It is my opinion that parents’ behavior toward their children is one of the reasons for the violence in our country today. For generations we have used negative parenting styles that have reaped havoc in the lives of our children. The authoritarian, military-type parenting style, where the child is shamed more than praised and should be seen and not heard has caused great damage to our families and the society. Show me an angry, uncontrollable, always-getting-into-trouble teenager, and I will show you a rigid, inflexible, delinquent parent. Show me a habitually violent teenager and I will show you a violent parent. Is it the teenager we must focus on to change his/her maladaptive behavior, or is it the parent with the non-productive parenting style?
It is imperative to understand that the word violent can be replaced with the word abuse. Violence can be physical (hitting, slapping, pushing, pinching, etc.) or non-physical (verbal, emotional, intimidation, etc.). The questionnaire below will help you to detect whether you are a violent or a non-violent parent. Remember, this questionnaire is not intended to replace professional assessment or treatment. It is only designed to help you think about your behavior as a parent towards your child.
If you answer yes to at least three of the statements below, you might be an emotionally violent parent and have a greater risk of becoming physically violent. It is important that you seek further assessment and treatment from a professional.
I scream and shout at my child.
I usually call my child names like “stupid” or “dummy” when I am not satisfied with his/her behavior, or emotional or academic performance.
I tell my child “you will never make it in life.”
I tell my child “you are just like your no-good father” or similar statements.
I very seldom hug and kiss my child.
I have difficulty commending my child for the good things he/she does around the house.
I ignore my child’s feelings when he/she is hurting. Instead I often say, “you will get over it.”
I physically punish my child each time he/she disobeys.
I use a piece of wood, tree branch, or belt buckle to beat my child.
When beating my child, I am usually very angry.
I often slap my child in the face when I feel he/she has embarrassed me.
I force my child to eat when he/she refuses to eat a meal.
I use the words, “I will kill you,” when my child makes me angry.
I push and shove my child in harsh ways.
I lock my child in a room for long periods at a time refusing to provide food or listen to his/her side of the story.
When my child cries because of my beating him/her, I continue to beat demanding that the crying ceases.
I make my child wash his/her mouth with bleach when he/she lies to saying mean things.
I physically punish my child if he/she does not make good grades in school.
I have forced or seduced my child into having sex with me.
I play with my child’s genitals for my personal gratification.
If you answered yes to any of these statements, you might be a violent parent and should seek further assessment and treatment from a professional.
Parents are our only hope for the future
It is imperative that parents realize that they hold the key to a non-violent society. Violent behavior first starts with the tongue. Parents need to learn how to talk so their children will listen, and listen so their children will talk. Angry parental outbursts can often be described by these words of a hurting child: “Mom and Dad, you’re talking so loudly, I cannot hear what you are saying.” Far too many parents ignore how violent their tongues are, causing severe emotional laceration and permanent wounds. Psalms 52:4 says: “The tongue deviseth mischief, like a sharp razor working deceitfully.” Parents who consider themselves Christians are often the most violent towards their erring children.
Child rearing does not come naturally to anyone. You are not a great parent by default. It calls for diligent study, wisdom, and knowledge. Take the time to think about what has been written in this column. You might be the nucleus for the beginning of a non-violent community. To have a non-violent nation, we must first have non-violent parents. Let it begin with you.
Barrington H. Brennen is a marriage and family therapist and board certified clinical psychotherapist. Send your questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or write to P.O. Box CB-13019, Nassau, The Bahamas, or visit: www.soencouragement.org or call 242-327-1980.