But good for you for sticking to what you believe! ❤

              Liked by 1 person

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