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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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Paolo
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Re: Adults hitting children

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

Latest post of the previous page:

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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erasmusinfinity
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Re: Adults hitting children

#42 Post by erasmusinfinity » October 11th, 2008, 1:03 pm

Paolo wrote:
erasmusinfinity wrote:...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.
I suppose that it can become fear in a child if, for example he is left behind in a supermarket and becomes afraid without a parent. But besides that I would never advocate such cruelty, I think that it does more so "just happen" with a biological basis. Children have a sense of pride and wanting to be in control of situations, just as we do. But because they don't yet know how to do certain things they look to their parents, teachers and peers for guidance. Particularly young children who have an excessive tendency to parrot grownups. This is. for example, how they acquire language.
Paolo wrote:Many parents can be dominated by their children,
This is particularly the case with parents who attempt to control their children via physical violence. It dampens the respect and strains the love.

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Paolo
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Re: Adults hitting children

#43 Post by Paolo » October 11th, 2008, 1:23 pm

erasmusinfinity wrote:
Paolo wrote:Many parents can be dominated by their children,
This is particularly the case with parents who attempt to control their children via physical violence. It dampens the respect and strains the love.
This strikes me (if you'll excuse the unintentional pun) as being a potential chicken and egg situation. Perhaps children who dominate their parents will not respond to anything less than physical violence?

Some data on this would be interesting to examine. From an anecdotal perspective I've not noticed that dominating children are struck any more frequently than other children.

If we buy into the theory that children are people too, surely the methods needed to interact with them will be hugely diverse, making it inappropriate to make generalisations about what's right and wrong? Some children won't respond at all well to a smack, others might only respond to a smack. Some children are horrible little shits and others are wonderful cherubic creatures. I've encountered both and it seems that personality of the child plays a big role and it is something that is not simply determined by how they are punished.

Some kids are soppy and insipid - a hard look or word might leave them in tears and emotionally scar them for life, a smack might destroy them. Other children are bold and physical - a hard look or word might be utterly ignored and a smack might be the only way to get the message across, unless you think sending them to bed without any supper is a better way of dealing? Back to the starvation...

Nick
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Re: Adults hitting children

#44 Post by Nick » October 11th, 2008, 6:58 pm

erasmusinfinity wrote:
SkiCarver wrote:1. Deterring very dangerous behaviour. (tractor chicken.)
Isn't hitting a very dangerous behavior?
Not nearly as dangerous as being run over by a tractor.

Felicia
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Re: Adults hitting children

#45 Post by Felicia » October 11th, 2008, 7:49 pm

As some of you know already, I am a child psychotherapist. I have also two children, and have been step-mother to two more.

I was never smacked as a child: my parents had other strategies, both of which I now consider quite damaging. My father had a viciously sarcastic tongue, and my mother would coldly withdraw if I stepped out of line.

I only once smacked my son (and none of the others), on the back of his trousered legs, when he'd run out into the road. I think he was about three, and no doubt part of my loss of control was my fear, and guilt that I had permitted such a thing to happen. He laughed and said it didn't hurt. So I hit him harder and with tears in his eyes he maintained yet again that it didn't hurt. And then I thought, where might this lead us? It seemed that a chasm had opened up which could be pretty appalling for both of us. I stepped back and returned to my usual sanctions (no pudding, early bedtime etc).

From my training and experience as a child psychotherapist I have come to understand that a child who is abused - and smacking or hitting IS I consider on the slippery slope towards abuse - has basically two choices. These are unconscious choices: either s/he identifies with the abuser -"Ah, that's how you do it, that's how you behave when you're grown up" - or they feel that there is something intrinsically bad about themselves, that they have deserved this negative attention. If these feelings are reinforced and repeated they could lead to the child becoming a bully, or to being a suicide/alcoholic or drug addict. Now I don't think that the odd smack in the context of a generally loving and sensitive relationship is likely to seriously damage a child: but because we are frail as parents and carers, and might find ourselves caught up in more than the odd smack (like I nearly was) I think we do need legislatiion and a general understanding that this is dangerous way to behave with children. One of the main aspects of my work is to try replace acting out with thinking. We need to model this as parents and carers. As someone earlier in this thread said, why should we ban physical harm to adults, and allow it to the smaller, weaker, more vulnerable children in our care?

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Paolo
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Re: Adults hitting children

#46 Post by Paolo » October 12th, 2008, 3:07 am

Great insight, my only question is whether a smack on the trousered leg actually causes harm? As far as I am concerned withholding food is more harmful and could be interpreted as considerably more spiteful.

Felicia
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Re: Adults hitting children

#47 Post by Felicia » October 12th, 2008, 8:19 am

Hi Paulo - I think a smack on the trousered leg does not cause physical harm, but what is at issue here, and in many other conflictual situations between people of whatever age, is power. Henry and I were negotiating what makes one person more powerful than another: is it superior size and force - or might there be a possibility of something else, something more complicated about how we view all human relationships. At primitive levels of course, size and force are the deciders. And that's were we all are if pushed to extremes. But thankfully we do have other resources available to us most of the time. The problem is its often harder to think about what might be necessary, rather than lashing out.
(Withholding pudding is not going to endanger anyone's dietry requirements - or even lead to any degree of hunger - it was only an occasionally available option in our family because we didn't often have puddings at all anyway.)

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Paolo
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Re: Adults hitting children

#48 Post by Paolo » October 12th, 2008, 9:35 am

Sorry, I was in a rush when writing my last post - obviously withholding pudding is neither harmful nor spiteful, I was thinking of being sent to bed without any dinner! Looking back at my other posts here there seems to be a pattern of me making intellectual leaps leading back to being without food, I probably have issues!

Obviously power is an issue in such situations and I agree that there are better ways of demonstrating where the power lies than simply invoking force.
At primitive levels of course, size and force are the deciders.
In relation to that, I'm not sure why, but reference to "primitive" makes me uneasy - perhaps because it can be applied as a generalisation without real meaning - that's probably a thread in it's own right. I'm not totally convinced that size and force are the deciders. It may be true for male-male interactions, but I have a feeling (admittedly based on chimpanzee interactions) that it is rather different for male-female, female-female interactions.

So Felicia, do you now disagree with smacking children full-stop, or do you think it can be appropriate under certain conditions?

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Re: Adults hitting children

#49 Post by Felicia » October 14th, 2008, 10:47 pm

I think we should just extend the rights we give to adults to children: its wrong to hit anyone, whatever their age. But I would still hope that a certain degree of common sense would obtain: siblings tussling over the tv remote, some playground ragging, the odd slap when the parent is pushed, probably don't need the full force of the law in place. And I don't like the idea of expecting members of a family to inform on each other. I would hope that they would inform, however, IF the abuse is severe or over a long period of time. I suppose I just want a general expectation that adults should not exert their superior strength over children in a punitive way.

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jaywhat
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Re: Adults hitting children

#50 Post by jaywhat » October 15th, 2008, 4:37 pm

Taking away the child's pudding can be even more powerful if you eat it yourself in front of the child while saying 'this is hurting me more than it is you' - which, of course, it is.

PriestofPoppycock
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Re: Adults hitting children

#51 Post by PriestofPoppycock » October 20th, 2008, 10:25 pm

Though I am no expert, I feel that other methods of changing a child's behavior are to be used, at least when necessary. (I sympathize with the post above about slapping the child on the back to keep him from becoming endangered by injury or death.)

Both of my parents used spanking when I was a child, though "spanking" does not sound like a good term to describe all of it. My father, for instance, spanked me with an open hand until I had bruises covering my buttocks. He had probably been spanking me for a good five or ten minutes at least because he never won that battle. I was a very stubborn child. Also, he was a total arse and abusive to my mother. "Why should I obey him?" was my thought.

Spanking was degrading for me in some ways because adults, at least in my family, often have a tendency to brag about the punishments they mete out. When an adult bragged about "beating my @$$" that was embarrassing and humiliating to me, yet it was something for an adult to laugh about and take pleasure in.

I was also abused in other ways growing up: slaps across my face, being thrown on the floor and kicked with boots, choking and scratching....

Nevertheless, emotional and verbal abuse was the hardest to endure. But I have come to believe that there is no physical abuse that is not accompanied by emotional abuse as well. Physical abuse itself is emotionally damaging.

I am not violent today by any means, but I have a great deal of shyness, timidity, and social anxiety. I am also diagnosed with a mental disorder. Much of this could be related to genes -- there are lots of people in my family with these types of conditions. Yet most of those people have also been subjected to abuse and a hard life.

James

Ted Harvey
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Re: Adults hitting children

#52 Post by Ted Harvey » October 27th, 2008, 10:46 pm

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.
I deliberately long delayed my response on this because I was disturbed by the sustained underlying tenor of the above quote. I think it serves merely to underline the sheer wrongness of the original line of reasoning. This reasoning is all about the ‘adult’ decideding when the offending’ child is bad, or wrong, and ‘deserving’ of pain. It's the reasoning used by all sorts of people seeking to justify inflicting pain or worse on other human beings that they have decided 'deserve' it.

For me the eventual dismissal of this entire reasoning comes when the person asserting it falls back on the ever-recurring misuse of that dreaded term ‘Pavlovian’.

In the end… to repeat… no child ever did deserve a smack.

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Re: Adults hitting children

#53 Post by Alan H » October 27th, 2008, 11:02 pm

I didn't catch it all, but did anyone see the item on the One Show on BBC1 at 19:00? There was a teacher who was advocating the cane as a means of punishment for pupils. Well, he was beaten as a kid and it hadn't done him any harm [---][/---] except he now wants to inflict pain on small children himself (it no doubt hurts him more than the kids, of course).

As an experiment, the presenter, Adrian Chiles, actually got six of the best from him and, boy, did it hurt. That's the teacher's point I suppose.
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PriestofPoppycock
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Re: Adults hitting children

#54 Post by PriestofPoppycock » October 27th, 2008, 11:57 pm

My step grandmother, who I lived with for 2 years when I was 15-16 years old, was disciplined with spanking, intimidation, and screaming when she was growing up, yet she always bragged about her arse of a father and how he did this and that, and how much we would have been punished under his roof.

My grandmother has not turned out normal at all, in my opinion. My brother caught her spying through a hole in the door on my own grandfather. She screamed and intimidated and yelled a lot. She stopped spanking my siblings and me at a young age, yet I've seen her physically abuse a baby, scream in his face for calling her "mommy". She disapproved of my father's abuse, but she told me that children simply must put up with what adults do whether the adult is right or wrong. And before she kicked me out of her house -- god was that a relief! -- I was told that she had the right to "do and say anything" she wanted to me, and I was not to have any voice in the matter -- not even in my private journal.

This woman supposedly grew up in a well-to-do family where everything was so perfect and nice, where spanking, not any abuse, was regularly employed. Boy did her father ever screw with her head. I can't really say I was sad when he passed away.

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Nevergivein
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Re: Adults hitting children

#55 Post by Nevergivein » October 28th, 2008, 8:10 pm

I have 5 children at home, a step daughter that has left home and has 3 of her own, and they refer to me as Grandad. I openly admit that I have smacked, and defend my action of doing so. I do not condone inflicting pain to a child, and it is here that I believe that the issue becomes so emotive.

If you smack a child in anger, or as a result of loss off temper, then chances are you will inflict pain. If you are happy that you have hurt your child, and can justify it on the grounds of discipline or "for their own good" then I believe it is both wrong and dangerous to do so.

If you tap a young child on the hand, and I mean tap, followed by a firm "no" in instances where they are about to touch a hot oven door, or put themselves in danger, this I believe constitutes a smack. I can recall only a couple of times that I have had to do this, its probably more, but I think that this is justifiable. Interestingly, if you ask my kids if we ever smacked them, they would say no, I believe therefore that we as parents got the balance right.

Anyone that has been bullied will tell you that mental bullying is the damaging element. You could argue that using the tactics of "super nannies" to coin a phrase used in the media, constitute mental bullying and Could therefore be damaging to the child. I find that simply telling my kids how disappointed I am when they misbehave usually sinks in (eventually). It may not be an instant fix, but usually results in a belated apology or a change in behaviour. Equally when their mum or I get things wrong, they tell us, and its discussed. Kids are kids, and if we expect them to be perfectly behaved at all times, we will spend all our time controlling and no time enjoying the time we have with them as kids.
Keep them from harm by all means, but you cant keep them alive by stopping them living.

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erasmusinfinity
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Re: Adults hitting children

#56 Post by erasmusinfinity » October 28th, 2008, 9:21 pm

Ted Harvey wrote:This reasoning is all about the ‘adult’ decideding when the offending’ child is bad, or wrong, and ‘deserving’ of pain. It's the reasoning used by all sorts of people seeking to justify inflicting pain or worse on other human beings that they have decided 'deserve' it.
Yes. Can you imagine if we were to apply this sort of mis-logic to the matter of hitting our neighbors when they don't comply with our wishes. Or more along the lines of a child's dependence, how about the dependent handicapped or the infirm elderly who don't do as they are told? Imagine the words of the person who defends hitting them.

"It was harder for me to hit him than it was for him to be hit. But it was for his own good. He just wouldn't listen. It was vital that he listen and I just didn't have time to explain to him why he should. So I did what I had to do."

The underlying message of using physical violence to maintain authority is the same with regards to parenting as it is to any sort of governance. Quite simply, it doesn't matter why I think you should or shouldn't do something. it doesn't even matter if I am right. You will do as I say because I am bigger and stronger and mightier. If you don't accept this than I will use my fists and I will beat you.

The fundamental message is that might makes right.

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Alan C.
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Re: Adults hitting children

#57 Post by Alan C. » October 28th, 2008, 10:25 pm

Absolutely agree with Nevergivein
Anyone that has been bullied will tell you that mental bullying is the damaging element.
I was mentally bullied by a manager in the Royal Mail, I wanted to go for "constructive dismissal" But the bastards talked me out of it, two years after accepting retirement on medical grounds (at their suggestion), a guy in exactly the same situation as me, was awarded £110,000 damages.
Yes I'm bitter, but I can still manage a :smile:
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thundril
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Re: Adults hitting children

#58 Post by thundril » November 11th, 2008, 4:05 pm

There are plenty of thugs on the street (and in the Forces) who seem to think that fear is the same as respect. Wonder where they got that idea?

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Paolo
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Re: Adults hitting children

#59 Post by Paolo » November 11th, 2008, 4:53 pm

Let's face it, violence is an unpleasant and unacceptable thing in modern society. No-one should be hit regardless of their age, so why is this even a discussion?

Oh right, because humans aren't entirely "civilised" and they do resort to violence, particularly when they are under pressure and are emotionally or mentally unbalanced. Let's face it, if you actually want to hit a child you have to be a pretty sick bastard, unless there are exceptional circumstances. Hitting people is wrong. It will always happen because the world is not a controlled environment, so tempers flare, emotions run high and people get hit - unfortunately sometimes the people that get hit are children.

There is little point trying to rationalise hitting kids - it's an irrational act and it is hard to make a valid observation about when irrational behaviour might become appropriate, since it will be determined by the situation. How about: "Don't hit kids, but if you do, make sure it's because you were worried sick about their safety and do it where it won't cause any actual damage, Mkay?".

For those of you who are no-exceptions-anti-hitting, I think we agree in principle, but bear in mind that we all respond to stress in different ways and some people respond by lashing out (and I'm guessing the no-exceptions-anti-hitting people generally withdraw when they are under pressure rather than lashing out). It may not be desirable, but it's hard to change a person's emotional response.

If you're hitting kids without it being an emotional response, you need psychiatric help.

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Emma Woolgatherer
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Re: Adults hitting children

#60 Post by Emma Woolgatherer » November 11th, 2008, 5:26 pm

Paolo wrote:For those of you who are no-exceptions-anti-hitting, I think we agree in principle, but bear in mind that we all respond to stress in different ways and some people respond by lashing out (and I'm guessing the no-exceptions-anti-hitting people generally withdraw when they are under pressure rather than lashing out). It may not be desirable, but it's hard to change a person's emotional response.

If you're hitting kids without it being an emotional response, you need psychiatric help.
I'm a bit confused, Paolo. I thought you said in an earlier post, "If a child does something to deserve a smack it should be smacked."

Emma

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erasmusinfinity
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Re: Adults hitting children

#61 Post by erasmusinfinity » November 11th, 2008, 6:55 pm

Paolo,

If your essential point is that nobody is perfect, then I think that is a good point. I even think it is a valid excuse in some cases. That is not to say that I soften my stance against hitting children. But It isn't easy being parents, and I would not advocate that all persons who have ever been hit by their parents should despise them for it.

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