What to do when your father hits your sibling

Shae asks: What can a kid do when their father hits their sibling?

Hi Shae –


Thanks for your question about your father hitting your sibling.


Now I don’t know two very important things.  First, I don’t know where you live (and what the laws are there), and Second, I don’t know exactly how your father is doing this hitting.


I do know that, where I live, it is actually illegal for parents to hit their children unless it’s minor (the thing to remember is the three O’s – Open-Handed, Over the clothes, and On the butt!).  If a parent hits a child and it leaves a mark (as will happen with a belt or stick), they can be arrested for child abuse!


On the other hand, you kids (and us dogs) can be awfully aggravating, and if we drive our adult humans into a rage, that’s not good either.  So if it’s at all possible, it would be great for your sibling to behave in a way that their father doesn’t do such things.  (And again, if by “hit” you mean your father is giving them a spanking in a non-abusive way, then he’s really within his rights).


I say all that first, to make sure what we’re talking about.  Because there are cases where a parent can be truly dangerous to their child.  Especially if the parent is a heavy drinker or drug-user, they might lose control of their anger, and do things that can damage their children, physically and emotionally.


So on to your question – what can you do, if this is the case?  Well, first always remember the most important rule: Keep Safe!  And that means both you and your sibling.  If your father seems to be heading into a state of anger where he’s dangerous, you are totally right to shut yourselves into a room, or find another adult who can help you.  (Now again, if he’s just kind of mad that your sibling broke a lamp, and wants to slap his hand, you’re going to look ridiculous; I’m talking about if he’s actually dangerous!).  If it’s really bad, you can even call the police.


But of course, these are the worst-case scenarios.  What would be best would be if you could talk to your father (and mother if she lives with him still) about how you don’t like it when he does that, how it frightens you, and how you wish he’d find other ways of disciplining your sibling (You might even refer him to my posting on the AskShirelle site, in answer to MaggieMay’s question about discipline).  Parents usually want to do what’s best for their children, and only get physical when they can’t come up with another way to teach what they have to.


I know I’ve thrown a lot of ideas at you, Shae.  That’s because there are so many different sorts of hitting, and so many reasons for them.  If it would help you to talk about it in more detail, please write me again whenever you like.
But for now, be safe, and be happy.




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