I see abuse on a continuum from yelling at children who are doing developmentally appropriate child behaviors, calling someone names or making fun of their differences, kicking the dog or using your child as a punching bag because you had a stressful day at work, to road rage because someone cut you off in traffic and you took it as some personal affront to you, getting impatient with a loved one because they haven’t met your expectations, etc. You get the picture.
We are stuck in survival mode where minor everyday occurrences have become a matter of life and death. Couple that with the means to do massive destruction with weapons and a hair trigger that humanity is turning on itself. What kept our ancestors alive (solution) has now become our road to self-destruction (problem), unless we wake up and makes some changes.
I believe that we cannot prevent child abuse until we take a soul-searching look into our individual lives and how we non-consciously contribute to the ongoing violence in the world.
We hear multiple reasons for what makes a person violent to a child: they were abused, they were drinking or on some type of drug. Often the child is blamed for the adult’s behavior, “If they had just shut up crying, I wouldn’t have hit them.” How often do we make our children responsible for our feelings? “Daddy gets angry when you spill your milk. Don’t do that.” Or “You are just trying to make me have a bad day by not brushing your teeth. Now we have to go back and get it done.” How are children to learn they are responsible for their behavior if we don’t model that in ours?
We have our reasons for all manner of behavior that we do. But at the end of the day the reasons don’t really matter. Reasons change nothing. Children still experienced what they have experienced at the adults’ hands.
We have laws to protect children, yet abuse continues. Children are removed from abusive parents, yet abuse continues. People are arrested, tried, convicted and sentenced, yet abuse continues. With all of what we are doing why hasn’t child abuse become an idea whose time has gone?
And what about the subtle ways we injure our children that haven’t been labeled child abuse? What about emotional absence? What about giving our children things but not ourselves? What about being emotionally absent from each other? Our divorce statistics point to that. Our children are learning by watching us model what love is (for good or ill). What are your children witnessing?
Laws, legislation, sermons, and education do not change the heart and souls of humans. Transformation must come from within. How can transformation happen when we continue using punitive, punishing, fear-based tactics as the solutions to violence? How can we teach people that violence is wrong by using violence against them? Have our solutions become the problem?