Sunday, November 25, 2007

... only better parenting will reduce youth violence

Image by*trixie-ville*'s photos

Columbine scared the nation out of its wits about 10 years ago. It was on the news and special reports for days in the aftermath of the massacre. Now school shootings seem to be routine like gang shootings in Allentown. Are we becoming immune to the violence? Or have we begun to think it's normal?

Our society and culture seem rooted in violence and it has become normal. Our homes are full of violence to children or in their presence. Our children witness politicians and government leaders using violence to solve conflicts and problems. TV, video games and movies suggest that violence is necessary and even brave. Psychologist Alice Miller states in her many books on child abuse that the violence we see on the news -- the gang shootings, the domestic violence, the school shootings -- are all found in the way children are parented.

She further asserts that in the name of ''good parenting'' and ''good discipline'' we teach our children to be violent. Children who have suffered spankings, beatings, humiliations and neglect in the name of discipline will either grow to act out their rage at their parents on their own children or anyone near them; or become depressed by suppressing their rage. Rage begins very early in life. Babies cry desperately in their cribs for their mother or father and the comfort they can give. Many are instructed and warned not to pick up their crying baby frequently to avoid ''spoiling'' her. Parents regularly ''spank'' (parent code for hitting) their children and believe the children are the better for it.

Many inmates in parenting classes in prison tell me that they were spanked and they turned out all right. Miller points out in her books that nearly all inmates were victims of ''discipline,'' spanking and child abuse. Many times inmates who have committed murder like serial killers will talk about their treatment as children. Chillingly, the stories they tell are not abuse to them, but are normal. The reasons for their brutality do not excuse their crimes. Instead, it is stark, horrifying reason for our society to look at the violence in ourselves.

Parents treat their children as they were treated as children unless they make a concentrated effort to change. Parents who call their child stupid, or say they are no good are enacting violence of the most insidious kind. Children internalize these words; after all, their parents said it was true. Is it any wonder that abused and neglected children grow into adolescents and adults full of rage? Child neglect viciously trains a child to believe he is unimportant. A child neglected will be as enraged as one who is obviously beaten and subjected to the worst possible punishments.

Yet incredibly when a child commits a school shooting or plans one, we ask why he has done it. No one looks to the parents, the home life and hold parents accountable for the rage they have instilled. One mother, who is being prosecuted, even bought the gun her son planned to use in a school shooting. Mistreated, abused and neglected children will likely be abused by their peers and are more vulnerable to perpetrators because they have no idea what is normal or who to trust, Miller states.

Not all children turn to violence. Some repress the rage only to become depressed and suicidal. Miller states that children abused and neglected are always left with brain and neurological damage, that is, lesions, which are permanent. Adult children of abuse struggle through life trying to find normalcy and form healthy relationships.

We don't need gun laws, we don't need tighter criminal laws and we definitely don't need more prisons where rage-filled people are abused and mistreated then released into the public. What we need is good, compassionate, kind, empathic parenting that meets the needs of the child without violence or neglect. A parent who reads Miller's book, ''Thou Shalt Not Be Aware,'' will be moved to change the way they parent their child. Parenting requires more than creating children and feeding them. It requires serious thought about how the child is to be parented from conception on. One by one, parents can choose to raise their child in a nonviolent home using nonviolent parenting methods. One by one, these parents will change the world.

By DeNise Watkins Hamilton

DeNise Watkins Hamilton of Bethlehem has a bachelor's degree in psychology and has been a licensed practical nurse for more than 30 years.

Source: The Morning Call

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