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I want to be a good mum

Here is an article written by a mother in Australia. She told me she sometimes hit/spanked/smacked her four year old daughter. I suggested she ask her daughter how she feels when her mom hits her. So she did and she told me the story of how the daughter replied. It was so moving I asked her to write it up, which she did. I then, with her permission, sent it to Jordan Riak's website, nospank.net where he immediately published it. - S. Hein


I want to be a good mum

April 2002

I’m a single parent with a four year old. In the past I have hit my child, I hit her when she wouldn’t do what I wanted her to do. I did it to control her. My mother hit me when I was a child. I felt worthless, unloved and unlovable when she hit me.

I have read parenting books, some say you should hit and some say you shouldn’t. I want to be a good Mum. I love my daughter. I want her to be a good kid. So I thought it would be okay as long as I never did it when I was angry, the way my Mum did.

I did not want to smack her, it made me feel bad and I knew it made my daughter feel bad. I talked with her yesterday about it. I asked her how she felt when I hit her. She said to me "I feel like you don’t love me." I started crying.

The most important thing for me was that my girl never doubted that I love her, no matter what she did. Then she told me I made her feel unloved. Me, her mother, the one person she should feel safest with. I was horrified with myself, I felt so bad. It is so important to me that she knows I love her always no matter what. I promised her I would never hit her again. I told her to tell me if she is ever afraid of me. I told her what had happened to me as a child, how my mother had hit me, and I told her I should have known better. With a child’s huge capacity for love and understanding she told me she was sorry I’d been hurt like that.

I will never ever hit her or threaten her again.

This has been hard for me to write. I’m crying. I feel unworthy of my daughter’s love and trust. I feel I have betrayed her by hurting her this way.


Original copy on nospank.net

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Follow up -

I visited this 2 person family a few more times over the next few years. Unfortunately, though the mother seemed to have stopped hitting her daughter, she did not stop trying to use power, force and coercion to control her. The mother would still blatantly threaten her daughter. She would also give her two undesirable "choices" and force the daughter to pick one. I believe Alfie Kohn calls these "pseudo choices".

This mother was a single mom, a fairly devout Catholic and a member of Mensa - so very intelligent. The abuse of her child seems to have shifted from physical to emotional, as is often done as children get older. It becomes more "insidious" as one social worker explained to me. It becomes more confusing to the child or teen. And perhaps, according to some studies, even more damaging than physical punishment without the emotional manipulation.

A related article about the same mother is "Suzy" - the defiant 5 year old.