A child hitting a child is Misbehaving,
What do the Congo, South Sudan, Turkmenistan and most European countries have in common? At first you'd struggle to find too many similarities, but they all belong to the 53 countries which have officially outlawed hitting children as part of corporal punishment. Sweden started the initiative of not physically abusing children as a disciplinary measure in 1979, and most European countries followed suit within the next ten years (among them Austria).
For me, corporal punishment was always closely associated with the backhanded way Catholic schools disciplined children. Stories my dad would tell me about his school time at a Catholic boarding school would render me speechless what teachers could do "back in the day" to children.
Even more so was I shocked to find out that in the US, hitting your children - or "spanking" as it is called to soothe the mind of parents who practise this cruelty - is still legal in a variety of states, including Idaho, Alabama, Missouri and Texas. While I thought corporal punishment in schools and at home was a thing of the past, it still seems to be very much a thing in the United States.
Even though it feels ridiculous to even point out why hitting your child isn't a good idea, apparently there are still many parents who haven't got the memo yet. The problems with it should be obvious, yet many parents on social media still proudly state that they spank their children - and that is the first big problem for me: the term spanking.
Language plays a crucial role in how we perceive actions. While "hitting" a child would unanimously be agreed on as a physical assault, "spanking" leaves parents room to make it into a disciplinary measure instead of physical abuse. However, spanking can include a belt or hard item like a cooking spoon, so it's definitely physical abuse as well. Especially as the lines between hitting and the supposedly less cruel "spanking" are not clearly defined, this leaves children vulnerable to legal abuse in the home.
However, apart from the fact that hitting your child should - obviously - be wrong for anyone who has a morsel of common sense, it is also worth looking at the issues that occur beyond the physical abuse. I've seen parents on social media sharing children throwing a tantrum and stating that spanking a child can prevent such tantrums. First of all, that's simply not true. Children act out because they have needs to be heard, so regardless how much you threaten your child, eventually, in some way, it will make itself heard.
Secondly, when a child throws a massive tantrum with fits where they hit their parents, the first response shouldn't be "oh dear, this child needs to be hit", but "oh dear, a lot has already gone wrong for a long time."
As I stated in my post on the impacts of sleep training, babies and children have needs and they will employ any method which gets them heard - because their survival depends on it. Parents who consistently ignore their child's needs - or only act on them irregularly like responding to their cries during the day, but then let them scream themselves into sleep - create an unstable environment in which the child doesn't feel secure. In order to be heard, children find methods that work for them - they don't care whether they get negative or positive attention, for attention is their key for survival.
A child who has regular tantrums on the floor, spits and hits their parents is a child whose needs aren't heard and responded accordingly enough. Hitting such a child under the cover of "spanking" doesn't respond to the child's needs - on the contrary, it silences it in a cruel and emotionally un-responsive way. Parents who spank their children after they act up shouldn't be surprised that these children have difficulties voicing their emotions, which can lead to big communicative problems in their adulthood.
Children mimic their parents. Which makes parenting so easy - but also so hard. When mummy and daddy eat with fork and spoon, I want to use cutlery too. When mummy and daddy dance around to music, I want to dance, too. When mummy hits me when she's angry with me, I will hit when I am angry, too.
It's as simply as that. By "spanking" you instil in your child that physical violence is the only way out of a conflict situation. Instead of learning how to communicate respectfully and finding the language to express their emotions, children are taught that physical violence is a good way to voice your anger or discomfort. Worst of all, parents who "spank" their children, incidentally would also punish their child hitting another child - by hitting their child. It doesn't take a lot of brain cells to see that this is highly ambivalent, and also hypocritical.
Apart from the problematic instilment of physical violence as a method to express anger, "spanking", i.e. hitting your child, also deeply hurts the communicative relationship between parents and their children. For what does "spanking" really do? It is a method to make your child behave through fear of punishment - not because the child has learnt why their behaviour is wrong. Therefore, these children need constant authority threatening them to abstain from bad behaviour, whereas children who learn emotionally and who are communicated through their actions will refrain from abusive behaviour because they want to - even without an authority supervising them.
No healthy, self-sufficient and self-confident adult has emerged from being physically or mentally abused. Those who were abused and came out the other end "fine" either have demons to battle they are not aware of yet (for they've never been taught how to express their emotions in another way than physical), or they have turned out fine despite their parents hitting (spanking) them, not because of it. The notion that being abused can in any way foster a better self-confidence or inherent discipline is clearly wrong, for a plant also doesn't flourish when you whip it all day.
And finally, for those who still claim that "spanking" yields results and the children "turn out fine", le me say this: just because a method is working, doesn't make it right. And the question is whether you want your children to have respect because they're scared of you, or because they've learnt respect and how their actions affect other people emotionally. It is our job to equip our children for this world, and a communicative strong and stable person is valued much higher than someone who lashes out whenever things don't go their way.