Parenting for Non-Violence

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We certainly struggle as parents when we hear about school violence. As we read the news feed and try to understand the family dynamics of the young men who engage in school shootings, we often ask: where were the parents? how did this happen? Clearly mental health issues can be a cause for such behavior - I am not solely blaming the parents here - yet we as parents can choose to be actors in our children's lives in ways that can hopefully help to prevent such tragedies.

I believe we can actually parent for non-violence. Most of our children have a natural tendency to do "the next right thing" - what Quakers call "growing into goodness." Our parenting style can support this process if we have a belief in the innate goodness of each individual. We can also undermine the confidence of our children if we believe that our role is "spare the rod and spoil the child" when disciplining them. Discipline - which comes from the Latin word "discere" (which means "to follow" as in a "disciple") - can certainly happen without violence. Discipline based upon natural consequences allows our children to face the results of their actions, be responsible, and still maintain their dignity.

So if we ask ourselves, "what is violence?" - what comes up for us? If we were to brainstorm a list of behaviors that are "violent" we might begin with the more physical examples (hitting, spanking, fighting) but soon we must move to more emotional examples (shaming, verbal abuse, gossip, neglect, withdrawal) as well as cultural forms of violence (sexism, racism, elitism, ageism, ableism). Do we really want to be "violent" with our children?

If we ask ourselves, "what is non-violence?" - a different set of behaviors and values emerge: love, respect, inclusion, community, peace, service to others, and others. So how can our parenting embrace these values?

There is a good formula for addressing issues: it is "non-violent communication" as defined by a psychologist named Marshall Rosenberg. It goes like this:

·        Observe without judgment: instead of saying "you are such a slob - just look at this room!" you can say "I see a room with dirty dishes, clothes all over the floor, and an unmade bed."

·        State your feelings: begin with "I" and take ownership for what you feel. "I feel sad and discouraged when I see this room."

·        State your needs: "I need a home where I can feel comfortable to walk into any room." Kids need to know that parents have needs, too.

·        Make a request: "I want this situation taken care of as soon as possible. If not there will need to be consequences."

Think about what this means: a child can correct her behavior without feeling attacked. That is parenting for non-violence.

All of us do better when we have the opportunity to make adjustments and maintain our dignity. Let's reduce violence in the world by beginning with our own families.

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This page contains a single entry by John published on March 13, 2018 5:34 PM.

Raising Kids Who Bounce Back was the previous entry in this blog.

The Secret of Parenting: Just Show Up is the next entry in this blog.

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