Parents try to justify physical abuse by calling it ‘discipline’

The Japan News

Dear Troubleshooter:

I’m an 18-year-old male student and I am struggling with my relationship with my father.

The other day, we had a huge fight. Our fights are usually us yelling at each other, but this time, he grabbed me by the collar. I thought that if it went any further, my life would be in danger. My mother was able to stop us this time, so it ended without escalating further.

However, both my father and mother have tried to justify the use of violence by saying, “Even if parents hit their children, children shouldn’t hit back,” or “We were also beaten by our parents.” It might have been partly my fault, but even so, hitting someone is an act of violence. Even though they’re parents, isn’t that something they shouldn’t do?

Some people abuse their children and call it discipline, saying they’re doing what’s best for their children. But I think it’s because they want to justify their violence and they convince themselves it’s fine because it’s “discipline.”

I read an article that said children who grow up in a violent environment tend to be violent toward their own children. I’m worried that I might become like that, but I don’t know what to do.

— C, Kanagawa Prefecture

Dear Mr. C:

When parents and children frequently fight, it means that they are showing each other how they truly feel. However, as you said, using violence to force your opinions onto someone is something that even parents shouldn’t do.

You may inherit your father’s short temper, but you are well aware that violence is not the answer. So, when you have children in the future, you will be able to stop yourself from resorting to violence, even if you lose your temper.

I recommend that you try and live on your own and stay away from your parents as much as possible. Living apart can provide an opportunity for both parents and children to reflect on their relationship.

You may not be able to move out right away because of the pandemic, and it might be financially difficult as a student. However, you can begin making preparations to live on your own. Why not start by convincing your mother to help you, and then getting a part-time job to save money? After some time, it’s possible that your relationship with your father might also change.

>— Masahiro Yamada, university professor