During the time my daughter was missing I sheltered myself from the careless, cruel and highly presumptive comments made on Facebook. I chose to skip past it and have since forgotten most of them.

There is one particular type of comment that was made after my daughter had been returned to me, which I cannot stop thinking about. It varied in wording, but conveyed the message – they deserve a beating.

Comments like those were often followed up with –

  • My dad used to beat me when I was a child.
  • I deserved it.
  • I turned out okay.
  • It did no harm.

I would urge anyone tempted to make a comment such as these to stop and think. Ask yourself how such a comment could be taken or acted upon – and what lessons are we teaching our children.

I did not beat my daughter. The thought of beating her never entered my mind. The idea of beating anyone is abhorrent to me. I personally never felt like I was ‘winning’ at parenting after giving my child a slap on the wrist or a smack on the bum.

But my concern goes deeper than that and it involves the subjectivity of the concept of beating someone. What is a beating? A slap? A punch? Several slaps and punches? Kicking? Hitting someone with a wooden spoon – a belt – a stick – an electric cord – a baseball bat – a metal pole? When does it go from ‘discipline’ to ‘abuse’? When does it become unacceptable?

I would suggest that the answer would vary depending on the life experiences of the individual and the culture in which they were raised. So when you post “they deserve a beating” your idea of what that means, I am willing to wager, will be widely misinterpreted.

How would you have felt if you read that my daughter had been assaulted by us, her parents? We could point to your comment and say – “hey, you encouraged us” – “we only took your advice”. And you would say – “that’s not what I meant”.

It’s just common sense, right? I wish it was.

I read news reports that depict heartbreaking stories of child abuse at the hands of parents who simply could not see that their actions were child abuse. They had themselves been subjected to or witnessed abuses far worse than the punishments they doled out, or they hold certain beliefs that encourage violence towards children.

There is a lot of projection that happens in public discourse – even though people acknowledge their own uniqueness they will also make pronouncements as if their experiences are comparable with everyone else’s.  It quite simply is not. Please remember that when you dispense advice to the public, especially when it involves what could be seen as an endorsement of violence.

What are we teaching our children? Violence isn’t always bad? There are circumstances under which violence is okay? I would say that violence is never okay. When a person is forced to act violently in order to protect themselves or someone else, is it a cause for celebration? I would say no. Many, if not most, would disagree.

I can think of two news items that depicted retaliations against bullies. One involved a child who snapped, picked up the bully and dumped him on his head. The other involved a bystander intervening and king hitting the bully. In both these cases the comments section was filled with praise. “He got was he deserved” being the over-riding consensus.

Did he? Maybe. But I cannot look at those videos without feeling sick. And sad.

One punch can kill. I do not want any of my children to be responsible for maiming or killing someone – even a nasty bully. The risks are too great and the consequences too devastating. Don’t get me wrong, I know the feeling of red-hot anger and the desire to hit someone. My question is – is it worth it?

If you see someone being assaulted, what is the best course of action? Hurting the bully? Or intervening and helping the person being bullied. I would say that achieving the latter without having to resort to the former is the best way to go.

We have laws in place (here in Australia) that do not include corporal punishment. You cannot receive a death sentence, no matter what you do. But in our homes, on our streets and in our school yards some of us  are exposed to violence – and society endorses it to some extent and excuses it under certain circumstances.

The point I’m trying to make is this. Even if you were beaten by your parents and you are okay. Even if you feel that you weren’t harmed. What kind of future do we want to build? A better one where we use non-violent means to resolve our problems? Or one that perpetuates the bad (and confusing) ideas of the past?

What do you think?