People are Not for Hitting and Children are People Too
Human violence takes many forms, but the vast majority of all personal violent interactions make use of painful force inflicted upon another person against his will. The most common means of exercising that force can be described as some form or variation of hitting. It is obvious that "hittings" regularly occur during rapes, riots, wife-battering, child abuse, school violence against teachers and students, and is regularly employed by violent delinquents and adults through the use of fists, knives, murder by guns, and/or other instruments.
If we could teach all people never to hit anyone under any circumstances at any time, violence and its impact on mental health would, of course, cease to be a major problem. But, in order to begin that process, we first need to eliminate all the approved methods by which we presently inflict intentional pain upon our children. If we succeed in this task, we will simultaneously destroy the major root of violence in our society, for adult violence is essentially a reflection of early childhood training and experiences.
Please note that at present we can hit any or all of our children in our homes, schools, churches and in most child care institutions any time we wish to do so, provided we call our hitting "spankings," perform them with "good intentions", and do not break any bones or bruise the flesh to excess in the process. It is my contention that this historically approved and presently sanctioned practice of hitting children throughout our society provides the initial impetus for teaching them how to become hitters themselves. When and if that teaching is reinforced by other factors, many of the novice hitters move on to become users of more extreme forms of violence, up to and including the killing of other persons. Extensive research data is now available to lend support to these observations.
Therefore, to cry out against the horrors of child abuse, to demand protection against rapists, wife-batterers, violent teenagers, and destructive adults is entirely meaningless. You cannot logically expect that these forms of hitting will ever disappear from a society that preaches and teaches the value and rightness of hitting children. And not only preaches and teaches such, but also smiles with approval when that preaching and teaching are converted into actual use.
We must therefore learn to stop the practice of hitting children in our homes, in our schools, and throughout society in general. To continue using this unnecessary, thoughtless, and unkind practice is inconsistent with our proclaimed concerns about human rights, human respect and human dignity. And we don't have to wait until tomorrow; we can start right now.
The means for bringing about a significant reduction in violence is already within our grasp. It can be accomplished by creating and developing a new national ethic which is simply stated as the twofold proposition: People are not for hitting and children are people too. But, in order to bring this ethic into national awareness, we need to mount a massive national campaign that will reach into every level of our society. Once national awareness has been achieved, all those who are able and willing to subscribe to this viewpoint will then need help to develop new learning, to help them relate more effectively with children and adults without ever again resorting to hitting. All of this can come about within a relatively short period of time - a few years at most - if a host of national groups and organizations simultaneously promote the new ethic.
This article originally appeared in Empathic Parenting, Volume 22, Issue 1, Winter 1999. Reprinted with permission of the author. © 1999 John Valusek