There are numerous ways children can experience physical abuse- shaking, jerking, slapping, pinching, pulling hair, and harsh spankings or beatings. Most often parents revert to these tactics because of extreme frustration, stress, and/or lack of appropriate parenting skills.
What to do instead:
- Shaking- All infants cry, some much more than others. Parents who feel frustrated and helpless to stop the crying may shake the baby. This can result in brain damage or death. When violent shaking occurs the brain “bounces” around within the head causing it to bleed. It is also possible to break the infant’s neck. In a single moment of anger a parent can unintentionally kill their own child.
- Jerking, pinching, hair pulling- When there is tension and emotional turmoil in the home children may not understand everything going on. However, they do feel the stress and react in the only way they know how- with unruly behavior and tantrums. Although these behaviors are extremely frustrating it is never acceptable to jerk a child’s arm. It could pull the arm out of the socket causing tremendous pain. Pulling of hair or pinching is not only hurtful, but humiliating as well.
- Spankings and beatings- Harsh spankings or beatings are extremely dangerous to a child’s health especially if a paddle or belt is used. This could result in damage to the kidneys, spleen, liver and other major organs. Furthermore, spankings only stop unwanted behavior temporarily. Hurting a child does not teach him to solve a problem. It just makes him feel bad about himself, angry and resentful towards his parents, and increases his own aggressiveness.
What to do instead:
- Educate yourself about the development of your child and take classes about appropriate parenting strategies.
- Seek out a professional who deals with anger management, stress, and abuse issues. Oftentimes, parents who experienced abuse as a child instinctually react to their children in the same manner as their parents treated them. Sometimes parents do not even realize their behaviors are harmful.
- Learn to recognize your limits and get in touch with your body’s signals such as fist clenching, teeth grinding, and elevated heart rate. When you feel yourself getting extremely frustrated take a ‘time out’. Make sure your child is in a safe place, go to another room, breathe deeply as you count to yourself and return when you feel you have regained control.
- Ask for help. Call a friend or family member to talk or ask them stay with your child while you get away for an hour or so.
- Look for the good in your child. Use praise whenever you notice your child behaving as you wish. This let’s him know how to act and your expectations.
- Call Alabama’s Parenting Assistance Line (I-866-962-3030). A Parent Resource Specialist will be available to talk, offer support, and help you find useful resources.