Why are my parents beating me

When children hit their parents

First of all, something basic: Children are not (just) cute and family is not a place of constant bliss! We often experience children as cute in our perception and living with them is associated with ideas of idyll, security and warmth. But basically, children have the same human feelings as adults. So not just love, joy or sadness, but also anger, anger and aggression. The difference to adults, however, is: When you talk about having acted in an affect with adults, you mean a state of emergency. Children (especially younger ones), however, are still very emotion-driven, so their acting in affect is more of the "normal state". Everyone knows that who has forbidden a child to have chocolate in the supermarket or to watch TV for another quarter of an hour. From my point of view, this emotional processing difference is not sufficient to explain why children beat their parents.

Is it all a question of relationship?

Small talk at the beginning of a wedding celebration. A woman is talking to another guest and is holding her 2 year old daughter in her arms. The daughter looks a bit bored and is playing with her mother's glasses. “You shouldn't play with my glasses! How often do I have to say that? ”. The daughter tears her glasses off her head and throws them on the floor. Her mother just shakes her head, picks up her glasses and continues the conversation. The child hits her lightly in the face. Mother: "We don't hit!" The child stretches back and hits her in the face with full force. The woman stands there speechless and helpless, seems downright frozen.

A father is bothered by the fact that his 15-year-old son has only been sitting at his PC for days and playing role-playing games online. He does not do homework or participate in family life. The father was silent for a long time so as not to provoke an argument. Now the son keeps playing and admonitions and threats have no effect either. The father decides to pull the WiFi plug. In a rage, the son storms towards his father and immediately hits him.

Although the two case studies differ in particular because of the age of the children, they have one thing in common: children are primarily learners in their relationship with their parents. They learn from their parents how to deal with feelings, where the limits are in acting out these feelings and how coexistence can be successful, even though everyone has very different needs. Therefore, violent behavior by children is always primarily a relationship issue. Child violence is more common in families,

  • in which the parents use (verbal as well as physical) violence as a means of upbringing and have thus started a spiral that can lead to a fundamental legitimation of violence on the part of the children as well. Children of the same age or siblings are often noticed to be aggressive before the violence finally turns against parents.
  • in families where parents want to be their children's best friends. Often associated with great educational insecurity, because the children do not seem to appreciate being “friends” at all, behave ungrateful and cheeky from the parents' point of view and at the same time it is difficult for the parents to develop a concept of (positive) authority.

Violence against parents is often related to the fact that a child experiences a parent as either particularly weak, insecure and limitless or as overpowering, threatening and perhaps even using violence himself. Of course, loyalty to the other parent (e.g. parents living apart) can also be behind it. Especially when there are massive conflicts at the parent level and a child assumes guilt allegations from one of the parents (e.g. "my mom is to blame for my parents breaking up").

Mutual violence in families

Mutual violence in families means that both parents and their children use violence as a means to achieve their goals. This is often a gradual process that usually develops out of violent conflicts in which the tone of voice becomes rougher and louder over time. Parents who have the feeling that they can only make themselves heard by increasing the volume, raise their children to scream and roar through their bad role model. This creates a reciprocal “roaring spiral” that makes the path to actual violence shorter and shorter. Almost all parents actually want to be good and loving parents. When it comes to violence, it usually comes from a feeling of absolute powerlessness and helplessness, as previous attempts at upbringing and solutions are perceived as having failed.

What can you do?

In the case of bilateral violence, the following clearly applies: stop using your own violence immediately. Children have an inalienable right to a non-violent upbringing. In addition, I cannot stop violence if I legitimize it for myself. If children learn from their parents that hitting is a legitimate means of pursuing interests, then the chances are high that the children themselves will at some point become violent. And even if I could use violence to prevent my child from beating, I would not be able to stop my child's fantasies of violence and anger, but at best suppress them.

Unilateral violence by children towards their parents

It is particularly tragic when there is one-sided violence by children against a parent, and a father or mother actually means it particularly well and lovingly. Sometimes combined with my own painful experience of violence or fear in the relationship with one's own parents. The way you were brought up, you definitely don't want to repeat it. But it often doesn't work the way you imagined it. The fact that a child beats its mother or father often comes at the end of a long series of educational insecurities and arguments with the child. The idea “if I am always nice and nice to my child, quasi his best friend, then my child will always be nice and nice to me” unfortunately does not work.

What can you do?

Regardless of the age of the children:

Stop hitting immediately and, if possible, at the beginning!

Little to no words are needed for this, but determination in action and a clear demeanor. With smaller children, it helps to hold the child's hands as calmly and carefully as possible. But don't hurt the child! The child has to notice from my overall reaction that it doesn't work that way and that hitting represents a limit violation that I am never ready to tolerate. A determined, stern look (make eye contact!) And a clear “no” are often sufficient for this. Smaller children in particular are not yet able to control their emotional behavior well (as described above) and react very impulsively. It is therefore helpful to mirror the child's feelings (for example, “you are really angry, aren't you?”) And at the same time to offer them alternatives so that they can reduce their frustration (for example, slapping a pillow on the bed). In the case of older and physically stronger children, however, it is important to resolve the situation immediately. You can either send the child out of the room or, if necessary, leave the situation yourself. In a state of highest emotionality, the situation cannot be clarified anyway; this can also be postponed to a later point in time.

Protect yourself!

In the case of a massive threat, for example if a child does not calm down at all and endangers others or themselves, one parent may not be able to do it on their own. Parents then need to get help to sort out the situation. This can range from family help (e.g. from the partner) to the need to notify the police if a serious and dangerous escalation occurs - to protect everyone involved!

Overcome shame and silence!

Child violence reveals helplessness and educational insecurity. Many parents do not dare to talk to others about it or seek help. However, this reinforces a vicious circle of growing insecurity, powerlessness and mostly inconsistent behavior (e.g. to avoid further unpleasant situations). Many parents quietly suffer from the situation or build up massive feelings of guilt. As understandable as this is, the question of guilt does not help the parents in the end. The need does not decrease if you deal with what you supposedly did wrong. It is more important as a parent to take responsibility for positive change!

This does not mean to return to an outdated understanding of authority (in the form of intimidation and abuse of power), but to become aware of your own limits and to preserve them just as I have to preserve the limits of my child. Children do not come into the world with a perfectly balanced understanding of the limits of others. This is a constant learning curve on the way to adulthood. And the most important teachers are the parents. For a good parent-child relationship, it is very important that parents know themselves and their limits well, that they take good care of themselves on the one hand and that they reflect on the relationship with their child on the other. But that also means making decisions and taking responsibility, e.g. in the sense of "I am your mother / father and you can trust me!" I often experience that parents, especially young children, explain far too much or discuss things with them that ultimately overwhelm the children and give them the feeling that the parents themselves are too weak to make decisions.

Parenting advice helps

Unfortunately, upbringing is not always ideal. Parenting goes hand in hand with great challenges. Every mother and every father will be able to report on situations in which he or she has reached his or her limits and no longer knew what to do next. We recommend seeking help in such situations. Educational counseling centers work under the obligation of confidentiality and will try to find a solution together with parents and children. There's no shame in getting support. On the contrary: It takes a lot of courage to admit that you can't do it alone, it takes a lot of responsibility because you are committed to the well-being of your family and a lot of love because it involves a great investment in your future relationship with your own child.

You can find the address of your educational counseling center and an online counseling service here.


Brüning, Wilfried: "Ways out of the roar trap - When parents have to assert themselves" (film)


Thomas Detzel, graduate social worker (FH), systemic family therapist

Caritas advice and youth welfare center St. Nikolaus Mainz



discontinued on September 26, 2018