The Thin Line Between Discipline and Cruelty – My Opinion

On social media, there’s a lot of discourse surrounding parenting and discipline techniques. There are a lot of different opinions on what counts as discipline and what counts as cruelty to children.

In my opinion, there’s a thin line that divides disciplining and being cruel to your kid. Lots of parents that enforced discipline techniques that eventually led to their child paying for therapy didn’t intentionally set out to do that. They were only trying to prune bad habits and not reward bad behavior. In the process, they ended up doing more damage than good. The products of such discipline techniques then advocate that those discipline techniques not be replicated. They’ve seen the effects firsthand and cannot bear to do the same thing or see the same thing done to other children.

On the other side are children who swear by these methods. They claim that these methods saved them and it’s the reason they’re as successful as they are. They claim they turned out just fine, better than fine even. They think these people complaining are too progressive, too liberal and will end up ruining society because of the god-awful children they will raise with their proposed lax and hippie method of parenting. They think that gentle parenting is permissive parenting.

This then begs the question, what exactly is discipline and what is cruelty? Where do we draw the line? What even does this line look like? Is it determined by the actions of the parents themselves or the effects of these actions on the children?

I do not have a lot of the answers to these questions yet. It’s not a black and white situation and we don’t exactly have the luxury of experimenting to determine these answers as children can be badly hurt. Here’s what I think about it though.

A lot of adult actions can be misinterpreted by children, they are kids after all, and don’t have the gift of foresight. This means that some well-intending actions of discipline can be misunderstood. In the same light, adults do not understand children as much as they claim to do. They often have a false understanding of children and will often act rashly and thoughtlessly in certain situations. They overreact and forget that children are people who have feelings and whose feelings can get hurt. This inevitably leads to parents utilizing discipline methods that hurt their kids and cause the alienation of their kids or kids that misunderstand their parents and get hurt in the process.

When judging these situations, we have to bear in mind that parents have never been parents before and they’re bound to replicate what was done to them, and the parenting techniques that their parents employed with them. They’re going to make mistakes. They’re essentially learning on the job. We also have to bear in mind that whether your actions were intended to hurt someone or not, your actions can still be very hurtful and you have to take responsibility for those actions. You can still hurt people you love. Parents, in particular, need to understand that.

I think this calls for understanding from both sides. It calls for good communication from both parents and their young children. It calls for genuine listening and less defensive arguments. It calls for taking responsibility and discussions about the way forward. It calls for apologies and forgiveness. It calls for discussions on other methods of discipline. It calls for society to realize how hurtful we can be to children and to take further steps to protect them by not traumatizing them in our efforts to make them well-adjusted adults in society.

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