What parent has not on occasion raised their voice to their child in an attempt to get a point across? While it may not be an effective way to address a situation, it is also not child abuse. It is just poor communication. However, there are many – far too many – parents who do nothing but yell at their children and in the process utter vile words that pierce the heart and psyche of the child. This is child abuse.
It is time to change the way we communicate with our children and embrace a form of communication that produces children who are well balanced and ready to function in society as adults who can express themselves in a healthy manner and do not need to resort to violence to get a point across.
Where do the wife-beaters of today come from? They were grown in our own homes and I would bet good money that most of them were raised in homes where yelling and hitting were commonplace. When a child sees such violence on a regular basis, it becomes normal to behave in the same manner.
Here is a simple scenario to consider. A mother asks her son to do a chore. The son is busy with his game or a playmate, so he does not do as he is told. The mother – who has worked all day, is extremely tired and wishes she could just relax instead of cooking a meal – reacts by either yelling at the child or by lashing him on the head (or maybe both).
Sure, the child will probably do as he was told at this point, but what has been sacrificed in the process? What’s lost is civility, the dignity of the child (which should be of utmost value to and protected by the parent) and an opportunity to teach the child to communicate in an effective and healthy manner when he is an adult.
We have created a society where children do not listen to parents, teachers or others who have their best interest at heart because they have become numb to the screaming and lashes. They have not learned healthy communication skills. They have not learned to value others because no one valued them. Some have even become resentful and strike out at the world for the pain inflicted.
I was an abused child and I know firsthand the lifelong damage it can inflict. I came across a quote that explains it well, “The most damaging aspect of abuse is the trauma to our hearts and souls from being betrayed by the people that we love and trust.” The abuse I suffered as a child at the hands of my own mother – physically, verbally and mentally – has affected every part of my life as an adult.
There is no relationship that has not been tainted by my mother’s relentless abuse. Where did she learn such behaviour? From her mother. Who probably learned it from her mother. I was adamant that my children would not learn violence from me and while I may not have been the most affectionate of mothers (intimate affection is extremely difficult for abuse victims), my children know I love them and they did not learn violence from me.
How on earth can anyone rationalise that intimidation, yelling and hitting are good for a child? How can anyone believe that demeaning and belittling children will help them? On the contrary, studies have shown that child abuse is highly detrimental.
A 2001 study in the American Journal of Psychiatry found that yelling and other forms of emotional abuse was a more significant predictor of mental illness than sexual and physical abuse. Moreover, abused children have health issues throughout their lives.
An article on PsychCentral.com entitled, “Health Effects of Child Abuse Continue for Decades,” had this to say about child abuse, “A long-term study of more than 3,000 middle-aged women discovers women abused as children spend up to one-third more than average in health-care costs. ‘What’s remarkable is that women with an average age in their late 40s still suffer consequences from abuse that occurred decades ago,’ said Amy Bonomi, associate professor of human development and family science at Ohio State University, who led the study at Group Health in Seattle.”
I prove this theory as well. I have health issues on a constant basis, some of which no doctor can put a name. As a result, I do not expect that I will live a long life. I expect that I will die relatively young. It is so sad to me when I realize that I still suffer mentally and physically now for the beastly abuse I suffered as a child.
For one moment, put aside all of that well-meaning advice from those who support corporal punishment – and put aside the examples provided to you by your parents, grandparents, teachers, etc. – and ask yourself if you want your child to suffer so much for the rest of her/his life because you would not take the time to teach healthy communication.
An African Proverb says, “A wicked elder sows suffering for his children.” I firmly believe that if we want a future society of adults who can communicate without yelling and hitting each other, we must raise children without yelling and hitting today.
Talk to your children about what you expect and give warnings and reminders without threats. Tell your child what to do rather than what not to do. For example, say, “When you clean up your room, then you can go outside with your friends.” Positive parenting can go a long, long way. It may not be easy to change parenting styles, but it is possible.
Happy and healthy kids today equals happy and healthy adults later on in life, which equals a happy and healthy society for all of us. It really is that simple. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Don’t turn a blind eye to the wickedness of child abuse.