When it comes to the subject of child abuse, having open dialogue can be tricky. Many people define it differently and feel as though it’s no one’s business to impose any restrictions on any singular parent. Many parents feel as though no one is entitled to say anything to them regarding their parenting skills, but unfortunately for some, I’m that woman.
While I do feel as though most parenting tactics are and should be solely at the discretion of the parent, there is an absolute limit to that freedom. The clearest limit being that of violence.
I do not believe in violence. Period. I do not believe in aggressive behavior towards anyone – verbal or otherwise. That being said, self-defense is a different story, so bear that in mind while you read this. We are all entitled to a right to life and to protect that life at all costs, so I am not arguing against the concept of defending one’s self. What I am arguing against is the use of violence, specifically towards children as a child-rearing practice.
My specialization in children’s rights from UCL’s School of Public Policy allowed me to create a political theory for the promotion of children’s rights. Partially based on a dominant theory of child development called Attachment Theory, and the modern conception of what it means to be a child, I crafted a thoroughly researched concept called The Child-Centric Framework (CCF).
To begin, the basis of Attachment Theory is that the relationships we form throughout the rest of our lives are based on our relationships with our primary caregivers. If that is a positive experience, we develop a positive attachment style, and if it’s negative, we develop a negative attachment style. These attachment styles shape who we attach to later on and throughout life (i.e. partners and friends).
Knowing this, I researched how we view the child in modern society and found that the child’s world is particularly separate from the adult’s world. Their sphere is completely different, their world, completely different. Yet, we all start off our lives mostly within the confines of the private sphere – the home. Many of our first real interactions with the public are once we are in school.
CCF states that policymakers should place children’s rights as a high priority in public policymaking to best ensure the mental health of it’s populace. We can tell there is a mental health crisis, I identified this years before my interaction with the system, but just in the faces and stories of those around me. And any good businessman or woman knows that a happy team is an effective team.
Recently I’ve seen a lot of commentary online in support of child-rearing that includes spanking. I can tell you now, that instilling pain and fear in a child is not the way to teach the lesson, and instead creates an actual rift between you and your child. I was spanked as a child, and I do not remember a damn thing that I did that was wrong, just that I didn’t like it.
I am coming from the perspective of a child who was molested, spanked and went on to specialize in children’s rights. I know child abuse. I created this theory basing what I knew in my heart was right with the scientific and qualitative reasoning behind it. And I am bringing up this conversation right now because I don’t want to have to wait for something terrible to happen in order to have this dialogue.
In 2014, Adrian Peterson hit his 4-year old son’s naked body with a switch. The intent, was to teach the child simply not be violent. His son had pushed another child off of a motorcycle game at an arcade, and Peterson thought the best way to teach his son not to be violent was to use violence?
My confusion with this practice is that using violence to teach that lesson, does not teach a child that “violence is not the answer” but that “Yes, violence is the answer, when in the right hands, with the right intention.” Long-term, it further perpetuates the cycle of violence and creates a higher likelihood of violent behavior towards future generations.
Beating a child for “out of control” behavior, does not teach the child not to be out of control, but is a control tactic, used often by positions of authority, to subdue the subject. It instills fear into the child, and results in an overall distrust of the parent or authority using the violence, and leads to an ultimate lack of mutual respect. Breaking down the relationship between the child and the caregiver.
The other day the subject of child abuse appeared on my Twitter timeline. Talib Kweli was taking on backwards Twitter users (as he so often does) on the subject of hitting their children. I don’t know where the conversation began, but I got involved at a certain point and carried out a discussion with one user in particular who vehemently disagreed with my position.
What I learned from that online dialogue is that when it comes to how to raise our children, people will undoubtedly disagree, as they should when it comes to many child-rearing practices. Having said that, I will always cross that line with anyone who thinks that raising a hand to their children is acceptable behavior.
By law, a child falls under the jurisdiction of his or her parents until the age of 18. Meaning that the child must adhere to the rules set out by the parent, and in most cases, continue living with those parents until he or she is of age to move out. For children in abusive homes, this is akin to a jail sentence. If appropriate punishment in a household is the use of violence, then why are we outraged by other uses of violence? Why should it be okay for a parent to hit his or her child and not a correctional officer in a juvenile detention hall? If a parent can hit a child, who’s to say who can’t?
Violence in the home is the most rampant form of violence in our society, but one that you don’t really hear about in the media unless something horrific happens. It took the Peterson incident in 2014 to get people talking about children’s rights in the media, a discussion that needs to be had. Children are not well-represented in society, since their world is significantly separate from the adult world. The workforce (which is where most of our time is spent) is a relatively child-free world, therefore we do not get to hear their voices very often.
Many people argue “well my Mom hit me, and I turned out great, so I’m going to do the same with my child” but that thinking is backwards. It’s not okay if your mother or father hit you, and that does not justify the use of violence against a child in any respect. Violence breeds more violence, and in order to stop the use of violence in society in general, the change must start at home.
And that’s where CCF comes back in. The change that CCF hopes for, starts at the macropolicy level but essentially the most work is done at the home level. Meaning, by influencing public policy agenda, replacing the end goal of all policy decisions with children’s rights in mind (the argument of the thesis) allows for us to make forward-minded decisions such as how we treat our children. This change would have to come from the highest levels of government first, as is stated in Ecological Systems Theory (EST, the second psychology theory CCF is based on): the macrosystem level is where the social conception of reality is formed. Macro policies trickle down to all of the different sectors of society and influence what people think of a given subject matter. That being said, our concept of who a child is (i.e. someone we can use force against or not) would be altered if media campaigns were done en masse to help change public opinion.
Our children are our future. As cliché as that many sound, it’s the God-honest truth and reality. They may be in school now, but school is just training for “real life” and creates a citizen, not a person. That job is up to you–the parent. But as a children’s rights activist, it’s my job to write this piece. I did the hard work so that I could speak on this issue in an educated manner one day, and that’s what I’m doing.
If you think the way to gain a child’s respect is to hit them, then you need to do some serious soul-searching. Ask yourself some serious questions. Because violence, while a seemingly appropriate short-term solution to some, is not a long-term resolution. In fact, long-term, it is simply destructive, and I highly doubt that any parent wants to do that.
Now you know about CCF. Feel free to insert it into your discourse. Hashtag it if you feel so inclined. I intend to too.