Dear Parents, Think Twice Before Slapping Your Child

"Just a tight slap and you will be right!" Parents in India tend to normalise slapping as the most effective way of changing the bad behaviour of kids. However, do they know how that moment affects children?

Rudrani Gupta
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I have often been slapped by my parents as a child. Sometimes for speaking too much, sometimes for acting too stubborn, sometimes for doing something that enraged them and sometimes for reasons I don't even remember. Compared to other parents, my parents were less strict. However, it didn't change the way those slaps affected me. I still remember some of them as their sounds echo even today each time I have differences with my parents. However, parents do not feel guilty for slapping their kids. They consider it necessary to teach the right values to the kids. But can violence ever change things for the right? Can violence ever be an answer to the imbalance between relationships in a family? 


When I speak to Indian parents about slapping their kids, they become defensive. They don't consider it wrong and rather justify it as the most effective way to change the behaviour of their children. One mother who used to slap her son very often said that if she hadn't taken that measure, her son wouldn't have focussed on his studies. My parents also justify slapping saying that it is okay to slap offspring even if they grow up into adults. 

Reasons why parents slap their children

What makes parents think that slapping is okay? Are there reasons behind it? Parenting expert Dr Ishana B. Sadana reaffirms the parents' ideology. In an interview with SheThePeople, Dr Sadana explained a few reasons behind parents slapping their kids. 

The first reason, Dr Sadana says, is the demand of the situation. "The child has behaved in a way that the child deserves to be slapped. Such parents say words like everyone was looking at me, everyone was complaining about my child so I had to slap." Dr Sadana further adds, "Some parents also say that the child had behaved badly. What other option did I have? So I had to slap. So basically parents think that the child deserves to be slapped because of their behaviour." 

The second reason is parents being unable to control their emotions. "Parents get so angry and so disappointed at their child's behaviour that at that moment they couldn't control it and slapped the child. Mostly later on parents feel guilty and regret it and wish they hadn't done it." 

The third reason is the power game. Dr Sadana says, "Basically, we know that our child is powerless and is dependent on us and so cannot do anything, so we can slap them." She further adds, "I know it is a very hard fact to understand but think about it- Do you slap any other family member in the house who doesn't behave according to you? Or disappoint you? So basically, it is a power game because we are slapping where we know we can get away with it."


What is the right behaviour of a child?

Dr Sadana's insight does answer many questions. Parents sometimes tend to prioritise their social reputation. If the child behaves in a way that makes people question their parenting, parents fume and feel hurt. But then, who decides what behaviour is right in a social construct? Is speaking too much a wrong behaviour? Is opposing forceful actions a wrong behaviour? Or is just being a playful child a wrong behaviour? 

Shouldn't parents keep social expectations aside while dealing with their children? Do parents not know that society tends to criticise everything that doesn't fit into the so-called norms? 

If parents can't handle their emotions, are they even capable of raising a child?

Even if parents feel hurt due to social criticism, they cannot channel their emotions on their children. It is a basic requirement for every human to control their negative emotions rather than venting them out on others. If parents can't be humans, they don't deserve to be parents too.  

Children should know about their powers


Moreover, it is sad that power relations work even in the most righteous relationship of parents and children. Assuming that a child is powerless and cannot do anything is wrong on many levels. Children might be innocent, playful and ignorant of what is right and wrong. But parents can not take advantage of this. Rather, they are responsible for educating their children about their power and rights.

Our legal system has provided everyone, including children, the right to be free, to oppose the wrong and to not bear any kind of mistreatment. Did you know? Section 23 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, prohibits cruelty to children. It can be invoked against parents and teachers to give corporal punishment to children. 

Power dynamics within parents should be eliminated 

Another major question that Dr Sadana raised is "Do you slap other members of the family if they do not behave according to you?" In Indian families, this question will get a positive answer because many parents fight with each other and resort to violence even in front of their children. The children then get traumatised and somewhere normalise the violent reactions of their parents. So as far as power relations are concerned, it exists in every relationship. Parents first need to remove the power relationship within their relationship so that they don't assume its presence when they raise a child. 

Now, let's move on to how slapping affects children. Dr Sadana lists out a few reasons. 

Consequences that children face who are slapped by parents


The first consequence of slapping is that it creates confusion in children. Dr Sadana says, "Since the beginning when they were a baby, they have seen parents as a figure of affection and care. Parents feed them, love them and then they only slap them. This confuses children. It makes them feel sometimes that they deserve it. It makes them lose their confidence. They become more anxious. And sometimes it can also lead them to rebel."

The second consequence is the ruined relationship of children with their parents. Why? "Because it is not respectful!" Dr Sadana says. "Children need to see how respect is given. They need to receive respect to give it. So when we are slapping them, we are teaching them that wherever there is power we need to give respect over there. So we are not building a healthy relationship with the child nor are we giving them the right values."

The third consequence is that slapping does not change children's behaviour. Dr Sadana said, "Slapping is not working. It might seem to be working in that moment but it is not changing our children's behaviour for the better at all. And then, think about it, what if the child decides not to listen to you or follow your instructions despite the slapping." 

Dr Sardana also adds that slapping might make a child a rebel or more stubborn or might just lose confidence. 


So, dear parents, a moment of frustration or seconds of violence can change the entire life of your child, not positively of course. As parents, you need to understand that children are learning from you. They notice your behaviours and copy them while dealing with others. So when a child who is often slapped pushes or hits another child, it is an alarm that they are borrowing the violent behaviour of parents rather than changing the behaviour that parents wanted. Maybe some children might accept slapping as a punishment and move on. But then, is any mindset right that accepts violence as normal? So parents, be mindful of your behaviour with your kids. Don't raise another generation that is either dealing with trauma or has normalised slapping. 

Views expressed are the author's own

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