Parents are not for hitting


Children should never be allowed to hit their parents. Such physical attacks are harmful for both children and parents. It makes children feel anxious and afraid of retaliation. It makes parents feel angry and hateful. The prohibition against hitting is necessary to spare children guilt and anxiety and to enable the parents to remain emotionally hospitable to their children.

From time to time, one witnesses degrading scenes in which a parent, to escape, say, from being kicked in the shin, suggests to the child that he hit her on the hand instead. "You may hit me a little, but you mustn't really hurt me," begged a thirty-year-old mother of a four-year-old child, stretching her arm out in his direction. One is tempted to intervene and say, "Don't do it, lady. It is harmful to the child to let him strike his parent." The mother should have stopped the child's attack immediately: "No hitting. I can never let you do that." Or "If you are angry, tell it to me in words."

The limit against hitting a parent should not be modified under any circumstances. Effective upbringing is based on mutual respect between parent and child without the parent's abdicating the adult role. In telling a child to "hit but not hurt," the mother is asking a small child to make too fine a distinction. The child is irresistibly challenged to test out the prohibition and to find out the difference between hitting playfully and hurting seriously.

—Haim Ginott

Jesse McCarthy