1. School Age
  2. Behaviour
  3. Discipline

When you feel you might hurt your child

0-8 years

All children have the right to be safe and protected from child abuse. But being a parent can feel overwhelming sometimes. If you think you can’t cope and you might hurt your child, you need to get help.

Children and parents at risk of child abuse

As a parent, it’s normal to feel tested to your limits sometimes. But sometimes it can be worse than this.

If you feel very tired, frustrated by your child’s challenging behaviour or worried about whether you’re doing the right thing, it can be hard to control your emotions and reactions. Not having enough support can also stretch your patience and ability to cope.

Sometimes you might be worn down by personal, emotional, medical or financial problems, and feel you can’t care for your child properly.

Or you might have had difficult experiences in your own past, like an unhappy childhood or a lack of family support. These past experiences can make it challenging for you as a parent.

If things have got out of control for you and you get angry with your child – verbally or physically – you risk harming your child, even if you don’t mean to.

It’s never OK to harm a child. Every child has the right to be safe and protected.

What to do

If you feel like you might hurt your child, here’s what to do.

Right now:

  • Stop.
  • Walk away and take some deep breaths.
  • Call someone to talk you through the moment, like a family member, a friend or a parenting helpline.

When you’re calmer:

  • Think about what has happened and how it’s affecting you and your child.
  • Do something to improve the situation.
  • Find support to make the changes.
If you feel you might hurt your child, or you have hurt your child, it’s important to seek help immediately. Call Lifeline on 131 114 (24 hours, 7 days). If your child needs medical assistance, call an ambulance on 000.

Getting support to avoid child abuse

If you feel like you might hurt your child and you’ve recognised these feelings, you can take steps to avoid this risk.

Here are some people who can help you:

  • counsellors on parenting hotlines
  • family support services in your area – contact your local council for information
  • your GP
  • a psychologist or counsellor – your GP should be able to suggest professionals if you don’t know of any yourself
  • your social worker
  • family violence support services.

Asking for help takes courage, but it also shows that you:

  • love your child and have his best interests at heart
  • realise there’s a problem
  • are taking responsibility
  • want things to change for your family
  • are committed to improving things.

It might help to know that you’re not the only parent who has faced tough times. Every doctor, psychologist, counsellor, social worker and hotline operator has spoken to, and helped, someone just like you.

Professionals can work with you and give you ideas on ways to be a more positive parent. By seeking help, you’re doing the best thing possible for your child, your family and yourself. 

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Last updated or reviewed
18-12-2017

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Raising Children Network is supported by the Australian Government. Member organisations are the Parenting Research Centre and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute with The Royal Children’s Hospital Centre for Community Child Health.

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