My focus lately has been on family axioms – values and virtues that we overtly speak over our children describing the kind of people we are (ahem, suppose to be.) Call it a motto, maxim, adage, rallying cry….
My sister-in-law introduced me to The Total Transformation program. James and Janet Lehman have a direct, behavioral approach, which has significantly influenced my parenting.
Listening to the audio program, one of the truths that first hit home with me was, “There is no excuse for abuse.”
“He provoked me.”
“But she called me a name.”
“We were just rough-housing.”
“She’s such an idiot.”
“He started it.”
There are many reasons (read, excuses) children can come up to justify abusive behavior. And dare I say it, there are many reasons parents can give for allowing abusive behavior.
“They were just rough-housing.”
“I’m just too exhausted to deal with it.”
“She kept provoking him.”
“They are going to have to learn how to deal with bullying at some point.”
“Survival of the fittest.”
“He has to learn how to be a man.”
Do you think I am sounding judgmental right now? I’m sorry mom, am I the only one here with the ability to notice when horsing-around morfs into full-contact-sparring morfs into a straight-up-street-fight!?? We spend their whole toddlerhood imploring, “Let’s use our words….” Why can’t that continue into age 8, 10, 12? We still need to fine-tune the skill of word-using well into our teens, twenties and beyond!
Whether it is physical or verbal, there is NO excuse for abuse.
Did you hear about the 9 year old boy who nearly killed himself because he was bullied for liking My Little Pony? Or the girl who was abused for liking StarWars? Or the boy who wouldn’t go back to school because he liked Justin Bieber?
Ok, but back to siblings and friends.
Even the slightest lackadaisical attitude toward our childrens’ aggressive interactions, can send the message that abuse is ok. We give them an inch, they take a mile. We have to be on top of it – – at all times. Otherwise, we allow inappropriate words and actions, which can cause emotional damage.
These little ones are intelligent, they get it. It’s ok to call our children to a higher standard. They actually want that! No matter what they see and hear at school or at church. No matter what they hear at soccer or swim. Our children will follow our example and will live out the values we set for them. But that’s the catch: WE HAVE TO SET THOSE VALUES!
How do I live this out?
When my kids raise their voice: I stop the conversation and ask for a restart. I coach them through an appropriate way to express their feelings.
When my kids start to get physical: I press pause and examine the situation. In our experience, I have a BIG kid 12 year old who understands that he can use his physical body to intimidate his siblings. I stop the situation and coach the 12 year old toward articulating his feelings with his words rather than with his body. I acknowledge his size, resourcefulness and passion, but the child gets disciplined for using his big presence for intimidation. I ask him to imagine a time when his size can be used for good – for rescuing someone perhaps? Or for shielding a person from harm?
And then there are my little two: scrappy, nimble, ninjas. These kids jump and kick and scratch and flip – POW, WALLUP, THWAPP! If I can catch them in action (which is rare because they are so fast), I bring the martial arts to a screeching hault. I remind them that while it is amazing to see their ninja skillz, they must respect each other and remember that sparring can be fun – until someone gets hurt. This is not a SPIKE-TV kickboxing match. No one is getting paid to crush their opponent. Remain present in the situation. Encourage and help one another, don’t just go-in-for-the-kill. 🙂
As parents, we know our kids. We recognize patterns. We know when a situation becomes RED ALERT. We understand the difference between a heated discussion and a full-blown-fight.
Am I suggesting – don’t fight? NO. Rather, I am suggesting that we stay engaged and involved in the interactions our children are having with their siblings, playmates and friends. We filter words, tone, attitude, and physical presence – to raise children to a higher standard of relating.
NOTE: This article does not deal with sexual abuse.
This article does not deal with spanking/corporal punishment.
It is assumed that parents reading this article are at a balanced level regarding discipline with children.