“What if war was not inevitable? What if tyranny, human rights abuses and ecological destruction were not inescapable? And what if the means to prevent them were in the hands of ordinary mums and dads, and all those involved in the care and education of children? Are these idealistic or Utopian flights of fancy? Not at all, if we consider some of the most valuable insights gained in recent years.”
excerpt from Parenting for a Peaceful World by Robin Grille
When I was in high school the 10,000 Maniacs’ song “What’s the Matter Here?” came out. The lyrics were a chilling reminder of how many children suffer daily at the hands of their own parents.
Seen him run outside looking for a place to hide from his father,
the kid half naked and said to myself “O, what’s the matter here?”
I’m tired of the excuses everybody uses, he’s their kid I stay out of it,
but who gave you the right to do this?
Who gave you the right to do this?
I was raised in the 70’s. It was a time when teachers could paddle children in school, when parents gave neighbors and other parents permission to spank their children if they misbehaved, and when being hit with a belt, switch, or paddle in your own home wasn’t frowned upon, but encouraged. The threat of physical redirection was always looming. Although I was a decently well behaved child (i.e. I learned to be sneaky, how to read adults, and how to lie to avoid being hurt) it was extremely unsettling to me that grown men and women were socially supported in hitting their offspring. Naturally it created confusion too.
Imagine the process going on in the mind of a young child who is being physically punished for some indiscretion.
Dad says he loves me, but he hurts my body when he uses a belt. He scares me and it makes me cry. So it’s OK to hurt people you love?
Mom says she is spanking me for my own good, but when she hits me I don’t like her or want to be around her. How can me not liking her be good for me?
Nothing I am about to write is breaking news. We have libraries full of data and research and stories from people all over the world that explain, without a shadow of a doubt, that children who are hurt in their own homes by caregivers they depend on DO NOT DEVELOP OPTIMALLY. A child’s brain changes when they are raised in an environment that harms them, makes them feel unsafe and scared creating conditions ripe for mental illness as they age. And keep in mind, hurtful parenting isn’t just physical abuse, but also neglect, verbal and emotional abuse, and lack of emotional warmth and physical touch. The CDC lists the following as consequences of abuse and neglect:
- Improper brain development
- Impaired cognitive (learning ability) and socio-emotional (social and emotional) skills
- Lower language development
- Blindness, cerebral palsy from head trauma
- Higher risk for heart, lung and liver diseases, obesity, cancer, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol
- Smoking, alcoholism and drug abuse
We are out of excuses.
If you have ever asked yourself, “What is wrong with this world?” you are asking the wrong question.
What we need to be asking is, “Why have we sided with harmful parenting practices for so long?”
The ripple effects of treating children poorly is undeniable and negatively affects us all.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Peaceful Parenting Practices Make the World a Better Place
Peaceful parenting practices are rooted in the belief that children are deserving of trust, respect, and loving caregivers who respond with compassion to their changing needs. Babies are kept in close proximity to their parents, not separated by walls and distance. Children are embraced as the creative, free, imaginative beings they are and given opportunities to bloom fully within safe parameters that flex as they develop and grow. Learning is respected as the individual endeavor it is and the teen years are met with excitement and intrigue instead of dread and negativity. Collaboration is the undercurrent that carries the parent/child relationship which means any tough times faced are tempered by the years of developing mutual respect and trust. Parents show their children they actually LIKE them by being playful, engaging, fair, and authentic in their presence. Similar to behavior they’d exhibit towards any other human they love and admire and whose respect they seek. Childhood is the foundation on which the rest of the individual stands. Peaceful parenting practices seek to make that foundation as solid as possible. All important relationships deserve our best efforts and what is more important than raising intact humans who will one day work in your schools, your churches, your hospitals and your government?
The tipping point is coming. People are waking up. Children raised in ways that harmed their souls, depleted their self-worth, and made them dismiss their authentic selves are now adults who are saying, “No more. There are better ways.”
Which is why I talk about it.
And keep talking about it.
We can and we will change the overall negative attitudes and behaviors towards children that have been part of our families and our society for too long.
Are you with me?
5 peaceful practices you can implement right now
- Make a commitment to yourself to change your attitude towards children. See them as humans who are fully capable and who deserve collaborative partnerships with loving caregivers not controlling and coercive parents.
- Stop participating in negative talk about children with other adults, ESPECIALLY in the child’s presence. Demeaning, shaming, or embarrassing an impressionable child who depends on you to be their number one advocate does not make them feel safe or respected.
- Include your child in decisions about things that directly affect him (clothing, food, schooling, sleeping arrangements to name a few). Keep the communication open constantly, even with very young children. You will be surprised to find the underlying reasons to some of your child’s concerns or behaviors are usually very easy to rectify.
- Seek support, guidance, and counseling if you feel lost, afraid, unsure, or worried. The resources available are endless and there are likely plenty of options in your own backyard. Being kind and compassionate to yourself is an integral part of peaceful parenting too.
- Listen to your child’s ideas, interests, wishes, and goals and make an effort to observe them more without commenting, making suggestions, or otherwise oppressing them with your adult-like know it all attitude. They offer you keys to their hearts all day long, but if you don’t listen, they will lock up and give the keys to someone or something else.
With abundant love,
Photo: Author and her baby girl.