An Open Letter To Parents that Slap Their Kids in Public Places


I don’t hit people I love.  I don’t hit people I don’t love. As the mother of four small kids, I keep my hands to myself unless someone is just begging to be tickled or someone has managed to get a hold of some sharp and dangerous object. You won’t see me lay a hand on my children for any reason, unless I’m yanking them away from a rabid dog, skunk, large spider or a man-eating snake/bear/alligator/the edge of a dock. I’d rather risk dislocating their arm in a situation like this than have to rescue one of my kids from the jowls of an alligator. I’m just saying. But I won’t hit my kids. I just will not do it. No matter how angry they make me – and they do make me very angry, I can assure you – I will not hit them. Why? Because I live with the belief that teaching children to behave through abuse is not a good choice and because if I can hit my kids once, who knows what I might do the next time I’m angry.

I was born in 1983, which means I was raised in a very different time. I was allowed to go outside and play without checking in or without any adult supervision from the time I woke up in the morning until the time I had to come in for dinner in the evening. I walked to school. My parents dropped me and my friends off at the movies alone when we were 12. We were allowed to do things back them I’m too terrified to allow my kids to do now. I won’t even drop my child off for a 2-hour play date at someone’s house if we aren’t close, intimate friends with their parents even though she’s almost 7. I won’t do it. I just will not (and if someone’s parents are willing to do that to their kids at my house, my kids can’t go to their house, ever). It was a different time.

When I misbehaved growing up, my parents didn’t think twice about swatting me on the behind. It was a beating, but it was enough to get me to straighten up and behave. In fact, it didn’t even hurt. I wasn’t abused, but I was terrified of misbehaving and getting what we called a spanking. So basically, I was good. And you know what? That would probably help parents today with their children’s behaviors – not the act of actually hitting our kids, but the fear of it. But still, I’d never hit my kids. They’re pretty good kids, so there really is no need. But even on days they leave pretty good behind and become total monsters, hitting my kids is not something I would do, even though my parents did swat my bottom growing up.

But, parents, there is a difference between a swat on the back of the hand or the bottom and a slap across the face. And when I watched a mother slap her child across the face in the middle of a parking lot a few years ago, I recoiled. I was horrified. I was angry. I was furious. Don’t get me wrong; sometimes kids behave in a way that makes me understand why people do that and why people get so angry. The difference, however, is that I can control my fury and anger, and I can channel it elsewhere.

What I like to do is remove myself from the situation and calm down. I have a temper, so I recognize my limits and I’m very good at removing myself from a situation that could easily get out of control. I know how to calm myself down and feel better. In fact, I keep a pair of headphones in my car just in case my kids upset me in public or in the car so that I can remove myself from the situation without actually leaving the kids in a parking lot. But this is not about me. This is about you.

This is about all of you that hit your kids in public. I like to say that I don’t care how other people parent, but I do care when it comes to the safety and well-being of your kids. Feed them organic food, feed them McDonalds; I don’t care. But don’t hit them. And my problem with you does not stem from the fact that you have your own way of disciplining your kids. My issue with you stems from the fact that if you are willing to slap your child across the face in front of other people, I wonder what you are willing to do to that child when you are in the privacy of your own home and there are not witnesses to your abuse. We are all a lot more comfortable when others are not around. I know that sometimes I yell at my kids in the privacy of my own home, but I wouldn’t yell at them in public. I prefer to get down on their level and speak very quietly – teeth clenched – and make sure that they know how I feel when we are in public. But I’d never yell. And while I don’t yell often at home, I do yell when situations are too much for me at any given point. Am I proud of that? No, I am not. But it’s the truth.

And when you are happy to slap a kid in the face in public, I wonder what you’re doing at home. My heart hurts – actually physically hurts – for your child. It even hurts for you. Why? Because the moment I see you hit a child, I label you as a self-loathsome monster without any ability to control yourself. I label you a bad parent. I label you someone who does not deserve respect, and I assume that one day when your children are grown and have kids of their own, you will not know the pleasures of being a grandparent or even a mother or father close to your children because I assume they will not want to spend much time associating with you.

Parents who hit their children in public, I feel sorry for your kids. I pity them for being raised by you, and I pity you for being the kind of person I assume you must be.

Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images


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