Don't hit your Children – no matter where you are from or where you are at - 27 May 13

27 May 2013  Augsburg, Germany

Category: Ashram

Flower in the Ashram

While the past week’s stories of guests at the Ashram were funny memories, there have been some guests who have put us in difficult situations, too. One of them was an Italian woman, a mother, who had come with her two-year-old son. Unfortunately we quickly learned that she used to hit the boy whenever he did something wrong.

It is quite normal in India for parents to use physical violence to discipline their children. I know about it and while the families with whom we are friends try to avoid any such action in front of me or my family, they cannot always hide that they do hit their children. A slap on the behind, a slap in the face or on the fingers – many people just think it is necessary for their children to learn. While I have written about violence in people’s homes before, I had never seen it in the west and we were all shocked when we witnessed that it happens there, too, at least in this Italian family.

The boy was whining, obviously bored and not knowing what to do while his mother was talking with another guest. The mother gave him his water bottle to occupy him but that was not what he wanted. He was standing next to her chair and threw the bottle to the floor where it burst open, flooding the room with its content. Quicker than anybody could tell her that it didn’t matter on the stone floor, that we would quickly wipe it, she had already raised her hand and hit the boy on his buttocks.

You may be able to imagine our feelings at that moment. We all looked at each other, reading the surprise and shock in each other’s eyes, the question whether we should say something, tell her she should not do that. She had not hit hard, he did not take any physical harm from it. He had probably felt the impact and the effect was psychological but it was against everything that we believe and teach.

The most difficult part was that a few of our boys were sitting around, too, looking at us in shock. Three or four children, in between five and twelve years, whom we had with efforts taught that we can solve any conflict without fighting, hitting, beating or any other form of violence.

Is it your right to spank, smack, hit or slap your child if you are in my home where this is normally a big taboo? Just because you do that in your home? I am pretty sure it is not! I don’t know about the legal situation in your home but here in India, corporal punishment is illegal and corporal punishment is defined by UNICEF as ‘any punishment in which physical force is used and intended to cause some degree of pain or discomfort, however light.’

The situation moved on too fast for any of us to say something, as the boy naturally started crying loudly and she excused herself, swept up her boy and left. She probably saw the look in our faces, though, because she did not hit the boy in front of our eyes again. We had decided that we would have to talk to her should we see this again but as she did not stay very long and obviously took care not to, we did not have to.

A very strange feeling, a bad situation and the only thing that remains is the wish that no child in the world has to face anything like this. Parents have to learn raising their children without violence – any kind of violence!

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Tags:: Ashram, Children, Parenting, Violence

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Posted By Swami Balendu

Swami Balendu

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I'm always surprised that anyone would have the audacity to still punish their children in this way, especially in front of other people. For me, I see smacking and hitting your child a form of discipline that was used back in times when people had not yet learnt a better method, and it was therefore still socially acceptable. Nowadays however, consciousness has developed, and it is certainly not acceptable where I come from (UK). To my knowledge, the standard attitude of young parents these days is to not use any phyical force,no matter how exhausting children can be. It is only in my perspective (and I'm speaking about the UK again of course, but this may be used as a generalisation), that parents who resort to physical violence to discipline their children are showing a lack of their own education on how to express their feelings verbally. I believe it also identifies a loss of control of their own emotions, that the parents should feel that provoking fear and anxiety in their offspring, and in some cases causing actual physical pain, is a pefectly warranted behaviour of parenting. I feel that years ago this was normal, and so no one had any reason to have any alternative veiws. However, I believe parents all over the world have a duty to reflect the change in times, and learn that violence of whatever degree is not going to help anyone, neither the child, parent or society in the long run, and to make the effort of learning better practice in parenting paramount. Only then will the future world might not view violence in general as an acceptable form of resolution.

Reply By Nicola on May 28, 2013 05:12


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