Child Discipline and Child Abuse Overview

Last Updated: 19 Oct 2020
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Child abuse is the physical injury of a child inflicted by a parent which ranges from superficial bruises, broken bones, burns, serious internal injuries and in some cases, death (Prevent Child Abuse America). Child abuse is a topic that causes rage in many discussions throughout the country because it is outrageous actions against innocent children. Many parents question whether discipline can become child abuse. Bell Hooks is an educated woman, feminist, and writer who has dedicated her life to teaching people about civil rights that every human being deserves.She wrote an essay in which she addresses her personal view on the way children should not be hit under any circumstances, because it neglects love; according to her, love and abuse cannot coexist. However, it is unfair to claim that a slap on the hand is considered abuse, and that if parents commit this type of action, they do not love their child. There is a huge difference between physical punishment and child abuse. A child needs to learn right from wrong, and when the child’s actions turn out of control, it is acceptable to pk or hit them in the hand.

As long as the hitting stays to a minimum degree, physical punishment is not child abuse. “No one can rightfully claim to be loving when behaving abusively” (Hooks, 29). This is a quote from Hooks’ essay in which she declared that if a parent is hitting their child, then they are showing no love towards the child. I disagree with Hooks because she uses the word abuse in such a negative form throughout her whole essay. What exactly does “behaving abusively” mean? If a person sees the words, “behaving abusively” the person might be thinking a child was hit in the face and now the child has a black eye, which is abuse.

However, Hooks’ takes the definition of “behaving abusively” as any type of hitting even if it’s the least amount of pain like a slap on the hand, which is not abuse. Hooks gives the idea that both of these actions are the same, yet they are not. When parents’ are hitting their children and giving them bruises, it is child abuse; when parents’ teach their children a lesson by slapping them on the hand, it is simply discipline. Physical discipline is permitted to a certain level; physical punishment can be a reasonable slap on the hand or a pk.

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Physical discipline has worked for many parents and it is their choice whether they want to use this type of discipline. Primarily, if parents want to teach their children to behave and not be out of control, they can use the effective ways of physical punishment. Nevertheless, there is a fine line between physical punishment and abuse; parents must know when that fine line ends because hitting could turn into abuse. “When her son misbehaved she clamped down on his flesh, pinching him until he got the message” (Hooks, 28-29).

In this quote Bell hooks tries to manipulate the reader’s emotions. The words “clamped down on his flesh”, really gives a vulgar image, and she is successful in creating good imagery to give her point of view. At this point I was almost manipulated into believing that any small type of hitting, or in this case, pinching, would be considered child abuse. My emotions were conflicting with my logical interpretation because she uses language that is visual. On the counterpoint, she did not provide a story behind her quote. The reader did not know why the mother was pinching her son.

His behavior might have been way out of control that it left the mother with no other choice. I interpret Bell Hooks’ essay as being biased for the obvious reason that she has no children. She claims in her essay that she is “a second parenting figure”, (Hooks, 32) but there is no doubt that only a parent can really determine when their child might need physical discipline. Hooks might feel like a second parent figure, but she is able to walk away from any situation the child is in, whereas the mother or father has to deal with the problem and cannot walk away and ignore it.

One important counterargument that Hooks left out of her essay was evidence from an adult who experienced physical punishment, and did not have any negative effect onto his or her adult life. She only provides sources from adults who experienced child abuse; one example includes famous writer Bob Shelby, who was abused as a child. Hooks’ sources contain only people who dealt with child abuse, not physical discipline, like a slap on the hand. The simple act of hitting or pking a child does not determine the love parents feel for their child.

Growing up I was physically punished by my mother. The physical punishment involved pking or a slap in the hand or arm; but it was never to the point where I was in so much pain or the hitting left me a bruise. Since I was the age of three, if I misbehaved I would receive some sort of physical punishment. I truly believe the physical punishment helped me because it made me think about my bad actions, and once I was hit, I no longer misbehaved. It taught me to be a better person.

I have absolutely no doubt that my parents’ love me and I know they did it for my own good. The fact that I was physically punished as a child does not mean my parents stopped loving me for a second; I never questioned the love I felt from my parents. I do not think the physical punishment I received could be at all considered abuse. I have also had the experience to witness children whom their parents have not enforced physical punishment, and they are out of control. Children who did not receive physical punishment were most likely to misbehave and throw tantrums.

These children felt like they could do whatever they please and felt like they were in control of the parent. It is very important that parents do not let their children push them around because the parents need to be in control. Hooks’ main argument is that children are denied their civil rights when parents are hitting them; she claims that parents do not love their children if they are abusing them, in her case abusing them is if a parent slaps them in the hand. She claims that if parents are hitting their children, they are negating love, concluding that love and abuse cannot coexist.

I agree that love and child abuse cannot coexist because if parents are constantly hitting their children to the point where it becomes routine and for no reason, then they are negating love towards their children. However, if parents choose to pk their children only when they misbehave, it is a form of discipline and it does not mean that the parents do not love their children. It just means that they love their children enough to want what is best for them by teaching them a lesson. Children are able to learn from their mistakes and they will no longer act the wrong way. The word “discipline” has different meaning to different parents.

In some parts of the world, and in different cultures, it is common for parents to hit their children in various ways. Some parents leave bruises and scars, but if parents take it this far, then they are committing abuse. On the other hand, to some parents discipline could be a simple time out without the need of physical punishment. Time out works for some parents but for others it might not. Parenting is crucial because raising children is very hard; I believe parents are not taking their children’s civil rights when they choose to use a minimal amount of physical punishment when the child needs it.

There is a fine line between physical punishment and abuse; however, there is a huge difference. Hitting or pking is not child abuse; it is a method of discipline that children need to learn when they are growing up. It is unfair to declare that when parents choose to raise their children by using physical punishment, they are negating love. Most parents who hit their children when they misbehave, love their children and are only hitting them to discipline them. Parents do not want their children growing up in the wrong path and making the wrong choices.

If the parent lets their child do whatever he or she wants, then the child will feel in control of the parent. When the parent does not enforce punishment, the child will not listen, and this could lead them in the wrong direction. According to Bell hooks, love and abuse cannot coexist. However, it is unjustified to say that a slap on the hand is considered abuse, and that if parents are hitting their children, they are negating love. Ultimately, when parents choose to use physical punishment in order to enforce discipline, they are not denying love; they are simply teaching the difference between right and wrong.

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Child Discipline and Child Abuse Overview. (2017, Apr 02). Retrieved from

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