Are a slap in the face or a slap on the butt forgivable slips or inexcusable mistakes? Interview with psychologist Prof. Sabine Pankofer
At some point, many parents come to the point where they would most like to kill their children. But they should control themselves there
Susi H. is stunned on the chair. Her son Jan has just howled out of the living room. Despite being asked several times, he simply did not switch off the television, but instead replied cheekily. And then Susi’s hand slipped. In affect. In doing so, she doesn’t believe in physical punishment in education.
Similar to 83 percent of all parents who refuse a light slap as a physical punishment. This is the result of a representative study commissioned by the professional association of pediatricians in 2016. But not quite half of the respondents (44.7 percent) also think that a pat on the backside is fine.
Paragraph 1631 of the German Civil Code speaks against this attitude. Since November 2000, it has been anchored there that physical and mental violence in education is prohibited by law.
Where does education end, where does violence begin? What to do if parents lose control? We asked Sabine Pankofer, professor of psychology in social work at the Catholic University of Applied Sciences in Munich. She dealt intensively with the topic of physical violence in families.
Ms. Pankofer, what kind of psychological damage does a child slap her face??
Every slap in the face is violence and has an impact on the psyche. It cannot be said whether there will be permanent psychological damage in individual cases. But the fact is: violence is harmful. And a slap in the face is violence.
And what about the child’s physical health?
It depends on the age. In babies, even slight shaking can lead to fatal injuries to the spine. A slap in the face depends on how strong it is and how it hits. It can damage the ear, the rotation could damage the cervical spine. With small ones This can be life-threatening for children.
What are the legal consequences of slap parents??
A slap in the face is punishable. For many people, the tolerance limit is unfortunately high. I often hear: "I also experienced it and it didn’t harm me." That is why slaps in the face are seldom displayed – which would be completely justified.
Is a pat on the bum already violence?
Here, too, the goal is clear: the child should feel something. This is not an educationally helpful measure, but an impulse that should actually be suppressed or coped with. There should also be no discussion about pat.
And holding on – according to the survey, at least 38 percent of parents do?
It is much more difficult to draw the line to violence when holding on. Holding on can have a pedagogical purpose if the parents make it clear to the child: I decide what to do. Or: what you shouldn’t do. So you have to ask: what is the intention? Holding on can be violence when it is unnecessary or not useful, for example in a crib baby.
Forgive a one-time slip?
Of course, a mistake can happen and is forgivable. Children especially forgive a lot. The smaller the child, the more likely it is to relate everything that happens and think: it’s my fault. As a specialist, I can forgive – you have to be friendly with your parents, they are under a lot of pressure. Still, it’s never okay to hit. And: You can change your behavior at any time.
How should parents behave towards their child if their hand slips??
You should approach the child and – even small children – say, that they’re sorry. As soon as something is addressed, it is easier for the child to cope with. But excuses are not a license for violence. It is also important that further self-disclosure is not appropriate. Some parents go into explanations because they want an absolution from the child. They are ashamed and put their act into perspective. Even if the child is exhausting, the responsibility wearing always the adult.
What other behaviors are violence? In the study, 26 percent said they had previously ignored their child, 19 percent said they did "shouted down".
There are also non-physical forms of violence, such as ignoring, shouting or insulting. Of course, sometimes parents have to ignore things the child does – that is inevitable in everyday life. But when ignoring is used as a means of power, it is violence. It also depends on the intensity, duration and frequency. Ignoring in particular is difficult to excuse because it is incomprehensible to the child.
The grandparent generation was still beaten regularly. Nevertheless, she brought up the current generation of parents comparatively non-violently.
Beating used to be the norm. In the 50s and early 60s, it was still considered inappropriate to empathize with a child and to take special care of its needs. This view has changed, the beating has decreased.
What can parents do if they think they are losing control?
There are nationwide, mostly free educational counseling centers where parents can get help without being ashamed. There are also parent courses, family education facilities or hotlines with excellent, also preventive offers.
Parents will be shown when they go there?
If parents seek help on their own initiative, they are not displayed, which would be counterproductive. A report is usually made out of the situation by witnesses, or when serious damage to the child is visible. The law also provides for the supervision and support of parents. Specialists decide what is appropriate in individual cases.
The best thing for parents not to punish their children at all?
Parents need to show and signal boundaries: what you did has ramifications. From a psychological point of view, it is important that the child also experiences frustration. Only in this way can it develop morals and learn what is good and what is wrong. However, I have found that especially committed parents want to avoid frustration. The children are given excessive protection for a long time. Later, however, they are expected to have a high tolerance for frustration and great performance. It doesn’t go together.
What are the consequences of misconduct??
It is important that action and consequence are related. Unfortunately, the classic is still the withdrawal of television, computers, sweets. Flat-rate penalties usually have little effect. It is better: If a child throws everything around, it has to tidy up, otherwise it must not go outside, for example. Parents should criticize their child’s behavior, but still adopt the child.
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