I’m in a state of disbelief (and disappointment) as I write this. Disbelief at the things that happen in our world and the ways we react to them. Disappointment that our violent reactions towards children have become acceptable.
Violence creating a backlash of violence creating a demand for more violence.
I don’t care if you’re talking about bullying, or spanking, or criticizing, or shaming, or neglecting, or disrespecting, or isolating, or ignoring.
It’s all violence.
I read something (that I won’t do the honor of sharing) on Facebook. Something to the extent of children being bullies and brats because parents lost the right to “beat their asses”.
One hateful opinion happens and I can move on.
But the hundreds of hateful comments that followed it?
- “Hellz yes!”
- “Little assholes”
- “get a cut ass”
- “these kids have everything given to them”
- “they all need a good ass whooping”
- “I got preventative ass woopings [sic] and my kids will too”
And then there were the justifications for violence:
- “Kids won’t learn any other way”
- “All kids are different and some just need a spanking.”
- “that’s how you get great kids”…
And on and on it went.
But perhaps the hardest among them to read being:
- “To each their own; I don’t agree but it’s not my place.”
But I can’t do that. I can’t wash my hands of the treatment of another human being without taking a stand for Truth and Love.
Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral. (Paulo Freire)
(This isn’t just some random online people, either. This is real life for kids and teens every day. We were at the Wide Sky Days conference and witnessed the staff and security scrutinize, criticize, and treat unfairly the kids, while nearly turning a blind eye to the anything the drunk and belligerent adult guests did. People assume the worst from children, then set about to prove their assumptions right.)
So, let me just take a moment to call this like I see it…
Your Anger Is Just Another Form of Bigotry
Insistence towards hitting a child sounds just as venomous and hateful as the men who insisted it was a “husband’s right” to hit his wife, or a white man’s right to lynch a black man.
Just listen to the words. The voice. The venom behind it.
Where did we learn to be so angry? We’re losing all composure and sense of dignity over the mistakes of a child?
The measure of a man is what he does with power. (Plato)
How long has violence, in any form, really worked? How long could one man own another man before the dynamic exploded? How much can any group of people ever take control and domination before they fight back?
Backlash is messy and violent, since that’s the tone that has been set.
And that’s what we’re seeing now: the unintended consequences of domination and violence (in all its forms) towards children.
Want to know why children are becoming bullies?
Because they are being bullied. Because they are listening to someone bigger than them say things like “little assholes” and “they deserve a beating”…they are listening to someone tell them what to do and criticize them and hurt them, and they learn that’s how it works: the bigger person has the power and the right to exert that power.
Want to know why kids don’t give a rip about others?
Because they have no examples of genuine engagement and kindness in their world. It’s demanded of them before it’s shown what it even looks like. (How in the world can they give respect when they’ve never seen what that even looks like to give? They’ve only seen what it looks like to demand submission, the antithesis of respect.)
So they turn to the smaller person – maybe it’s an older woman on a bus or a gay teen or the “nerd” in class – and they exert that same power and force over them.
Domination delegates the physical violence on which it rests to the dominated. (Theodore Adorno)
This is not the parent’s fault; this is the fault of our entire culture’s attitude toward children.
According to the random samples of society it would seem we’re all giving birth to demons and have no choice but to beat the evil out of them. We’ve had centuries of this dominance and power-over. We’ve learned it in our schools, our churches, our governments, and our homes.
So we come in and “beat their asses” (because that’s what we’ve been told is a “good parent”) and reinforce the rule that “Might is right”, without recognizing the hidden messages we’re teaching them, without realizing that pretty soon parents won’t have the Might anymore. Children grow up with the examples in their homes and schools and society that size and stature equals power and control, and as they grow in size they’ll grow in their own stature, ability, and power and they’ll be ready for it to be their turn.
Hungry for a chance to finally be in control.
And this is what we now see: People deprived of meaningful relationship, fed on the emptiness of domination, starving and snatching at any opportunity to bite back.
Do you want to know what the real problem is with kids these days?
It’s not a lack of control. They have plenty of experiences of control.
Here’s what they don’t have:
1. They don’t have the support to practice INTRINSIC motivation: Punishment or coercion doesn’t create genuine actions. It teaches kids to care so much about what others will think of THEM, or do to THEM, that they never stop to think of the other person. (Show them the pain of others, instead of creating pain in them, and they will show compassion.)
“You can’t make a person do something; you can only make them wish that they had.” – Marshall Rosenberg
2. They don’t have any good examples of what REAL power looks like: The ability to stay calm when someone pushes your buttons, the ability to use your size to help another person, the ability to peacefully extinguish violent or dangerous behaviors. Children will not learn self-control through punishments. They will learn to be controlled, and when it’s finally their turn, they will practice controlling others. (Show them self-control and they will not only practice it themselves, but honor it in others.)
Power isn’t control at all — power is strength, and giving that strength to others. A leader isn’t someone who forces others to make him stronger; a leader is someone willing to give his strength to others that they may have the strength to stand on their own. (Beth Revis)
3. They don’t have enough genuine engagement with their loved ones: Relationship is what creates a caring person. But too many parents and neighbors and friends are too busy, too apathetic or too hateful to spend any REAL time with their kids. And the actual time spent together usually involves micro-managing everything they say or do, criticizing them, losing our parental cool, or playing on our phone while they run around us. (Show them love for yourself, them, and others and they will know nothing but the same.)
The day the power of love overrules the love of power, the world will know peace. (Mahatma Ghandi)
4. They don’t have any tools: And neither do the parents. Some parents even gave up the tools of punishment and pain but failed to learn tools of communication, connection, and hands-on guidance to replace them. And so their kids won’t learn those things either. (Learn to be nonviolent and they will never know how to be violent.)
Power is of two kinds. One is obtained by the fear of punishment and the other by acts of love. Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent then the one derived from fear of punishment. (Mahatma Gandhi)
It’s not because we put down spanking that kids are floundering.
It’s because we failed to raise up our relationships in its place.
You want to influence children? Start with where your own reactions come from.
Everybody thinks of changing humanity, but nobody thinks of changing himself. (Leo Tolstoy)
Because let me promise you this: The violence and anger we, as a culture, direct at children will be the violence and anger they learn to direct at others…or themselves.
But that children have LEARNED violence is NOT a call for MORE violence.
It’s a call to teach them – to learn for ourselves – how to practice peace.
Parenting will challenge you, will stretch you to grow as a person. It’s our children’s job to help us grow and learn to love them better. And we can stand to share and learn all the tools possible to guide and nurture our children (without losing our minds) as we can get our hands on.
But if those tools are based on power-over or carrot-and-stick, we’re just teaching our children the things they’ll need to unlearn later in life to be intrinsically motivated and able to form healthy relationships.
Learn a different way.
Pick up the tools of radical self-care, overcoming your triggers, Nonviolent Communication, and unconditional love with the Organic Parenting course.
Together we’ll look at how we can:
- Stop feeling tired or overwhelmed,
- Get past our triggers and stop losing our cool,
- Never need to punish them again,
- Have fun, laugh, and actually enjoy one another!