My daughter is 2 years old, so maybe parents of teenagers might read this statement and roll their eyes. But I’m saying it anyway: I will never hit my daughter.
I grew up in a time where it was normal to hit your kids; in many families, it still is. But smacking has been shown time and time again to be largely ineffective, and often psychologically harmful. It’s a message of power and control. I don’t want my daughter being told that if she says the wrong thing, if she gets angry, or if she’s being unreasonable, that somebody has the right to be violent to her. Because I don’t believe I have the right to attack my child, and because one day, the person hitting her might not be me, it might be a man she loves and trusts to protect and cherish her.
If you’re primed to believe that it’s okay for someone you love to hit you, you might not think you deserve better when your boyfriend smacks you. When you’re thrown down a flight of stairs. Love isn’t supposed to hurt like that, and I want my daughter to know that this is her body and it deserves respect.
I’m not saying I won’t forcibly remove her from a dangerous situation. But in my eyes, assault is assault, and I don’t understand why as a society we still allow it against the members of our society that are the most vulnerable.
My daughter will be unreasonable sometimes; all children are (and adults for that matter). I’ll feel exhausted and upset and angry and the wide spectrum of emotions that mothers feel. But that doesn’t make it okay to release that upon her. I know I’ll lose my temper sometimes; I’m a human being like any other. But so is she, and if it’s not okay for anyone to hit me, I don’t see why my daughter deserves less.
Yes, parents have been hitting for a long time; it was even legal for teachers to hit children at school when I was small! But it’s also not that long ago that intimate partner violence was considered a private manner, and hitting your wife was thought of as nobody’s business (and let’s face it, despite laws to protect women now, it’s still a horrifically common crime that’s often difficult to prove and prosecute). We need to build a society that doesn’t solve its problems with fists, and where people – even little people! – are treated with respect. That starts with the lessons that we teach our sons and daughters now.
Our job as parents is to protect our children, and we can do that without ever needing to lay a hand on them. In fact, I’d venture to say that we can do it far better that way, and that they will grow up into secure, happy, empathetic adults who will treat their own loved ones with the same kindness.
It’s time to change our societal attitudes. Old habits die hard, but it’s not the first difficult yet important change that I’ve seen made even in my own lifetime. Let’s make corporal punishment of children into a thing of the past, and learn better ways to teach our children to grow into responsible members of society.
Too many children grow up internalizing the message that violence leads to results. We teach them not to hit each other, but we don’t practice what we preach. I don’t believe that we can truly solve the problem of intimate partner violence without addressing other forms of violence in the home.
I pray that violence will never be in my daughter’s future, at anyone’s hands. I know there are various opinions about this, and you may feel strongly that it’s sometimes necessary; if you do feel that way, next time you’re about to resort to hitting, please think about whether there’s another way to resolve the argument that doesn’t lead to pain and fear.
When our children are being unreasonable, that’s often when they need us the most; it’s the hardest time to step outside of yourself and not practice discipline in the way that our parents’ generation often did. But nobody ever said parenting would be easy, and we all want to do the best by our children. So let’s use our hands to protect, not hurt, them.
Here’s to a better future for our children and the adults they will become.