Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Don't Expect More of Your Children Than You Do of Yourself

I am not going to go into a whole post about my feelings about corporal punishment, but I do want to share something I witnessed a few days ago.

We were sitting in the community centre hallway waiting to be granted access to a program.  The kids were all antsy to get into the auditorium because they knew there were toys inside.  A woman sitting near me had a child around Aias's age.  The child was acting completely normal, wanting to explore the area but was being a bit whiny about it.  Aias does this all the time; he's 22 months old.  This is how they act sometimes.  His mother was displeased with his behavior so she kept smacking his arm and telling him to "stop" with a very stern voice.  She wasn't beating the heck out of him or anything, I felt no need to intervene, but it certainly was nothing I'd consider doing to Aias (personal preference, values, whathaveyou).  I want to say it was more than a tap, but she wasn't punching the child.  It was absolutely hitting, however.  The hitting upset the child (of course).  The mother had no shame about doing this in a public place with probably dozens of people there to witness it. 

When we were granted access to the auditorium, all the children ran toward the toys.  As is often the case, some toys are more popular than others so multiple children try to use them at the same time. This woman's child and another child were arguing over the same toy, so the woman's child smacked the other child very hard. While the woman may have used restraint when she hit her child, the child did not appear to understand this so he used all his physical power to hit the other child.  The child's mother came over, yelled, smacked her child and said "WE DON'T HIT!!!"

But, what?  It seemed too ridiculous to have happened.  In all honesty it looked like a scene out of a stupid show. I half expected her to acknowledge the irony of hitting the child while saying that you don't hit, and perhaps to show some shame, but she didn't. She did this about 5x during the course of the program. It continued to surprise me each time.  I made a conscious effort to keep Aias away from the child because I didn't want him to get hit.

If you feel it's your parenting technique to smack your kid, that's none of my business. Until, that is, your hitting becomes a habit of your child's and your child decides to hit mine. Maybe your kid is an animal that can only be controlled through fear and violence, who am I to say otherwise if that's what you feel.  Maybe your parents smacked you and you feel like it's made you a better person.  Maybe you truly feel it's the only way to get the message across to your kid.  Maybe you feel it's your right as a parent to use corporal punishment and that society has become "too soft" and that it's this softness that is ruining society.  Maybe you know you aren't "really hurting" your kid when you smack them. 

Think what you want, and as long as you are on the right side of the law, do what you want.  But seriously, don't expect more of your children than you do of yourself.  If you hit your kid, your kid is probably going to hit other kids.  Do you really want your kid to be that kid?

I truly believe Isaac Asimov was correct in saying that violence is the last resort of the incompetent, so it's no wonder there are people who use corporal punishment; after all, who feels more incompetent sometimes than a parent? I know there are times when I feel like ripping my hair out because Aias is doing something so completely aggravating that I don't even know what to do with myself.  Sometimes a tantrum or behavior makes me wish I could beam myself to a place far, far away from my kid.   However, the last thing I want to do is teach him a coping strategy I know will get him into trouble, alienate him, and make people want to stay away from him.  When I feel like I'm going crazy, I walk away. Then I ask for some backup.  I suggest that if you can stand it, you do the same. Then again, you never asked for my advice.

Disclaimer: I realize there are some kids who hit that have never been hit, and some kids that hit and never hit.  That's not what this is about. This is about not being surprised if your kids mimic your behavior: monkey see, monkey do.

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