6 Effects of Slapping a Child Across The Face

Father and son having conflict

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Growing up, slapping was normal at my house. Usually, it was when my mom completely lost it. However, that doesn’t mean that it was okay.

In fact, it was damaging. It started unhealthy parenting patterns that I had to work to stop after realizing how this could impact my own children. 

As a parent, I am pretty confident that we all lose our sh*! at some point. It can be hard to deal with the days of screaming, throwing things, and destroying everything in the room that goes hand in hand with small children.

Or the disrespect that comes with tweens searching for independence. Or the tests that children are always going to do, like seeing how you react to them cussing. However, it’s important to understand how slapping can affect your child. 

Effects Of Slapping Children

Slapping a child once can have an impact on them. Making this a regular method of discipline can also have a drastic impact on children. It’s important to learn how this affects children, especially if it’s a regular method of discipline used. 

1. Children That Are Slapped Are More Likely To Have Physical Aggression

Children often learn how to treat other people when they are younger based on how others treat them. This starts with their parents and primary caregivers when they are young.

If they are slapped, they will learn that hitting is okay. For example, if a child is slapped when a parent is angry, a child will learn that this is an acceptable way to deal with being angry at someone.

When children are younger, they believe that their experiences at home are normal. If hitting happens, they’ll instantly think this is normal. 

Angry mother yelling at teen daughter at home

2. Slapping Children Can Damage The Parent-Child Relationship

It’s easy for a child to misinterpret what most of us parents see as a discipline method as something much deeper. Younger children may feel like their parents don’t love them.

Older children can also feel that way. We teach our children that we are nice to people that we love, so when we slap them it goes against this very teaching. As a result, children may genuinely believe that their parents don’t love them. 

Even if children know that their parents love them, it can still have a negative impact on that relationship. Children and teens that are slapped aren’t as engaged with their parents as children that are slapped.

They are not as warm and loving towards their parents, either. Because of this, these children are not usually close to their parents. 

3. Teen Depression Is Another Side Effect

In this study, it was determined that adolescents that experienced harsh physical discipline were more likely to experience depression.

When they conducted the study, they took into account other factors to determine whether the depression was from something else or from the method of discipline used.

The more a child was exposed to physical discipline, the more likely they were to become depressed. If this is the method that both parents chose, it increased the risk factor even more. 

4. Slapping Causes Low Self Esteem

Slapping can cause low self-esteem in a variety of ways. If children are slapped or punished in front of other people, this can be humiliating. After being humiliated so many times, children slowly see a dip in their self-esteem. 

That isn’t the only way that slapping can give children low self-esteem. If they begin to have behavioral problems or other difficulties associated with harsh physical discipline it can lead to having a hard time with relationships.

This isn’t just relationships at home, either. Children can have a hard time fitting in at school, and a harder time both making and keeping friends.

angry father preaching son near school bus

When children have a hard time maintaining friends, or with relationships, it can lead to even lower self-esteem than they might already have. 

5. You Might Hurt Your Child

We imagine child abuse as some psychopathic parent beating their child, but that’s not always the case. There are a lot of cases of child abuse that involve accidental abuse.

In fact, people have accidentally abused their children out of frustration and rage more than they have intentionally abused their children.

When a person is angry, they tend to release that, even if it’s unintentional. That leads to parents hitting children harder than they may have intended to. It can leave bruises, busted lips, and result in your children being removed from the home. 

If you choose this method of discipline, it’s important to remember that you should never slap your children when you are angry. Instead, take time out for yourself. Take deep breaths and calm yourself before slapping or spanking your little one. 

6. It Teaches Unhealthy Coping Skills

Children will not only learn that this is an okay way to behave and hit other children, they’ll also learn that it’s an appropriate response to strong emotions.

In the long run, this teaches children to react to all strong emotions with violence. For example, if they are upset or frustrated. 

Positive Discipline Techniques

If you’d like to move your parenting in a different direction, it’s never too late! There are a lot of discipline techniques that work well with children that exclude physical punishment.

In my house, we do a mixture of both. Spanking is extremely effective, it’s never done out of anger, and is reserved for the littlest if something is dangerous. For example, running out in the middle of the street. 

Children Under Three Do Not Know Better

While a quick smack on the hand might stop the behavior, these babies do not genuinely understand what they are doing wrong. Because of this, most pediatricians don’t recommend disciplining children this young.

Instead, make sure that they are in a safe environment where they cannot get into things. Baby proof the house. You can also distract them from getting into things with a cool toy. 

Timeouts Are Effective

Most parents are quick to give up on time outs because children often repeat the same behavior that got them in trouble as soon as they get up. It makes it look like time outs do not work with younger children. However, that’s not what is happening. 

Children that were previously spanked or slapped as punishment will instantly test your boundaries. They want to know if you’re going to slap them again.

So, they continue to push to test those boundaries. Because of this, it takes longer for time outs to show that they are effective.

However, they are actually more effective because they do not promote violence. Keep at it, and you’ll slowly start to see a difference. 

Family playing with two children

This Is An Opportunity To Teach Healthy Coping Skills

While toddlers might not understand a lot about healthy coping skills, or have enough self-control to stop and take deep breaths when they are angry, older children can definitely learn this.

Some healthy coping skills that children can learn to do when they are angry or frustrated include: 

  • Playing with Playdough
  • Drawing
  • Ripping up paper
  • Screaming into a pillow

These work well with children. Even a child as young as five can begin to learn healthy coping skills to use when they are angry or upset.

Over time, you’ll see aggressive behaviors change when they are made in place of these behaviors. It is important to note that this will take time, though. 

Parents also help teach healthy coping skills by being good role models. Sometimes, all you have to do is what you want your children to do in order to teach them.

Children learn a lot about life simply from watching the grown-ups and primary caregivers in their lives. 

Communication Is Key In Older Children

Older children might not need as much discipline as parents think that they do. Teenagers are capable of learning healthy, effective ways of communicating with parents and other family members.

When parents opt for this approach, they’ll find that they can still get the desired results by teaching their children about the consequences of their actions.

Teenagers often respond well to effective communication and discussing things because they want to be seen as a more responsible adult. They will welcome the change. 

Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement works wonderfully with children. Some parents choose to use negative consequences with children that are misbehaving, but other parents ignore them altogether.

Both sets of parents that use positive reinforcement minimize the bad things and give them very little attention. 

However, they focus a lot more and give more attention to the positive things that their children do. For example, instead of punishing a child for being disrespectful, they make sure to praise them when they are respectful.

Children want their parents to be proud of them, so this is extremely effective. 

In Conclusion

Children that are slapped are more likely to suffer from mental health disorders, such as depression, have low self-esteem, have behavioral issues, and display signs of aggression.

Instead, opt for non-violent methods of a discipline to help your children transform into healthy adults.

My name is Amber Dixon. I am a mother to three wonderful children, and recently welcomed a beautiful grandson into the world as well as into my home. I've learned a great deal about raising children through my own experiences as a mother, but also from several other places. While working at a daycare full time, I learned about childhood development, teaching children, and more. Through earning degrees in Social Work, I was educated about human development, including a great deal about children and childhood development. My education and experience combined have taught me a lot about children of every stage and age, and I hope that I can help you on your journey to becoming the best parent that you can be!

My name is Amber Dixon. I am a mother to three wonderful children, and recently welcomed a beautiful grandson into the world as well as into my home. I've learned a great deal about raising children through my own experiences as a mother, but also from several other places. While working at a daycare full time, I learned about childhood development, teaching children, and more. Through earning degrees in Social Work, I was educated about human development, including a great deal about children and childhood development. My education and experience combined have taught me a lot about children of every stage and age, and I hope that I can help you on your journey to becoming the best parent that you can be!