Millennial Musing
November 28, 2017
Is ‘licks’ child abuse?

It is rare to find a child or an adult that has never been spanked or beaten. We all have our colourful stories about the times we were bad children and deserving of punishment. I feel the need to clarify the difference between ‘spanking’ and ‘beating’. Spanking is anything done with the bare palm, while beating is done with an object, such as a belt or strap. The justification for spanking children is always the same: ‘spare the rod, spoil the child’. Some parents genuinely believe that the best way to punish a child is to hit them, because that is how we were all raised.

Has anyone ever considered why we beat our children? Did our African ancestors beat their children with belts or whips? Or course not; our slave masters did. That is when we learnt to hit children to bring them to ‘heel’, because the same was done to the slaves. The idea of beating children into submission was indoctrinated into us. Some parents believe in their heart of hearts that if they beat their children enough, they will obey and learn.

What is even more impressive is that the children believe that being beaten helped them to become better adults. The consensus is that “if I wasn’t beaten, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.” Well, you are right, you might not have been who you are today; you might have been better.

Yes, I said it. You might have been better off without being hit. I have no qualms about spanking, but beating children and teenagers disturbs me. You didn’t turn out well because you were beaten; you turned out well even though you were beaten.

Why do children misbehave? The simple answer is that they are immature. Children lack proper social skills and understanding, and need training to conform to our social norms. However, do we really think beating them into submission is the logical step to achieving that?

For example, it is completely asinine to beat a child for underperforming in school. Your child can’t learn arithmetic, so you beat him/her? Does beating them make the information easier to understand? Does beating them make them like math more? When you beat a child for disliking or underperforming in a situation, you breed hostility towards that thing. Your child needs special attention or a different teacher, not physical abuse.

Modern parents beat their children less and less because they understand child psychology. A child misbehaving does not mean he/she is inherently ‘bad’ and needs correcting. We need to move out of this slave mentality, believing that beating is the best option for discipline.

Some children have dyslexia and have a hard time understanding conventional teaching methods. Girls with dyslexia tend to be very quiet and shy. You might wonder why your daughter is performing poorly in school, yet refuses to ask for help; she could be dyslexic. Boys with dyslexia can be fidgety and misbehave. Yet, instead of trying to understand why your child is behaving oddly, you beat him/her.

Sometimes, children can absorb the stress within a household and act out in confusion. There are so many reasons why children behave badly, and we need to start using alternatives to beating.  We should always aspire to be better than our parents and grandparents. That is not to demonize them, because they tried their best with what they knew. However, if you know better, do better.