Why Do Fathers Hit Their Children (And Is It Ok?)

Fathers may hit their children for several reasons. These can include experiences from their own childhood, an inability to communicate, mental health issues, a propensity for violence, violent role models, substance misuse, and inability to manage frustration.

One can scarcely believe that in this day and age there are still Fathers who use corporal punishment as a way of disciplining their children. Daily news however tells us that domestic violence is a common occurrence and in some cases, it is at the order of the day.

Some children are indeed used to being physically punished by their Fathers. For them, something is amiss if they don’t get slapped or hit with a fist for whatever they believed they have done wrong.

 In many cultures, it is acceptable (and indeed compulsory) to discipline the child by means of physical punishment. It should be noted that there is indeed a very fine line between disciplining your child and that disciplining method becoming abuse.

Cartoon infographic for a post on - Why Fathers Hit Their Children - showing an angry father yelling at sad daughter.

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Reasons Why Fathers Hit Their Children

Literature, media, and experience tell us that physical punishment occurs on a daily basis, in some cultures and communities more than in others. If we try to analyze the reasons behind hitting, the following is revealed:

Fathers who themselves grew up with a violent role model believe that it is the proper way to discipline a child

Fathers might come from a childhood home where his parents believed that it was the right thing to do when disciplining their child. Their conviction might even be found on the Biblical principle “Spare the rod and spoil the child”. Verses from the Bible such as: “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die.

Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death” (Prov. 23:13-14), which may be interpreted incorrectly. Rods (in the time of the Bible) were not used for hitting but rather for guiding.

Whatever the source of these convictions was, the child in such a household will grow up believing that his parents’ ways were right, appropriate, suitable, acceptable, and successful. Therefore these children will imitate the role – models that they grew up with.

Fathers who do not have the ability or skills to communicate their anger, frustration or disappointment will resolve to physical violence to vent their negative feelings

Many people go through life never having learned how to effectively communicate and how to express their feelings in an acceptable manner. Feelings of frustration, disappointment, and anger could possibly be expressed in an aggressive verbal or non-verbal manner.

This cycle normally starts with screaming, shouting, and swearing and will then develop into acts of anger such as pushing, kicking, slapping, hitting, and even assault. The receivers of this behavior are normally those closest to the violent person namely the wife or children.

Fathers who experience psychological and emotional issues and are unable to build meaningful, stable and healthy relationships

Psychological issues such as depression, anxiety, and low self–image will reveal themselves in the person’s ability (or inability) to build healthy relationships.

A father that fits this profile will not be able to educate or raise a child in a responsible and meaningful way. Unhealthy relationships are characterised by poor communication, a lack of patience, compassion, and understanding. This type of relationship could easily evolve into a violent and abusive relationship.

Fathers who do not have conflict management skills.

Some people do not like conflict or do not know how to deal with conflict. Conflict and anger management are social life skills that we all are supposed to learn somewhere along the way.

If a Father has never learned to manage conflict, his relationships will definitely reveal this void. Conflict in the family setup is inevitable and if not managed properly will lead to fights, arguments, disagreements, and even violence.

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Factors that May Contribute to a Father Hitting a Child

The main factors that could predict why some Fathers are more physically violent than others include the following:

  • Fathers who themselves grew up with a violent role-model believe that that is the proper way to discipline a child.
  • Fathers who do not have the ability and skills to communicate their anger, frustration or disappointment will resolve to physical violence to vent their negative feelings.
  • Fathers who have psychological and emotional issues and are unable to build meaningful, stable and healthy relationships; and
  • Fathers who do not have conflict management skills.
  • Substance or Alcohol misuse.

Reasons Why Fathers Should Not Hit Their Children

Other Effective Methods Are Available

Many parenting methods are available and accessible. Methods such as effective communication, positive reinforcement, rewards, teaching consequences of decisions, and withholding privileges, could be implemented.

Nothing is as effective as having a meaningful conversation with your child in order for both to share their feelings and frustrations.

Violence Leaves a Lasting Impression

Your child will remember the hitting better than they will remember the acts of kindness. The memory of aggressive behaviour lasts longer because it is emotionally charged.

Hitting Becomes the Model to Be Followed

Hitting will become your child’s model when they have children of his own. You become their role model and the cycle will continue.

Hitting Makes the Child Feel Unvalued

The child perceives themself through the eyes of his father. If the relationship is characterised by hitting and physical violence, the child will receive the message that they are a menace, worthless, irritating, unwanted and unloved.

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Violence Confirms a Loss of Control and Respect

Parents who hit their children have lost all control and they know it. They often spank because they feel desperate. They see hitting as the last resort to regain control and respect. The opposite is true.

Hitting Could Easily Lead to Abuse

Anger fuels more anger. The belief that acts of violence will vent your anger is simply not true. Anger escalates and the emotional charge that comes with it will ignite more anger. Also if a slap with the hand does not work anymore, Dad may decide to escalate to a belt or a wooden spoon next time in order to obtain the desired effect.

Hitting Will Not Induce Good Behaviour

Hitting your child makes them feel worse and his behaviour will become worse. The negative cycle will not be broken by negative actions such as hitting, slapping, belting, or other acts of violence.

Hitting Is Not Biblical

The Bible does not condone violence and aggression of any nature. The opposite is true – we are told to love, cherish, support, and care for children.

Violence Has Negative Long-Term Effects

Research reveals that hitting a child has long-term effects on the child, such as:

  • Children who grew up with corporal punishment and physical violence turned out to be more selfish and socially maladapted; and
  • A child who grew up with anger and aggression is more likely to behave in the same manner towards other family members, friends and colleagues.

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Defining Corporal Punishment

Corporal punishment can be described as deliberately causing physical pain or discomfort to a child or minor, usually by an adult, parent, guardian, or school official. It normally takes on the form of spanking, slapping, giving hiding, belting, or paddling the child.

Hitting a Child and the Law

Despite the fact that medical, educational, and social experts do not support this method of discipline, corporate punishment is still legal in 19 states of the USA. Statutes state that physical punishment is allowed as long as it is reasonable and not excessive.

In general, the American courts have supported parents’ and teachers’ right to spank or use physical punishment in order to discipline children.

When Discipline Becomes Abuse

In most states hitting or spanking your child is legal. Although some forms of physical punishment can be classified as abuse (such as sexual abuse, providing illegal drugs, burning, choking, and head-banging), there are some forms of physical punishment that are difficult to decide whether they are punishment or abuse.

Hitting a child with a fist, slapping a child in his face, pulling his hair or ear, pinching a child, or even using a sharp object to dissuade a child from touching something could be seen by some parents as the stimulus-response method of teaching a child that if they are disobedient the result will be painful.

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Hitting your child does not work. It is bad for the child, the Father, the family, and society as a whole. Nothing positive comes from trying to discipline your child by using violence.

By hitting your child you will only aggravate the situation, fuel more anger, teach your child the wrong values and cause long-term emotional and psychological problems. So – DO SPARE THE ROD!

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