Do Citizens in Poor Countries Beat Their Kids?

I was talking to our cab driver in Chicago, he’d immigrated here from Haiti or someplace in that region, and I made some flippant remark about “beating kids with sticks.”

He told me that that was one of the reasons he so loved being in the U.S. - the treatment of children. He said it was vastly different. In his country, women (including his mother) hit their children regularly. With sticks. He talked about trying to shield himself with his arms.
I’ve wondered a lot about root causes of poverty, why some places never seem to change – I’m old enough now to have seen two generations of “Feed the Children” and have wondered why that kid hasn’t been fed by now.

Just wondered if my cab driver’s story was commonplace, and if that violence might be one reason why life doesn’t seem to get any better for some people.

Since citizens in the US beat their kids, yes.

If you’re asking for comparative numbers or methods, I imagine someone with time to do some research will be along soon.

This cab driver made it sounds like it was so commonplace that you’d just see it happening on the streets. We were driving to Navy Pier, and nobody was smacking their kids around en route; apparently that’s not the case in other countries.

Based on my observations of their behavior in retail environments immigrant Haitian and Somali children are often not that well behaved in public. If their parents were physically disciplining them with some regularity you’d think there would be some degree of fear and terrified obedience, but there’s none.

If anything the parents don’t appear to discipline their kids at all.

Or, you know, they could have a completely different cultural view on what constitutes “well behaved” children in public.

To answer the OP - it happens everywhere in the world, it is not just limited to poor countries; but I am very hesitant to attribute violence (as it is used in this case) as a cause of continuing poverty. As an aside, do most people nowadays feel that using a stick for punishment purposes is obscene?

I have three sons (9, 6, 2) and a new friend who recently moved here from Pakistan about 6 months ago when she married my husband’s co-worker.

The last time we were out together she said, by the bye, (imagine very sweet beautiful girl with adorable Pakistani accent) “Syed tells me that in America parents are not allowed to beat their children, but how can you raise children without beating them, how is that even possible?”

(Actually, despite NOT beating my children, I often find myself wondering the same thing)

People in the USA used to beat the hell out of their kids fairly commonly - nothing like the fantasy that was “Leave it to Beaver”. It still happens, I’m sure, but now the kids can be taken away from the parents and generally as a society we’ve learned that it’s “not okay”.

Certainly this is going to vary from country to country.

Most people in Cameroon beat their kids and it wasn’t at all a big deal. They couldn’t imagine not beating their kids and the fairly recent trend against beating kids in school was the subject of much lament. Part of this may be that most people had a lot of kids- 8 or so was pretty average. And there were a lot more dangerous things around- open fires, latrine pits, etc.

I think it does contribute a bit to the general obedience to authority that I believe plays a role in why corrupt leaders stay in power. But I don’t think it is a major fact- Americans regularly beat their kids just a generation or two ago.

The problem doesn’t come from parents hitting children in a controlled, deliberate manner, but from parents who hit their children out of rage, or because they don’t know what else to do.

But doesn’t it seem likely that the self-esteem problems caused by harsh spanking would contribute to a country’s malaise, if it was widespread? I thought that was one argument for why we aren’t supposed to discipline that way, because it just doesn’t make for healthy adults – wouldn’t a lot of unhealthy adults lead to an unhealthy nation?

I’m not talking about outright abuse per se, because I know that does cross socio-economic lines. Seems like there are probably limits even in places where spankings and beatings are common.

Or maybe I’m just thinking of a stereotype, poor parents screaming and yelling (and hitting) in an out-of-control manner, while wealthy parents have nannies to help with the kids so they don’t lose it and can stay calm.

Because what keeps me calm with my children isn’t that I’m a better person or anything; it’s just having the time and money to deal with my kids’ misbehavior (and a value system that says I need to do so calmly).

Like yesterday, when my son pitched a fit in a store. If I was a working mother who didn’t have time to deal with it because I had to be somewhere or get fired, I bet I would be more likely to use a discipline shortcut, i.e. a smack, to get him to comply. But because we didn’t have to be anywhere, I could just out-wait his fit, calmly. The pressure’s off me.

I dunno, I just wonder.

Funny coincidence, last night I was talking to a friend about some parenting classes she’s teaching. I believe it’s part of a University research project - my friend is part of a group reaching out to Spanish-speaking families to offer alternatives to spanking. And it’s a whole program, not just “Hey, don’t hit your kid”; it’s a set of practices. So she and I got to talking about it, and apparently parents in Puerto Rico hit their children a lot.

Um, you might want to be a little more careful about implying things like “working mothers are more likely to smack their kids”

Honestly,as a stay-at-home mom I sometimes think it must be easier for working parents to stay calm with their kids because they don’t have to be around them all the time.

Spanking causes low self-esteem? Really?

I’d think more low self-esteem problems come from being told “you can’t do anything right” or “you bad child! why are you so bad?” than from getting a spanking when you’ve done something that you had been warned would bring a spanking.

IOW, I agree with ivan here. Doesn’t mean I’m all for spanking, but I fail to see why someone who yells at the kid “you’re such a little bastard!” is better than someone who calmly gives him a swat to the bum.

I haven’t been debating spanking itself - this has been about harsh spankings and beatings, not swats.

Yes, and I think that the self-esteem problems come from being abused, which starts way before being hit.

Actually I have a problem with parents hitting children in a controlled, deliberate manner.

And there is a campaign to end it in the UK:

Rt Hon Kevin Barron MP said: “We must act now to end the legal approval of hitting children. It is the responsibility of Parliament to ensure that the physical integrity and human dignity of every person is respected. The current law allowing so-called ‘reasonable punishment’ of children is unjust, unsafe and unclear, and must be abolished once and for all.”

Sir William Utting, spokesperson for the Alliance, said: “This is one of those principled reforms on which politicians must make a stand whatever the pollsters might say. It is about being serious about equality and about the human rights of the child. The law must send the clear message that hitting children is as unacceptable as hitting anyone else.”

I got smacked and “spanked” (beaten) as a kid and it didn’t do much for my self-esteem. I’m better, thanks for asking but still have very strong feelings on this subject.

Anybody who was “spanked” and thinks it was OK is not remembering clearly the feelings of powerlessness, shock, and despair. If you’re one of those people, I invite you to take some time and really, viscerally remember what it was like to be beaten by a parent: you won’t care to use euphemisms about it anymore, if you truly remember. Some people spend their whole lives and never fully recover from this socially “acceptable” practice.

No matter how you candy-coat it, you’re still hitting another human being. And, you’re definitely not picking on someone your own size either.

Child mistreatment is often a structural issue, it certainly is related to some of the same things that lead to poverty. But wet streets don’t cause rain and child mistreatment doesn’t cause poverty.

That things don’t get better and are unlikely to get better (and for the same reasons that that kid hasn’t been fed by now, by the way – it certainly is not a shortage of food that is the primary problem) is more like a cause for child mistreatment than the other way around. Powerlessness and hopelessness do not make, on the whole, for balanced, reasoned parenting choices.

But using emotional punishments, power plays, and the like is OK? The fact is, regardless of how you administer it, punishment of a child by an adult is gonig to be an unequal relationship. And that’s actually a good life lesson.

Adults don’t “spank” other adults (usually :smiley: ) to resolve conflicts. The flipside of that, that we never seem to hear about, is that adults don’t ground other adults either. Adults don’t keep other adults “back after class”. Adults don’t withhold Playstation. And children don’t punish one another by filing lawsuits.

Children need different forms of punishment to adults. Personally, I believe in corporal punishment (within certain tight limits), but even if you don’t, the argument about “life lessons” has never seemed to hold much water for me.

With what I´ve seen here, yes.

You can’t reason with an out of control 3 year old. A good swat to the backside is a reasonable and just method of parenting. Lashing out at kids with sticks, on the other hand, is not.

At 9 and 10 my kids are way too old to be hit. That’s because I can now reason with them, withhold other privileges, ground them, etc. But they are well behaved, great little human beings because the ground rules were set early on, and the punishment fit the crime.

I do not believe it’s the job of politicians to tell me how to raise my kids. We have laws preventing child abuse, but the occasional smack on the bum for misbehaving is not abuse; it’s all about ensuring kids know who is in control.