Content warning: This post is about violent physical restraint of kids. Proceed with caution.
In what cases is it okay to restrain a kid? Is it okay to pin a kid on the floor if they try to hit you or throw something at you?
I’m guessing that you are not a police officer or emergency responder, and that you’re asking this in the context of either parenting, childcare, or education.
In those settings, it is never ok. (Edited to add: it’s never ok in the context of mental health treatment either.) Sometimes it’s the least bad response when things go very badly wrong, but it’s never ok, and it can’t be part of someone’s plan.
I asked a friend who has more experience than I do caring for disabled children (I’m assuming the kids in this scenario are disabled because people generally assume as a matter of course that it’s not ok to treat nondisabled children this way), and she said this:
Sometimes mistakes are made and situations escalate to a point where a restraint is the least harmful option. That doesn’t mean it’s not harmful. That doesn’t mean it’s okay. When that happens, it is really important to acknowledge the harm that has transpired and to go back over the incident and events leading up to it and figure out what went wrong and how we can prevent it happening again. (quote ends here)
In the same way that, if a kid pinned another kid to the floor, you’d consider that unacceptable and plan to make sure it doesn’t happen again. It’s even more serious when an adult does that.
It is never ok to put restraint into someone’s care plan. It is never ok to see it as a solution. Restraint is a failure, not a solution.
Restraining someone is an act of physical violence. Pinning someone to the floor is a particularly invasive kind of physical violence. It’s a brutal and physically dangerous act.
Violence against kids counts as violence. Violence against people who can’t talk counts as violence. Violence against people who are physically aggressive counts as violence.
It is never ok to restrain someone as a punishment. Or a consequence. Or to teach them a lesson. Or to prevent them from getting away with something. Or to send the message that their actions are unacceptable. Or to make them calm down. Or anything remotely like that.
If you’re coming here looking for absolution, I’m not giving it to you. If you’ve pinned someone to the floor and you’re wondering if it was ok, no, it wasn’t, and you need to figure out a way to solve the problem so that you don’t do that again. It doesn’t mean you’re a terrible person or incapable of supporting the children in your care, but it does mean there’s a problem and you need to find a better solution.
If you’re a teenager or a kid, and an adult responsible for taking care of you pinned you to the floor and you’re trying to figure out if it was ok, no, it wasn’t. I’m sorry that happened to you. It shouldn’t have. No one should do that to you. No matter what you did, that wasn’t ok. If you’re violent and you hurt other kids or adults, that’s a problem you need to work on solving, but it doesn’t mean it’s ok for adults to pin you to the floor. They should be finding better ways to help you.
For more information, check out Stop Hurting Kids: Join the campaign to end restraint and seclusion abuse in schools. In particular, this fact sheet about restraint and seclusion is a good place to start.