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Children's Mercy Hospital, a large metropolitan hospital in the Kansas City area, has recently designated itself as a "no hit zone," meaning that parents cannot spank their kids while they're on hospital grounds. Some think this is a great idea, while others say that the hospital can't tell them how to discipline their children.
A new hospital policy
Much of the objection I've read on KMBC 9's Facebook page is from people saying that nobody can tell them how to discipline their kids, with many "back in my day" phrases accompanying their complaints. My face contorted quite a bit, I'm sure, reading comments like, "If we were able to spank our children like parents in my day did, there would be a lot less craziness in the world now," and, "My kids, my rules. If more parents spanked, we wouldn't have so many self-entitled jerks in this world."
Here's the thing. If Children's Mercy has deliberated, discussed and created this new policy, what do you think they have witnessed since the hospital was founded in 1897? Or, more realistically, over the last decade or so? The hospital serves a large metropolitan area and regularly sees patients from six states, so people from all backgrounds roam the halls and inhabit the beds. This means that many different parenting styles are witnessed by staff, I'm sure, including discipline-free families, spankers who border (or even cross) the line to child abuse and everyone in between. If parents spanking their kids is a big enough of an upsetting distraction to the patients, staff and the other parents at the hospital, then yes, it needs to stop. No brainer.
Don't hit at the hospital
I also don't think it's that huge of a deal to ask parents to not spank their kids at the hospital. Kids go to Children's Mercy for many, many reasons. Some kids are admitted to the hospital because they are injured or ill, and others are visiting one of the many specialists whose offices are on the same campus (we have been there many times for the latter). Can these parents really not abstain from swatting their children's behinds or hands when they are a hospital patient, or for the length of time an office visit needs to take place?
While I don't agree that hitting a child is a valuable means of discipline, I do know that if a parent wants it to be effective, it cannot be in the heat of anger, and I suspect when a parent publicly spanks a child, it is totally out of anger. The hospital says that is has trained their staff to recognize an escalating situation and they are to attempt to intervene in a positive way if possible, and if a parent is observed hitting a child, a social worker may be called in.
The Bottom Line^ This new rule will not change the way a parent disciplines when they are at home. They are not telling you how to discipline your child — only when you are within their walls. Working to make the hospital a violence-free place, when kids are already sick, injured, stressed or worried, can only be looked at as a good thing. Create a peaceful environment for children who may be receiving bad news, or who may have to undergo a painful medical test, and it may make their time there better. We need more peace in our lives, and creating that for kids should be a priority.