“Hands Aren’t for Hitting”
One of the most popular phrases I hear parents use when they want to stop their child from hitting is, “hands aren’t for hitting.”
I want to challenge that though. I preach about authentic parenting and that phrase is the antithesis of authenticity.
I’m not talking about the low hanging fruit of parents who spank either. Obviously, if you spank your kids and then offer, “hands aren’t for hitting” when your child hits another, your position is bogus.
Rather, I’m talking about the core of the statement itself. Hands are biologically constructed for hitting. It’s the base level weapon of the species Homo sapien.
An unarmed human has no better weapon than a closed fist, which conveniently is armed with large knuckles and a very strong bone structure that fully supports direct impact at a punching angle.
It’s easy to think this is just semantics at first, but is it?
Are you ever planning on teaching your child self defense? Are you ever going to teach your child about the potential for abduction and escaping an abduction attempt? Are you ever going to sign them up for martial arts classes? Would you hope that your child would one day stand up for others in a violent situation?
So now, “hands aren’t for hitting….except…”
There’s another problem: “hands aren’t for hitting” is a phrase commonly used on very young children. We’re talking ages 1 to 4. The use of the phrase assumes that children this young are capable of thinking before they act.
Using this phrase on very young children places an expectation on them that they’re not yet capable of meeting.
And the reality is that hands ARE for hitting. Authenticity is not about denying reality, it’s about giving kids tools to deal with the world that actually exists around them.
So, now what?
As an authentic parent, the goal is to teach children why hitting in most situations is not acceptable. For older children, you can help them understand the ethics. For younger children, it’s just about setting limits.
When a very young (1-4) child hits, I prefer the direct, “I won’t let you hit” (followed by physically stopping their hands or feet).
When a young (5-6) child hits, I prefer validation with a strong focus on the feelings and needs of others.
When a (7-8) child hits, it’s starting to become a symptom that certain key limits and skills have not been put into place.
Once the age of 9 is reached, you can effectively bring in the ethical side of the argument to shore up their non-violent tendencies (though this is possible with some younger children as well depending on their EQ).
As a side note, I’ve heard children as young as 18 months be described as “violent” for hitting or throwing things. That’s ludicrous. Children are not violent. They can mimic violence. They can behave inappropriately because they lack skills or because their core needs are not being met. But they’re not violent. Violence—in relevant social context—requires a developed brain.
Stay authentic, friends 🙂