1. Toddlers
  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. 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

Just about all parents have times when they feel tested to their limits.

But sometimes parents can feel out of control and have trouble controlling their emotions and reactions. They can also be worn down by personal, emotional, medical or financial problems, and feel they can’t care for their children properly. Raising a child with challenging behaviour, or not having enough support, can also stretch parents’ patience and their capacity to cope.

If you lose your temper and lash out in anger – verbally or physically – you risk harming your child, even if you don’t mean to.

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

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 hotline counsellor.

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) or contact a parenting hotline. If your child needs medical assistance, call an ambulance on 000.

Getting support for long-term change

If you feel like you might hurt your child and you’ve recognised these feelings, you can take steps to make sure that the situation doesn’t happen.

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
  • domestic violence support services.

    Asking for help does take courage, but it also shows that:

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

    Professional help can work with you to get support 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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    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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