When does beating a child become abusive?

Beatings prohibitedFrom the long struggle for children's rights

"The first time, I was maybe five. Those were blows that I considered absolutely unjustified. The bum was then spanked with some branches of a stick."

"For me it was more or less serious with the fight, if he said that I had made some boys nice eyes or joked around, so that was not possible, he urgently had to protect my chastity somehow. I can remember his slaps. There So I really flew across our bedroom, which wasn't small. That was pretty tough. "

"Then I remember doing handicrafts lessons. When the teacher was annoyed, a plane or something like that flew through the class, the teacher threw a plane at me, I ducked, and then he left in the door, nuh. And then I ran away from class, nuh. "

"The teachers also came from the war"

The post-war generation experienced educational methods that many Germans can hardly imagine today. But such punishments were commonplace.

"So there was this little paw, you had to come forward, hold out your hand, then you would hit the palm of your hand so and so many times with the stick ... There were also slaps and pulling of the ears, especially in religion class The pastor and also the chaplain, who then gave the religious instruction, was very busy pulling the children by the ears and so up to the bench, so sometimes they screamed too, "says the 79-year-old man from Meckenheim near Bonn - let's call him Fritz. His real name is known to the editors, but he does not want to name him publicly. From 1946 Fritz attended school. Anyone who did not parry received a thrashing.

"The teachers came from the war too, one of them had only one arm and they were also very stressed, including the pastor, I can remember, he even slapped the children in church, for example I am in communion class once in a while I got slapped because I didn't have a prayer book with me. But this pastor was brain injured, so he had a head injury from the war, and he was also very nervous. "

Better not go home with the bad grade

Detlef from Bonn, the editorial team also changed his real name, was hiding a bad grade. He knew when his father came home it would be bad.

"Then I took off for an hour or two towards the forest, when I came back, the anger had obviously increased, laughs, and then it really kicked off. If you never do that, you will never do that, and with a string from the iron, so that the bottom was really bloody. Absurd, you really felt, hello, this is someone who is no longer under control at all. "

Detlef, now in his early 70s, still knows exactly: he felt great anger, but also despair, as he says.

"Then I went into the bedroom and it was a crazy situation, I got on the windowsill and thought, come on, if my father comes in now, I'll jump down so my siblings can be protected from something like that. Yes, luckily he didn't come in. This whole story has been with me for a long time. "

"Beating is a special form of humiliation"

The Cologne author Ingrid Müller-Münch wrote the book: "The Beatled Generation" and shows how much the victims of German post-war education suffered.

"This beating is a special form of humiliation. When you are beaten, you feel small, insignificant, not loved, cast out. The effects on these people, and there are really infinite numbers in this country in all positions, were sometimes really devastating and also destroyed lives. "

For a long time, blows were applied to normal means of education like here on J.P. Hasenclever's painting "The First Day of School" (picture alliance / akg-images)

Very few parents and teachers had any awareness of injustice. Finally, according to Ingrid Müller-Münch, they followed the well-known role model:

"Martin Luther always referred to the fact that it was very important to hit a child, otherwise it would become completely stubborn. This so-called black pedagogy came from the fact that it has been propagated over and over again for centuries that a child is born sinful and one has to cast out these sins from him, and by force. "

"On the right path" with beating

Detlef's father also fought on the basis of this biblical understanding.

"My father himself experienced it that way. He meant that it really helped him. My reaction to his punishment has moved him somewhere, but only x, x years later. He was convinced that I so that people are led on the right path (laughs). Yes, well, that was expressed in which he then punished God-like. " (laughs)

Annette, now 60 years old, also reports something similar from Bonn. We have also changed her name.

"Though I've been beaten a lot, I think my dad loved me and did it because of it. Sounds absurd, but I think there is some truth to it. But at least those beatings I received caused that my relationship with my father was completely broken. I didn't hate my father, but he kind of disgusted me. I found his presence uncomfortable. "

"You endured it without any feelings of this kind, anger or shame or pain, nothing. You never heard of complaints from your parents or anything like that, you didn't talk about it at home, otherwise you got it again. Man was a bit hardened. Nobody had heard of the word psychology or something like that back then in the country, well, in the Eifel. "

A thick skin and, underneath, great emotional stress

A thick skin, like Fritz's, was vital for children in the past. Research today shows that children who are regularly beaten are more violent than those who are not. Many later suffer from a lack of self-confidence, depression, anxiety disorders or drug addiction.

But such insight into the child's psyche did not previously exist. Especially not in the time of National Socialism, when the principle of discipline and order reached its peak. Book author Ingrid Müller-Münch:

"There was a woman, Johanna Haarer, who had published a book, 'The German Mother and Her First Child'. What the mothers were advised to do was so unkind, it was incredibly brutal towards the smallest child This book was still published by us until the early 1970s, and if you ask this generation of 60 and 70-year-olds, they often got this book as a wedding present was then called a little different, it was no longer called 'The German mother and her first child', but rather it was called 'The mother and her first child'. "

From 1958, mothers were also allowed to deliver blows

"Children who want something get mad."

"Those who refuse to follow rules shall feel the consequences."

"Now is enough, otherwise the bum will have fun fair."

The unsustainable conditions in many children's homes up until the mid-1970s showed what excesses this hostility towards children still produced after the war. The injustice was first publicized in its full extent in 2006 through the book "Strikes in the Name of the Lord". More than half a million children in church and state homes were severely physically and mentally abused in West Germany alone. But also in other European countries.

In Germany, the Federal Court of Justice gave teachers a "general customary right" to beatings as recently as 1957. A year later men and women were given equal status. Now mothers were also allowed to deliver blows, before the fathers had the right to punish.

More liberal views on upbringing took hold only slowly. The 1968 movement played a major role in this. Traditional models of upbringing have been challenged.

Right to a non-violent upbringing only since 2000

It was not until 1973 that corporal punishment was abolished in schools, even if not all teachers adhered to it equally strictly. In the GDR, beating was banned in schools since 1949. Physical violence contradicts socialist upbringing, according to the Ministry of Popular Education. But even there, some teachers did not take it too seriously in the first few years.

However, parents were allowed to continue to beat their offspring. Organizations like the Kinderschutzbund repeatedly demanded: "Children need love, not blows".

George F. Jorgenson, inventor of a "safe beating device", 1953 during the demonstration of the same to his son Robert (picture alliance / AP Images / Neal V. Clark)

It was not until 1998 that physical and mental abuse were declared inadmissible in the German Civil Code. And in 2000 the German Bundestag expressly anchored the right to nonviolence by a large majority. Section 1631 of the Civil Code states:

"Children have a right to a non-violent upbringing. Corporal punishment, emotional harm and other degrading measures are not permitted."

Many have fought for a long time for the ban on violence. Also the representatives of the Children's Commission of the German Bundestag. This subcommittee of the Family Committee has been advocating children's interests since 1988.

"Not enough to appeal to individuals"

Susann Rüthrich is currently the chairperson. There is still a lot to be done, says the Social Democrat.

"We are talking about corporal punishment and the prohibition of corporal punishment, but it is about fundamental non-violence in upbringing, and even those who actually do beatings to their child here basically know that it is not possible Shaking, with violent language, with degrading behavior, I wouldn't be sure about that. I think the dark field will be a bit bigger then. "

According to the Federal Statistical Office, there were over 6,150 registered cases of abused children last year. The youth welfare offices had to take over 1,200 more people than in the previous year. An increase of 25 percent.

Parents who abuse their children can lose custody and be sentenced to a fine or imprisonment of up to five years, in particularly serious cases even up to 15 years, for willful bodily harm. Anyone who watches and does not intervene is also liable to prosecution. Susann Rüthrich from the Children's Commission:

"We are dealing with the fact that the help systems may not be adequately equipped, that it is difficult to bring those involved to a table to discuss the case Neighbors, don't even imagine that something like this could happen in their area. That is still a sad reality, 150 children, that's two or three a week. Fortunately, sensitivity and expertise increase too, but it does is just not enough to appeal to individuals. "

150 children killed by abuse in 2018

150 children died last year as a result of abuse. The Child Protection Association tries to counteract this in its advice centers. Martina Huxoll-von Ahn, Deputy Managing Director of the Federal Association:

"Of course, children can turn to them themselves, but usually don't do so very often. Instead, it's more like other caregivers, i.e. other family members, maybe also the teachers, who then seek advice and turn to such advice centers, and then have to you look to what extent you can work with the children and to what extent you also get access to the parents. And the goal is of course that the protection of the child is ensured and that the parents stop their behavior. "

"Children should have their own rights that ensure that they are well supported, that they are protected from violence, for example."

SPD Family Minister Franziska Giffey is campaigning for children's rights to be anchored in the Basic Law. The SPD and the Union had agreed in their coalition agreement. A federal-state working group is to work out a draft law by the end of the year. The Greens and the Left have recently put forward their own proposals. A two-thirds majority is necessary in the Bundestag to change the Basic Law. Opponents say that the current regulation already protects children well enough.

Children’s right to have a say in government decisions

Child protection organizations have been calling for a change to the Basic Law for decades. Two aspects are generally in the foreground: to protect children better and to give them the right to more say in state decisions. Martina Huxoll-von Ahn from the Child Protection Association hopes that an agreement will be reached soon.

"We are very much in favor of including children's rights in the Basic Law, because the well-being of the child is much more in the foreground than it is now, and the well-being of the child would have to be taken into account in a completely different way in the legislation, and then for example before family courts, where such cases may then also be heard. "

Constitutional status would not only strengthen the backs of the children, but also those who implement children's rights, ultimately also the parents themselves. Germany would also act in accordance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which will be 30 years old next November. Because so far the rights of the child have not yet been implemented as comprehensively as foreseen in the Convention - key words child welfare and the right to participate.

Many countries still do not want a ban on spanking

Although more than 190 states have ratified the convention and thereby undertake to prohibit violence in education, only 59 countries have stipulated this in law. Since this year also France, which has struggled with this issue for a long time. Many countries do not want a ban on corporal punishment because that would supposedly curtail parental rights. Unicef ​​tries to counteract violence worldwide through educational projects and early childhood development programs. Rudi Tarneden, spokesman for Unicef ​​Germany:

"Violence is very widespread in countries where there is a high potential for conflict and where there are great social differences. But of course there are also cultural traditions. We know from research that around a third of adults worldwide are considered to be completely normal corporal punishment Educational means, including hard blows, for example in the face or on the head. And that includes countries such as Yemen, but also some countries in the Middle East. "

Dirk Enzmann from the Institute for Criminal Science at the University of Hamburg found that states that have banned corporal punishment are less likely to be mistreated than in countries that allow beating. This effect is strongest when the ban has been in place for a long time, as it has been since 1979 in the exemplary Sweden. Germany is in the middle of the field, with the Czech Republic bringing up the rear in Europe.

The criminologist also finds countries such as Great Britain, Italy or Belgium and Switzerland to be problematic, where parental violence is still not prohibited. Outside of Europe we also find drastic examples, for example the USA, where we find very high rates of abuse or abuse also of simple violence, twice as high as here in Germany or in Europe, but also countries like Australia or Japan, Canada, South Korea or Russia are countries in which parental violence is still taken for granted or where there is a real fight for it . "

In some countries, corporal punishment is still practiced against adults. This Indonesian woman is being flogged for selling food during the fasting month of Ramadan. (picture allaince / EPA / Hotli Simanjuntak)

Laws alone are not enough to curb violence. That is evident in Austria, says Enzmann. Parental spanking has been banned there since 1989, but there is more abuse there than in Denmark, where the ban came into force ten years later. Long-term information campaigns are needed in parallel, as in Sweden.

"All parents there have had a book called 'Living with Children' since 1983, which deals with the care of children, health, development, but also a separate chapter with the title: 'Never violence', in which the legislation is presented in which the historical development of violence in education is dealt with and where alternative strategies for dealing with conflict and anger are discussed. "

"Never violence" according to Astrid Lindgren

Based on the Swedish children's book author Astrid Lindgren. In 1978 she received the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade. In her speech in the Paulskirche in Frankfurt, she made her famous appeal to the world, which is still relevant 40 years later.

"But for those who are now clearly calling for harder discipline and stricter rules, I would like to tell you what an old lady once told me."

The story of a woman who is angry with her son, wants to punish him and sends him out to fetch a stick. But the boy doesn't find any and instead brings his mother a stone. She could throw it at him. The woman is upset about what she wanted to do.

"She took her little son in her arms and they both cried for a while. Then she put the stone on a shelf in the kitchen, and it stayed there as a constant reminder of the promise she had made to herself during that hour: Never violence. "