Hitting Children Is Bad

This should go without saying, but it doesn’t

Demon eating child, Mulkirigala

For some reason children are the only people you can hit without it being assault. Your boss can’t hit you, you can’t hit your husband or wife. That’s assault. If you assault the weakest among us, however, that’s called discipline. Why? Also, no.

The case for corporal punishment is that it can stop one particular behavior. And it can.

Gershoff found “strong associations” between corporal punishment and eleven child behaviors and experiences. Ten of the associations were negative such as with increased child aggression and antisocial behavior. The single desirable association was between corporal punishment and increased immediate compliance on the part of the child. (American Psychological Institute)

So, you get a child to stop, say, making a mess. But you make them a mess. Is that the point?

Hitting children may work in the immediate instance, but they don’t produce happier, healthier human beings. And, frankly, who cares about the immediate instance? Kids pull hair and do all kinds of dumb shit. If you go stamping out every immediate instance you’ll have to stamp them into the ground. If, however, you work a little smarter as an adult, you may succeed into molding them into independent human beings with an internal moral compass.

The ‘but it works’ argument is an answer to the wrong question. The obvious metaphor is if someone tells you to empty a bath. You throw out the baby and the bathwater. It works. You did empty the bath. But you’ve obviously missed the point.

The right question is, how to we raise good human beings. For much of human history that’s been framed as a discipline problem and the answer has generally been ‘beat them’. But much of human history has been cruel and shit.

A lot of people, especially in Sri Lanka, have been hit as children, both at home and at school. They argue that it worked for them and that we’re spoiling children these days. I would say that it hasn’t worked, because these people advocate hitting children.

‘It worked for me’ as an argument is full of logical gaps.

  • Something could work for you and really fuck someone else up.
  • Something else could have worked for you just as well.

Also, you being fine now is both A) debateable and B) not an argument for your past. I broke my collarbone as a child and I’m fine now. Should we break everyone’s collarbones?

Aside from the ethics, it’s just too dangerous a tool to be used so widely. When kids are being hit it’s not usually by a calm adult who’s really thought it out as part of a disciplinary program. It’s usually by an adult who’s angry or tired or just can’t be bothered. So you have someone much bigger, with all the power, who is free to get emotional and hit a child and call it discipline. That’s too much power for far too little societal gain.

That’s why we don’t generally allow assault among adults. Perhaps that ‘bugger did deserve a thrashing’ for his driving, but you go down that route and society descends into madness. The average person can’t be trusted to use violence which is why the state monopolizes it and even they can barely be trusted. It’s just broadly not a good thing.

And yet we dump it on children. For their own good. But it’s not good at all.

Parents shouldn’t be hitting kids at home and teachers shouldn’t be hitting kids at school. These two sacred preserves of assault are in fact profane. Everybody has the right to be free from violence especially little children. Being a parent or a teacher doesn’t give you a special right to hit another human being. The world is slowly starting to realize that, and that doesn’t mean we’re raising a generation of spoiled children. It’s a necessary step towards raising unfucked adults.

Written by

A writer living in Colombo, Sri Lanka. He/him. indi@indi.ca. Videos: tiny.cc/indication and podcast: anchor.fm/indication. patreon.com/indication

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