It’s horribly, offensively, unequivocally, and morally wrong. No excuse for it, ever. If you find yourself hitting your kid, for any reason, turn yourself in at the nearest police station at the very moment you come to your senses, and throw yourself before the mercy of the court. If you have an extenuating circumstance (“This is the first tme I ever hit my kid, Your Honor, and I’m deeply ashamed and will promise never to do it again”) you’ll probably get off with a slap, and it’s a slap far less severe than you meted out in your court of justice.
Why so extreme? Because it’s just bullying, disguised as parenting. Think: if babies popped out adult-size and grew gradually smaller, you’d never in a million years start any physical shit with a toddler who towered over you. If that were the case (can’t imagine how, of course, but just go with it for a second) the only commandment that would matter to society would be the one about honoring your parents, and it would be accompanied by the death penalty. Hitting would be so wrong, under any conceivable circumstances, if there were any semblence of equity in a physical struggle between parent and child.
We hit kids because we can get away with it, plain and simple. Now I’m not claiming for a minute that kids don’t piss us off, and we often have to chastise them fo their own good and their own growth, but the forms of chastisement I consider acceptable are often very inconvenient. It’s much easier to smack your kid hard for misbehavior, than to stop what you’re doing, and arrange for a non-physical punishment–if you’re out on a family picnic, a smack is far more convenient than figuring out how to give a timeout in a public park. Probably you’ll have to punish yourself and some innocent family members by packing everyone into the car just to deprive little Johnny of his freedom for fifteen minutes, or bore everyone to tears while you admonish him verbally for his transgressions. But my point is that when you’re feeling anger and frustration, it’s hard to empathize with the transgressor, but when you’re at work, let’s say, and your boss pisses you off in the same visceral way that little Johnny does–your blood boils, you find yourself making that “Grrrr” sound deep in your throat, etc.–you restrain your impulses precisely because there are obvious consequences to hitting your boss across the face in front of everyone, and you’re well conditioned to suppress your rage.
No difference with little Johnny, just different consequences. If you hit your kid, you’re a sick fuck, to my mind, and you need help, immediately and badly.