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Adults hitting children

Enter here to explore ethical issues and discuss the meaning and source of morality.
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Ninny
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Re: Adults hitting children

#21 Post by Ninny » July 8th, 2008, 4:35 pm

Latest post of the previous page:

There are two reasons for hitting children - one is to show the child that what it is doing is wrong/dangerous, and surely there are other ways of doing this; and the other is because some parents enjoy it. I know this is an uncomfortable idea, but it is true. I think it is something to do with powerless people exerting some power.

And yes, it did me a whole load of harm - not by making me violent, which I am not, but making me fearful and sad.

plonkee
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Re: Adults hitting children

#22 Post by plonkee » July 8th, 2008, 9:20 pm

Ninny wrote:There are two reasons for hitting children - one is to show the child that what it is doing is wrong/dangerous, and surely there are other ways of doing this; and the other is because some parents enjoy it. I know this is an uncomfortable idea, but it is true. I think it is something to do with powerless people exerting some power.

And yes, it did me a whole load of harm - not by making me violent, which I am not, but making me fearful and sad.
I think if I had children (which I have no intention of doing) either this aspect, or the kind of out of control smacking in anger, would be what would concern me most on a practical level. The fact that I actually think it's wrong - I'm getting more pacifist/non-violent in ethics - is pretty helpful.

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Emma Woolgatherer
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Re: Adults hitting children

#23 Post by Emma Woolgatherer » July 9th, 2008, 1:18 pm

Nick wrote:I am very happy with the BHA campaigns in general, precisely because they are in some way related to religion. (The Make Poverty History is the exception, not because I don't want to see the 3rd World out of poverty, but because I consider it beyond solution by one single grand plan. and too big a problem to be so simply solved. As you say, not entirely successful.) In each of the cases, the BHA position is essentially to get rid of religion and religious justification for or against any particular ethical or moral issue. To take one example: assisted dying. We, as a society should decide whether it is good or bad by reason, not by reference to religious texts. It would be wrong, IMO, for the BHA to get too involved in saying what the law should actually be, since there is a fair amount of variation amongst those who do not hold their position by referring to a religious belief.
OK. I think that's a fair point. I suppose I was hoping that, by being more proactive about a wider range of ethical issues, the BHA could somehow demonstrate how a humanist society might make decisions about such things, but on reflection that is rather too much to expect. I've just read an article called "Punishing Parents", by Frank Furedi, who is a self-declared humanist, and who is very much opposed to the banning of "smacking", even to the compromise reached in Section 58 of the Children Act 2004. While I don't accept most of his conclusions, I think he makes some valid points, and I acknowledge that his approach is compatible with a humanist position. So yes, I shall back down on this and agree that humanist organisations should not involve themselves in campaigns to change the law in a way that effectively criminalises all "smacking".

However, it would be perfectly reasonable to follow the line you suggest, and campaign specifically against the arguments in favour of corporal punishment made by religious individuals and groups. See, for example, "Smacking a 'Biblical right', court told", Guardian, 14 May 2002:
Forty schools, spearheaded by the Christian Fellowship School in Liverpool, want a change in the law to allow them to use corporal punishment ... Corporal punishment was a doctrine advocated in the Bible and was thus part of the ethos of evangelical schools, Mr [Paul] Diamond told the court. "We assert that this is a valid philosophical doctrine and in addition it is founded on a religious doctrine to which elevated status must be given by the court."
And in "Smackers Fight Back", Times, 10 March, 2004:
Phil Williamson believes fervently that a smack is often the best way to impart moral guidance. More than that, it is God’s will, a parental right and part of the answer to the disciplinary problems plaguing British schools. As head of the Christian Fellowship School in Liverpool, he is leading a campaign, backed by other Christian fee-paying schools in Britain, for the return of corporal punishment to the classroom ...

The argument is that this “Biblical practice” usually ensures that children need no more smacking by the age of nine: “This was my experience with my two children and, in the days when we were allowed to smack at school, it was usually only children who had not been to our Christian primary school who needed the paddle.”

Instead of accepting this Godly wisdom, he says, society has been hijacked by children’s rights groups: “The nanny state has enforced its politically correct views on parents.”
As it turned out, that campaign failed anyway ("Law lords reject return of corporal punishment"). But similar arguments are used by evangelic Christians when it comes to the "smacking" of children by parents. See, for example, "Should parents smack their children?" (NB: pdf file), from the Association of Christian Teachers, which makes some of the same points that Furedi does about the research into the effectiveness of smacking, but also helpfully mentions in passing that King Solomon advocated corporal punishment as a means of disciplining children, and that "every child (like every adult) is both created in the image of God and therefore capable of doing good and fallen and capable of doing evil". The article specifically mentions a meta-analysis of the research into the effects of "smacking" by Robert E. Larzelere and Brett R. Kuhn, which concluded that "smacking is no less effective, and may sometimes be better, than other disciplinary tactics in modifying children’s long-term behaviour. The authors also concluded that, contrary to the social psychology theory of aggression, smacking does not promote any more, and sometimes promotes less, antisocial violence than other disciplinary techniques". I shall have to dig this out. In the meantime, I have found Robert E. Larzelere's name in a different context. He is the author of "The Task Ahead: Six Levels of Integration of Christianity and Psychology", a chapter in a book entitled Psychology and Christianity Integration: Seminal Works that Shaped the Movement. Hmm. Interesting ...

Anyway, it seems that there might be scope here for the involvement of humanist organisations, along exactly the same lines as the assisted dying or ritual slaughter examples. But it would only be in response to the objections of religious organisations to proposed changes in the law, where they used the "Biblical right" type of argument. How's that for a compromise, eh, Nick? :D

Emma

Nick
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Re: Adults hitting children

#24 Post by Nick » July 9th, 2008, 3:01 pm

I am delighted to accept that as a compromise, Emma :thumbsup: Even if it is uncertain what the answer should be, I am damn'd sure the justification should not be "because God says so". :nod:

In passing, I wonder if christian teachers would advocate that a randy schoolboy caught trying to sneak a peak into the girls' changing room should have his eyes put out...?

Chineapple punk
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Re: Adults hitting children

#25 Post by Chineapple punk » July 9th, 2008, 3:17 pm

I very much agree with Ninny. Sad to say but there are certain adults who seem to get a kick out of hitting/smacking children. I am absolutely against smacking kids but I can appreciate that in certain situations, i.e, when a child is in danger, that a slap or pull may be an instinctual reaction from a parent.

I was brought up by my mother as my father died when I was 6. I don't recall either of them ever hitting me BUT I do remember the looks that my mum would give me whenever I had crossed the line. That was enough to scare the beejeezuz out of me, and i got the message loud and clear.

In contrast, my partner's father used to literally beat him black and blue with whatever weapon he had to hand. He always said that he was biding his time until he was big enough to hit his father back, and that these thoughts of violence would consume him. His mother never hit him and always tried to defend him whenever possible. Fortunately his parents divorced when he was 12. The net result was that he never wished to see his father again and hates him until this day (in fact, he tells people that his father is dead). On the other hand, he has nothing but respect and love for his mother.

Obviously this is an extreme case of physical abuse, but I am always amused at arguments presented by certain sections of society that the decline in corporal punishment has led to some sort of moral breakdown in the family unit, because kids don't receive adequate punishment for misbehaving??

As far as I can see, there are very few incidences when hitting someone smaller and weaker than you can be justified. There are many non-violent, and probably much more effective ways to discipline a child, than immediately jumping to the smacking option.
Give quiche a chance.

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snaggletooth
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Re: Adults hitting children

#26 Post by snaggletooth » July 9th, 2008, 10:19 pm

From a personal point of view I used to get the odd clip round the ear, but only if I deserved it! It did me no harm but I couldn't accept anything more than that towards kids nowdays. It's not neccessary with my step-daughter thankfully, she was very well bought up by her mother before I even met her!

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Alan C.
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Re: Adults hitting children

#27 Post by Alan C. » July 9th, 2008, 11:25 pm

I was belted by my dad (literally) with a leather belt.
On one occasion I had a box of matches in my arse pocket, which didn't exactly burst into flames being confined in the box, but it did give me a nasty burn on my bum, they weren't regular beatings or anything and looking back I suppose some sort of punishment was in order at the time, but the belt was probably a bit OTT.
Did it make me a bully? Absolutely not.
Did it make me violent/aggressive? I am probably the least aggressive person I know, I've never had a "real" fight in my entire life, I have been kicked around one or two pubs for expressing an opinion, and I once had a full pint of beer smashed on my head and the broken glass screwed into my head, that was for nothing, I hadn't said a word to anybody, (maybe he was beat as a child) :shrug:
On the topic, I can't see anything wrong with (after one or two verbal warnings) a parent giving a child a slap on the back of the leg as a short sharp "don't do that" But only the back of the leg.
Abstinence Makes the Church Grow Fondlers.

Fia
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Re: Adults hitting children

#28 Post by Fia » July 10th, 2008, 9:21 pm

I can't see anything wrong with (after one or two verbal warnings) a parent giving a child a slap on the back of the leg as a short sharp "don't do that" But only the back of the leg.
I disagree, Alan. By the time you've given verbal warnings there must be a better sanction you can use than to resort to physicality. As Chineapple Punk said:
BUT I do remember the looks that my mum would give me whenever I had crossed the line. That was enough to scare the beejeezuz out of me, and i got the message loud and clear.
Today a controlled slap on the back of the leg, tomorrow no warnings and a wilder slap? Slippery slope methinks...

On the point of where Humanism fits in with this I think the only way we can usefully add to the debate is to rigorously refute "Biblical practice". The vestiges of this are within the common parlance to accept violence against all those without power.

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Alan C.
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Re: Adults hitting children

#29 Post by Alan C. » July 10th, 2008, 9:51 pm

Fia
Today a controlled slap on the back of the leg, tomorrow no warnings and a wilder slap? Slippery slope methinks...
Maybe I wouldn't have made a very good parent, We'll never know now :smile:
Abstinence Makes the Church Grow Fondlers.

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erasmusinfinity
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Re: Adults hitting children

#30 Post by erasmusinfinity » October 9th, 2008, 4:35 am

Hitting, slapping, beating, etc. other adults is wrong. No?

Is not hitting children wrong for all of the same reasons, plus the additional reasons that children are dis-empowered and entirely dependent upon adults to care for them, assist them. teach them and guide them?.

There is no worthwhile lesson that can be taught to a child via physical brutality that can not be taught better using words.

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Paolo
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Re: Adults hitting children

#31 Post by Paolo » October 9th, 2008, 8:26 am

Punishment should fit the crime in my opinion.

If a child does something to deserve a smack it should be smacked. However, deserving physical violence is a very rare thing and in my opinion it should only be dished out if a child does something pretty unthinkable, like this:http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-p ... 649876.stm.

Childhood is all about learning and part of that is experiencing things. I've seen a children do violent things to their peers, siblings, parents, grandparents and animals, whilst being supervised, where they have received no discipline at all (not even verbal). Sometimes a child needs to know what it feels like on the receiving end of something unpleasant, so they understand what the outcome of their own actions feels like.

I get the impression that a lot of parents don't know how to discipline their kids verbally/behaviourally, so they simply don't bother. Instead they get wound up and eventually they will smack the child when they reach the end of their tether. Unfortunately, that is usually over something irritating but small.

However, punishment is suppose to act a deterrent and I don't think that physical force is actually as effective a deterrent as the witholding of affection (but this only works where the child is generally treated with affection in the first place).

But what do I know, I don't have kids!

Ted Harvey
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Re: Adults hitting children

#32 Post by Ted Harvey » October 9th, 2008, 11:53 am

Paulo you said
If a child does something to deserve a smack it should be smacked.
I would stand my ground to deny that and say no child ever did deserve a smack. In the hyperlink you offer the point should be that this child needs help, not hitting. I appreciate that you went on to qualify things by saying that deserving a smack is very rare. But I still do not agree - a child never does deserve a smack. I think that that term maybe refers back to the point touched on already; that hitting children is often about the power of adults (i.e. in this example power is given to the adult to decide who deserves to be hit).

You also said:
Sometimes a child needs to know what it feels like on the receiving end of something unpleasant, so they understand what the outcome of their own actions feels like.
Again I have to wholly disagree with you. There are many ways, other than hitting, of bringing home to a learning child what the outcomes of their actions are. Violence can be just an easy way out for a lazy or inadequate adult (perhaps due to their being treated as a child in this way?). And what if we continue this line of reasoning - if a child badly beats up another child, must we badly beat up the offending child 'so they understand what the outcome of their own actions feels like'?

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Paolo
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Re: Adults hitting children

#33 Post by Paolo » October 9th, 2008, 1:52 pm

Ted Harvey wrote:I would stand my ground to deny that and say no child ever did deserve a smack.
Different people respond differently to different learning styles. One size does not fit all. I think that physical punishment is inappropriate to most people in most situations, however, for some people under some (extreme) circumstances I think it can be appropriate. As with any punishment, it should be directly related to the reason it is being carried out. Some of the things children do are horribly cruel and dangerous, and sometimes it is simply because they don't realise the implications of their actions. Some children can be reasoned with and they will feel remorse at their actions, others cannot. Where the child does not respond to more constructive and rational learning they may respond better to Pavlovian conditioning, where inflicting pain on someone or something else is "rewarded" with pain being inflicted upon them. This could only work if used in extreme situations - it should never be used habitually, since that would demonstrate that it doesn't work. Unfortunately not all people (children included) are rational, thoughtful, insightful or considerate. Brutalising them would almost certainly make them worse, but a rare smack on the back of the legs with an open hand when the child does something very bad can send a clear message that authority figures will punich certain socially unacceptable actions.

You are perfectly entitled to disagree and I understand why you would, but I consider it reasonable.

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erasmusinfinity
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Re: Adults hitting children

#34 Post by erasmusinfinity » October 9th, 2008, 4:01 pm

Paolo wrote:You are perfectly entitled to disagree and I understand why you would, but I consider it reasonable.
But if a child disagrees he gets a smack! :hilarity:

Fia
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Re: Adults hitting children

#35 Post by Fia » October 9th, 2008, 11:26 pm

Paolo wrote: I think that physical punishment is inappropriate to most people in most situations, however, for some people under some (extreme) circumstances I think it can be appropriate.
I understand your thinking, but I start with the premise that physical punishment is inappropriate. Full stop.
I fully agree with Ted:
no child ever did deserve a smack
Paulo said:
...a rare smack on the back of the legs with an open hand when the child does something very bad can send a clear message that authority figures will punich certain socially unacceptable actions.
There are always better ways to approach socially unacceptable situations than to resort to physical violence in any form. If the child does not respond to constructive and rational learning then it is down to us as adults to find another way to communicate the mores of society. Do you remember how it felt as a child with all these big guys who held such huge power? Violence sends all the wrong messages. Sometimes, as someone said earlier in this thread, it just takes "the look". Smacking is the lazy way, to my mind we have a duty be involved and creative enough to deal with unacceptable behaviour in an acceptable way.
And in doing so we are making the world a slightly better place to be.

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Paolo
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Re: Adults hitting children

#36 Post by Paolo » October 10th, 2008, 8:35 am

Fia wrote: There are always better ways to approach socially unacceptable situations than to resort to physical violence in any form. If the child does not respond to constructive and rational learning then it is down to us as adults to find another way to communicate the mores of society.
It's not down to me, since I don't have (or want) children.
Fia wrote:Do you remember how it felt as a child with all these big guys who held such huge power?
I never felt that.
Fia wrote:Violence sends all the wrong messages.
Like "Some transgressions are so bad that a person who does not believe in using force is brought to the point of doing so" - my great Aunt was an absolutely wonderful woman, incredibly caring and engaging. Myself and my younger cousins would spend Sunday afternoons with her and she never raised her hand to any of us, words were always enough. Except one day one of my cousins was pushing the limits of her patience, laughing at her when she told them off. They kept doing destructive and dangerous things and eventually she doled out a slap across their legs. She was tiny and frail and the force of the slap would have been negligible, but the action demonstrated that a boundary had been crossed and my cousin was instantly contrite and apologetic. Kids get carried away and sometimes they lose sight of the boundaries. Physical force should be on the border of taboo, so it can can called on only when the message needs to be reinforced. It's not the pain that should send the message, but the fact that an extreme punishment has been required.
Fia wrote:Sometimes, as someone said earlier in this thread, it just takes "the look". Smacking is the lazy way, to my mind we have a duty be involved and creative enough to deal with unacceptable behaviour in an acceptable way.
And in doing so we are making the world a slightly better place to be.
Sometimes it does just take "the look", but as children get older they push boundaries to see how much they can get away with. I'm all for creativity, but use of force as a last resort should be preserved. Of course, we don't live in an ideal world and sometimes adults simply can't cope with their children, so a smack is dished out when not necessary - it may not be right, but I wouldn't consider it entirely wrong since parents are only humans and humans err.

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SkiCarver
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Re: Adults hitting children

#37 Post by SkiCarver » October 10th, 2008, 9:39 am

As with all things, context is essential.

three reasons for hitting kids.

1. Deterring very dangerous behaviour. (tractor chicken.)

2. Asserting the parents dominant position.

3. 'normal' chastisement for bad behaviour.

1. ok
2. Unacceptable and makes the parent a loser. (my former step dad)
3. room for discussion. where on the continuum of 'bad' behaviour comes the point where smacking is acceptable?


We are wild animals, with the thin veneer of civilisation. this veneer is imposed on us when we are young. This civilisation is basically the acceptance that we are not 'better' than everyone else. Our natural desire is to be the 'alpha' and dominate, to ensure the best possibility to pass on our genes. This desire is a fundamental part of everyone. The lesson that we are not 'better' than everyone else and entitled to do whatever we want, is a hard lesson to learn and there will be people who are not going to learn it without the point being made in the strongets terms. Unfortunately, these 'strongest terms' are smetimes 'civilised' prison sentences following crimes committed by the individual.

Not every parent has the intelllectual or emotional ability to control their kids behaviour without resporting to 'violence'. Should we therefore allow these kids to do whatever they want, 'running feral' through our towns?

[joke]
Perhaps we could issue 'tasers' to all parents as a 'humane' alternative to smacking!
[/joke]
Atheist by choice, dyslexic by the grace of dog.

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erasmusinfinity
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Re: Adults hitting children

#38 Post by erasmusinfinity » October 11th, 2008, 12:22 am

SkiCarver wrote:1. Deterring very dangerous behaviour. (tractor chicken.)
Isn't hitting a very dangerous behavior?
SkiCarver wrote:2. Asserting the parents dominant position.
Why not be authoritative rather than authoritarian? Must parenting really be about ruling a pecking order? Besides, parents have an intrinsic dominance to the degree that their child is dependent upon them for survival.
SkiCarver wrote:3. 'normal' chastisement for bad behaviour.
Chastisement? Poor child! I sure hope that is not normal.

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Paolo
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Re: Adults hitting children

#39 Post by Paolo » October 11th, 2008, 1:48 am

erasmusinfinity wrote:
SkiCarver wrote:1. Deterring very dangerous behaviour. (tractor chicken.)
Isn't hitting a very dangerous behavior?
No, not if you hit them in the right place.
erasmusinfinity wrote:
SkiCarver wrote:2. Asserting the parents dominant position.
Why not be authoritative rather than authoritarian? Must parenting really be about ruling a pecking order? Besides, parents have an intrinsic dominance to the degree that their child is dependent upon them for survival.
So starving your child is better than hitting them?
erasmusinfinity wrote:
SkiCarver wrote:3. 'normal' chastisement for bad behaviour.
Chastisement? Poor child! I sure hope that is not normal.
Surely the key point is "how bad is the behaviour?"

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erasmusinfinity
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Re: Adults hitting children

#40 Post by erasmusinfinity » October 11th, 2008, 4:45 am

Paolo wrote:So starving your child is better than hitting them?
Who said anything about starving a child? I am confused.

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Paolo
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Re: Adults hitting children

#41 Post by Paolo » October 11th, 2008, 7:27 am

Sorry, I didn't get that across at all well (damned beer!).
erasmusinfinity wrote:
SkiCarver wrote:2. Asserting the parents dominant position.
...parents have an intrinsic dominance to the degree that their child is dependent upon them for survival.
Are you suggesting that the child's position is influenced by fear of having the resources for survival (like food) taken away from them? Otherwise I don't see how dominance can 'intrinsic' - it doesn't just happen. Many parents can be dominated by their children, which seems to imply that intrinsic dominance doesn't simply arise, but requires an active mechanism to be established and maintained. Is it right for the parent to wield survival based threats (real or perceived) to establish their dominance?

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