I never thought I would write a blog about corporal punishment or how wrong it is. I mean reams, literally reams has been written about this. On how corporal punishment is just wrong. Very few facts about parenting are stated so simply and plainly as this one. Yet parenting when it comes to our boys, does not seem to be changing much.
This set me thinking. Is it because somewhere the wood is being lost due to the trees? Is the link to violence in our world being strongly linked to the way children are exposed to violence and the way we parent them?
Then this last week, watching the news as I ran on my treadmill, made me think about this plain and simple parenting fact once again.
Did any of you see the following news clips this last week?
- Ukrainians raising Nazi slogans at a football match and kicking, punching, hitting Asian viewers, in a hate rage.
- Russian parliament – opposition parties having fist fights in the House of Governance.
In a flash I could see how I lost my temper, as my child willfully pulled down platefuls of food from the table as she had not been given what she wanted, and raised my hand to whack her little bottom and winced. Yes actually winced in regret, remorse and face palm kind of shaking understanding of how much wrong I had done to our world, with that one action. Of not being able to control my own impatience which resulted in temper, of not being able to hear or see what my child was actually saying, of not being able to understand the consequences of my action – had I continued with it.
If there was one dissent that I had with my husband in the early years of our marriage and children, it was when I raised my hand on them. This deterred me more than anything else could have and for this I thank him today from the bottom of my heart. Even today I lose my temper (my personality I’m afraid – I have spent years and years and years trying to control it, but that is a chapter for another blog) and I feel that surge of violence, where I can see only destruction in front of me and I run to the bathroom and lock myself away and keep washing my face to cool down. So that I do not ever, raise my hand on my children, again.
Thus this is a topic I feel very strongly about.
So now, one question: “how many of us baby boomers did not get a whack or two from our parents growing up? I believe my husband never did 🙂 I got many. I got into fisticuffs often with my siblings. We indulged in unbridled raw anger and animal behavior growing up. So now I look at the patterns and question myself, what was happening here. Are we perpetuating this cycle of violence?
Thus here is something to think about and stop that perpetuating cycle – especially for new parents.
Those above mentioned two events this past week just left me aghast. I watched these clips again and again on You Tube videos, with amazed horror of the sheer bestiality on display on my laptop screen. To be honest, there have been enough fist fights and scuffles in Parliaments across the world, including India, the UK and even America, between grown and ostensibly educated men. To say nothing of the violence and fisticuffs on a football field. However, this time upon watching these clips what struck me was the common theme of such happenings. Men of all classes and exposures – educated, professionals or hooligans were all alike when it came to such bestial behavior. It did not take a second for men of education and men of none to start fist fighting each other.
Made me think. How were these men brought up? What did they learn growing up? How come they cannot control their “animal” instincts. I must first apologize to animals here – as animals use brute strength to kill when they are hungry for food. Not for sport. Not due to lack of anger management skills. Not to make a point!
And which human being listens to any point, much less internalizes it, when it made by a fist in the area that hurts the most?
Yet we mothers do not learn. Mind boggling really. Yes you read right, I blame their mothers, those uncouth slur on mankind live pieces of flesh and bones I watched this week, attempting to use brute physical power to make a point. I am sure that either their mothers and / or their fathers used violence against them or they were exposed to some sort of violence growing up.
Just think about it for a minute, if you child does something wrong and usually does not listen to you, you slap or whack the child, what is the message you are giving to the child. That it is okay to use physical violence when the other person has done something you perceive to be wrong and does not listen to you! And thus a parent perpetuates the cycle of physical violence in this world. Just look at the underworld and the light will finally shine on you. The underworld anywhere – Latin America, India, Mexico, USA, Italy. Who are those that tend towards crime. I have not done or checked out with research, but I can bet you they are mostly the children who are used to physical violence at home.
My daughter plays football, my son does not. Has anybody ever seen a female football team playing the game? I urge all you new mothers and fathers of sons to do this. I vouch that when the going gets tough in the game, females play using technique, skill and strategy. Males in similar situations use brute force! This is not corrected when boys start playing football at two years old. In fact, this is encouraged. Parents feel secretly proud if their boy tackles the opponent boy and wrestles the ball away. Coaches do not call foul. If a child gets hurt, he is pulled out of the game and the game goes on. There is no penalty for brute force. Till it is brutal. Why?
Just a simple question – why? Why is skill, strategy and team work not celebrated? Why is brute force acceptable? Why is brute force understood as ‘part of the game’?
One more question: how many of us mothers of sons have purchased guns, pistols, swords, bows and arrows, toy soldiers and tanks and other even more 21st Century weaponry as toys for our boys without even thinking about it? How many of us mothers of boys have sat back and enjoyed our son physically spar with his friend, all in play, as his father and mother looked fondly on?
The point I am making is that to stop the violence that wracks our world, from grown and ostensibly educated men in the government house to wars on a battle field, we have to stop our sons from using their fists when the going gets tough.
How to do this. Here are some simple steps I have learned as I was “growing up” nurturing my own children:
- It is okay for your son to cry, even at 16 years old. Or even at 18. Or your husband too to cry when he is emotional. It is important to communicate this to them. Clearly and ambiguously. Do restrain from placating with words like “big boys do not cry” or “come on stop crying now and be a man” and such like asinine stuff.
- Never ever (no matter what the provocation) raise your hand on your children – boy or girl.
- When you see your boy using physical force to make a point with his siblings, friends, co-students, stop it at once. Liken such behavior as being inferior to a dumb animal behavior even.
- Speak about emotions with your son, on love, hate, jealousy, sadness, pain, joy, greed and sensitivity. Let your boy/s understand that an emotional quotient of any human is what makes for success or not.
- When you see your boy getting emotional (quivering lip, watery eyes, strained body, stiff posture are just a few physically visible signs), cradle him in your lap and let him cry, let him vent.
- Do not buy weapon toys for your boys. Take a maybe “dramatic” stance (according to some) against it. It will be worth it when you see your boy using his brain more than brawn in play. Board games like Risk teach strategy in war and kids are curious about wars, so this is one way of having a communication about war and its implications.
- If you see your son play with a doll, don’t snatch it away and behave like blasphemy has been committed and that your son may turn gay! Seriously, a son being gay or not has nothing to do with playing with dolls as a child.
- Never, ever ever tolerate your boy getting into fisticuffs with anyone.
Okay here I want to qualify point number 8 with a story. When the whole physical violence thing dawned on me, my son was still just 7 years old. I remember having many conversations with him about not ever resorting to physical violence etc (as I have said above), till one day he asked me “so if someone is beating me up, I should just get beaten? Is this what you are saying?” I said “no never tolerate physical violence directed at you or at anyone else.” After having said this, all those stories that I have heard flashed into my mind about good men going to help women / other men against whom violence is being played out unfairly and get hurt badly at the least or lose their life at worst. I had to think about this one. After a few days I sat him down and said “if there is physical violence being used against you, you have to stop it. So do whatever it takes. However, remember that you must never incite physical violence nor encourage it. When you see physical violence happening and men becoming worse than animals, I want you to walk away. Only stop it, if there is no other option available.”
I am convinced that if we mothers understand what is happening around us in our world today is directly related to the way we bring up our boys, then maybe our world will reflect the superiority of our species more. Right now it reflects more about how pernicious our species is!