Adapted from a recent online discussion.
In-laws' children that are being hit deserve your attention
Hitting the kids: My husband's sister, her kids and her husband just spent several days with our family. The kids are 18-month-old twins. These little kiddos are hit often. No warnings, no chance to correct the behavior, just a smack, on the hands, butt, back of the legs, wherever, when the kids did anything "wrong." The kids were hit for "whining." But they are 18 months and cannot speak so crying and making noise are the only ways they have of communicating. Not surprisingly, though the hitting was frequent, there was not much consistency.
We have kids of our own. I have seen a lot of parenting, those who hit, those who do not, and while not a hitter myself I can see the merit. But this just seemed like too much, too young, and I do not see how it is helping the kids. Is this none of my business, since no one is going to end up in the hospital from a smack?
Carolyn: This is horrible. There's no merit in hitting, and there's certainly no merit in violently correcting children too young to regulate themselves enough to avoid the hits.
I can rant all day, but what I can suggest is terribly limited. People have the right to raise their kids as horribly as they want, as long as they don't cross over into physical abuse. (Of course, I would classify this as emotional abuse.)
That doesn't mean, however, that it isn't your business. These are innocent, preverbal creatures who need someone to speak for them. Please go to the Childhelp Web site — www.childhelp.org — to read about abuse. Then, call the hotline and describe what you saw, facts only. The staffers there can tell you whether it's a case for Child Protective Services, so you don't have to wonder whether you underreacted. Even if it doesn't meet the standards for legal intervention, they can help you figure out what to say, when, and to whom.
Hold on theresville: It could be a cultural thing. I'm South Asian and my dad and mom were very strict when I was that young. Yes, I do remember. They would hit me for things like eating with the wrong hand, "whining," etc. In our culture, this is how kids are disciplined. I wouldn't take it to the extreme my parents did, but when I see how spoiled some of today's youth are, I'm glad my parents took the coat hanger to me on occasion. Getting CPS involved when it's your BROTHER'S family is a bit presumptuous. They should talk to the brother first. Maybe he's frustrated from the lack of sleep and is acting out. Still not okay, but, hey, it's possible.
Carolyn: Stoning, beheading, genital mutilation? Cultural things.
I didn't get "CPS involved," I advised getting disinterested, authoritative advice on whether it's worthy of CPS attention or just "a cultural thing."
An important step in dealing with possible abuse is figuring out whether it's abuse before you approach the possible abuser.
Please also consider that you might have grown into a respectful adult without an assist from a coat hanger. Wow. And consider that many children who were on course to be respectful adults were knocked off that course by coat hangers.