Today my daughter and I were walking down the street and we saw these three young boys playing with balloons. They each had around 6 balloons tied in a big bunch and they were running around hitting each other with them and laughing.
The father was sitting nearby looking pretty grumpy.
Maybe he was having a hard day?
At one point he said to the kids
“Stop hitting each other with those balloons or I will take them away from you.”
I imagine he was thinking that hitting is wrong and he wanted his kids to stop hitting each other.
In and of itself there’s nothing wrong with wanting to impart values to your children. In fact I think that is perhaps one of the primary roles of a parent.
Kids Learn From Our Example
The problem is, children learn very much from what they see and much less from what we tell them. This means that the example we set will be the deeper guiding force in what message they receive.
In this case the threat of taking away these balloons, which were bringing these young boys so much joy, is an act of violence in itself.
Secondly if he actually follows through on his threat and takes the balloons away,
that would be yet another act of violence.
Guaranteed when he does so he would be angry and the emotions that he projects onto his children is the third act of violence.
So in this very short interaction he is demonstrating using violence to control other people’s behaviour.
Control Through Power And Violence
The only reason his violence was acceptable and their violence was not is that he has a stronger violence. He has physical, emotional and financial and housing power over these children therefore he is able to use his violence unopposed.
The message he is sending his children is:
Whoever has the strongest violence gets to make the rules.
I think if he were to see this is what he was doing he might change his behaviour.
I hope this is the case.
I hope inside his heart he has a true desire to teach a less violent way to his children and is just unaware that he is actually teaching them the opposite.
Examine Our Own Parenting Habits
It is a worthwhile exercise to examine all the ways in which you interact with your children to see if there is any violence or misuse of power in your relationship.
Do you use any threats?
Do you use the fact that they are helpless?
Do you use the fact that they are reliant upon you
for their sustenance and safety?
Do you use the fact that you have money and they don’t?
All of these are ways in which we control our kids.
They send the message that if you have more power over someone you can make them do what you want them to do. Even if it’s against what they want. Not only that you CAN do this, but that you SHOULD do this.
Self-Evaluation Is Painful And Difficult
It is very difficult to do this kind of evaluation and face these things, for a couple of reasons.
1) because we have to then recognize where we might have being hurting our children. This is very difficult to face and one of the primary reasons that people do not regularly evaluate their parenting choices. It is one of the reasons that people just continue on the habits and traditions that they are presently stuck in.
2) it is painful to do this kind of evaluation also because it requires us to change.
Change is always difficult especially for long-held habits.
It requires a lot of attention and effort.
And yet if we want to teach our children good values I submit to you that using violence and power to do so is less effective than communication, collaboration, cooperation and reasoning.
What do you think of this idea?