Hitting Kids - Is It Ever OK?
You might think I’m about to talk about kids hitting other kids since all children seem to go through that faze. I’m not. This, unfortunately, is about parents hitting kids.
I was on the plane the other day coming back from a very stressful trip to my hometown and was seated next to a family with a 21 month old son. They seemed tired, the parents. It didn’t help that we were crammed in the plane (Continental sucks, btw!) and as soon as we pulled back from the gate, the Captain (or First Officer, but who cares) said that we were grounded for at least an hour and would have to wait to take off.
Crammed in, we had to wait. We were, literally, a foot from the gate. I’m certain they knew of whatever problem we encountered before we boarded, but to classify as an “on-time” departure, the plane has to leave the gate not actually take off. So, we left the gate. Then stopped. (Contintental suuuucks!)
Not a good situation for even the most patient kid-less person.
The mother and father seated next to me, though, made my stomach turn. Now, I’m a very forgiving person and know just how challenging flying with a toddler can be, but what these parents did next was awful.
Amid all the groaning from adults on the plane the 21 month old began to cry and fidget. OK, really fidget and it was more like scream. The Dad, who was holding the kid, tried to soothe his son and, in a burst of frustration and anger (probably embarrassment, too) whacked the kid on the legs three times. Whack, whack, whack. My eyeballs popped out of my head, but I just sat and stared.
Then, the Mom took over and tried singing and distracting the child, then she, too, out of the blue, smacks his arms. Without warning. Well, maybe the tone in her voice was warning enough after the love went out and the anger came in.
This went on and on. I swear. Kid cries, Mom hits kid for crying. What happens? Kid cries louder! No shit, Sherlock. I mean, c’mon.
It bothers me enough that these parents felt comfortable hitting their kid in public. And, that inevitably leads me to think, well, if they feel OK doing that in public, what do they do in private?
What haunts me, now, is my own reaction - I didn’t say anything. I was screaming inside for them to stop and a litany of choice words was streaming through my mind. But what does one do? If I said something, would that have made a difference? It would have eased my own conscience, to be sure, but what is my duty to that kid?
Is spanking in public a reportable offense? Is spanking an offense, period? Yes, it is offensive, but at what point to authorities need to be called in? Does it matter if you know the offender well or not at all?
I wish I had answers.
I’m wondering, is corporal punishment ever OK? I mean, I know (a little too well) how far a parent can be pushed and how much a parent may feel compelled to hit her kid. I also know that violence and anger can be passed from generation to generation.
But it is a toddler’s job to push the boundaries so that they know just where those boundaries are. Plus, kids are emotional tidal waves - they ebb and flow with precious little regulation. How can a toddler regulate his emotions - he is just finding out that he has emotions. But we, as parents, are the so-called adults. It’s our duty to manage our emotions so that we don’t harm out own children, right?
I just don’t know how to handle these situations. I know they happen and I know there are some hideously bad parents out there. But what if the parent isn’t hideous, but just acts hideous sometimes? What does one do then?
Should I have stood up to them and said get your damn hands off of your kid who is just voicing the frustration every one of us feels? Now, days later, I think maybe I should have. Unfortunately, I feel like such action would have been fruitless.
photo credit: D Sharon Pruitt