APRIL IS CHILD ABUSE PREVENTION AND AWARENESS MONTH!
Today’s children are constantly surrounded by images of violence in this world whether it is at school on the playground, in the community, on the television or in video games but their homes should be a place of peace, solidarity, safety and nurturing. Unfortunately, for some children images of violence are just as prevalent in their homes more than ever but life does not have to stay this way. There are ways that parents can limit the images and impact of violence on their child’s life and start to create a safe home environment by implementing these 5 keys:
1. Understand your child’s developmental stage
Children are not mini adults that think logically, engage in abstract thinking or have the knowledge/wisdom to make good decisions all of the time. Frankly, sometimes parents’ expectations of their child’s mental and social abilities are not age-appropriate and lead to frustration and stress when the child is not responding in what they “perceive” to be acceptable. I believe that all parents should make it a point to study each stage of their child’s development so they understand what behavior is appropriate at what age. For example, it is important for the parent of a 1-year-old to understand that the child isn’t just trying to “test” them or being a nuisance when touching everything in the house but that it is necessary for them to explore their environment in order to learn. Learning what is age-appropriate development will help parents learn to respond to their child’s behavior in a more appropriate manner.
2. Understand what makes children angry
Adults are not the only people who get angry and express it in inappropriate ways. There are things that happen that make children angry and when they are not given the proper tools they will react inappropriately. Children will get angry/mad from infancy to adolescence and for very different reasons due to their developmental stage. Typically toddlers will get angry over not getting what they want, preschoolers will get angry when someone takes their toy, school-agers will get angry when they feel rejected and pre-teens & teens will get angry when they are socially isolated or feel inadequate. But whatever the reasons, it is necessary for parents to recognize what makes their children angry, validate their right to be angry and teach them the appropriate way to manage their anger. If we can understand what makes them angry then we can also make changes to their environment that can reduce frustration, anxiety and stress that may precede inappropriate expressions of anger.
3. Understand how to control your anger
It is not uncommon to see parents raise their children by the “do as I say not as I do rule” which causes a lifetime experience of confusion and hypocrisy. This basically means that a parent expects the child to ignore the lessons their parents are teaching by the behavior that they are modeling. This is often the case when parents become angry at their child and express this anger by hitting, yelling, throwing things, threatening, name calling, etc. When a parent does not know how to control their angry then they are basically inviting their children to model the same lack of control over their own anger. In order to control their anger when dealing with their child’s behavior parents can: 1. Take a deep breath before responding, 2. Think before you stink, and 3. Calmly respond (not react) to the situation.
4. Understand the difference between discipline and punishment
The average parent does not understand that there is a difference between punishing and disciplining their child. Punishing usually involves making a child feel bad, feel pain or humiliation for what they have done but doesn’t necessarily teach right from wrong to prevent them for doing it again. Discipline usually involves making kids feel better so they’ll behave better and training them to have self-control so they learn right from wrong and how to behave appropriately the next time. Overall, punishing is providing a temporary solution for unwanted behavior and discipline is providing an appropriate consequence to teach better decision-making in the future.
5. Understand the impact of media violence on your children
It’s 2014 and our children are growing up in the technology age where every part of their life involves some form of media influence due to their time with television, movies, gaming systems, music, computers, Ipods, handheld game systems, etc. However, it is still up to the parents to determine the age-appropriate amount of time that their child spends on media and the age-appropriate type of media their child is allowed to watch. Parents must monitor and supervise their children closely even when watching what we believe to be harmless cartoons as they may teach your children undesirable behavior. Parents must also understand that allowing their children to view tv shows, videos games or listen to music that shows acts of violence, lack of control, use of weapons, disrespect for human life, etc. negatively impacts their child’s thinking and behavior. Children and adolescence (especially when already dealing with emotional/mental challenges) are not always able to use logical and rational thinking as adults thus applying what they’ve seen or heard to real life situations. Therefore, it is extremely important that we have strict guidelines and limitations to media violence in our households. Parents should limit their children to no more than 30-45 minutes of screen time per day.
Although, we can add several strategies and keys to creating a safe home environment, if a parent can begin to implement these 5 keys into their family system it will have a positive impact on their children’s behavior and home environment.
Coaching you through it all…one step at a time!