Peace and Non Violent Parenting

Understanding individuals who are chronically violent by looking at the root causes of their behavior,a common factor emerges. That is, those individuals with more violent ways of managing conflict are most likely to have been exposed to trauma related to some form of violence in their early development. Though self evident, the long term effects for the individual ,and for society, of children's early exposure to violence are only more recently being fully appreciated. Even when determined not to,many adults exposed to violence in their childhoods practice violent or harsh parenting towards their own children. Consequently,generational patterns of violence in the home can become entrenched. Interestingly, research in child development that involves careful assessment of children's histories, has broadened common notions of what is considered violence to include yelling, harsh shaming language, witnessing of violence , and harsh physical handling. The research has also broadened the definition of trauma to now include violence and other forms of abuse into a dynamic now called developmental trauma or developmental stress disorder.

Though the mental health community is now more aware of how adults who struggle with emotional regulation, especially with respect to anger, have developmental trauma related to violence, this information should be the topic of discussion among all those who consider what healthy parenting consists of. To be a parent is an instinct but how to parent is often really a result of what you experienced as a child and ,therefore, is a learned process. If a parent recognizes that they want to parent differently from how they were parented they will need something to replace the approaches they are rejecting. This often takes courage to say you need new ideas from a source that specializes in good parenting skills. Good parenting promotes a child's sense of safety in the world- that they are valuable and that they can manage their feelings when life gets stressful. These elements lead to better outcomes for the adult that child becomes in terms of their having more self esteem and better interpersonal skills. A major controversy exists around the physical disciplining of children . I feel strongly as a therapist that there are other ways to educate a child. Discipline is a must but there are other approaches than spanking , which is really a form of hitting, to help children learn right from wrong. I encourage parents who are are thinking about non violent parenting in general, to do their own research on this one part of the complicated topic of parenting. Spanking does work at times to change behaviors but often at too great a cost in terms a child's self esteem and general sense of security. As a community, let's consider ways to redefine the rod and that we approach each other's parenting style without judgment as we recognize we may only be acting out what we have learned.

Martin Pool, LCSW is a Clinical Associate with Family Guidance Centers. He provides individual, child, family, and marital therapy. He can be reached at 804-743-0960 or can be emailed at contact@familyguidancecenters.com.