PEACEFUL PARENTING (PART TWO)
(KUNM Airdate: 5/27/05)
This month, the series on peacemaking and nonviolent conflict resolution strategies spotlights peaceful parenting. You'll hear a discussion about how to raise children in a supportive, nonviolent environment. Host Carol Boss welcomes Ruth Beaglehole, Founder and Executive Director of the Center for Nonviolent Education and Parenting, based in Los Angeles.
Ms. Beaglehole advocates a “no tolerance” policy regarding any form of violence to children and makes her case that children deserve human rights protection. "Child abuse laws say that we can spank our children as long as we don't leave a bruise,” she tells Boss. “Well, for those of us who worked in the early days of the domestic violence prevention movement, that's not what we said about women—that hitting was okay if it didn't leave a bruise. We wanted the violence to stop.” Ruth gives practical tips for developing a cooperative relationship with children that addresses situations of difficult behavior. She also takes some challenging questions from 12-year old Evan Moulson, whom we invited into the studio to join us.
This is our second program on peaceful parenting. You can read about and hear our other program featuring Dr. Victor LaCerva by clicking here.
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(transcription courtesy Rogi Riverstone)
CAROL BOSS, HOST: What does nonviolence mean in terms of relating to children?
RUTH BEAGLEHOLE: Nonviolence means using no violence towards a child's mind, their heart or their body. It is not the definition of child abuse, which says that you can spank a child, punish a child, as long as you don't leave a bruise. My definition - the definition we use - is zero tolerance for all violence. There's to be no place for any form of hurt towards a child's mind, heart or body.
BOSS: Would you elaborate on what you mean by violence to the mind and the heart?
BEAGLEHOLE: Violence of the mind is where children are told that they're stupid, that they don't know; that they can't learn: "How come you don't know how to do this? How many times have I got to tell you how to do something?" Rather than: "This is hard. You're learning. It takes a lot of trying to learn how to do something new. You're a really smart person." Violence to the heart is a combination of all these things: name calling, spanking, ear pulling, slapping on the mouth, threatening to wash their mouths out with soap, pulling hair, putting down their creative talents and their minds . . . all of this goes to the heart. The child thinks, "This must mean I'm not a good person. I'm not smart. I don't know how to do things right. I'm not as equal to other people. I'm bad."
BOSS: I know in 1997 you brought people together for what you called the "Day of Dialogue," which became a regular, bi-monthly event. It's been an opportunity to discuss the ways their lives were impacted by violence, and explore ways of eradicating violent patterns, at a personal and a community level. What would be some practical information to share with listeners about community dialogue, that has come from these Days of Dialogue?
BEAGLEHOLE: Recently, in our Days of Dialogue, we've been actually visioning what it would be, to have a society without violence for children. It translates to, for instance: when we're in the supermarket and we see a family in line. For those of us who don't have children with us, or are not in a hurry, to say to people in line, "Why don't we let these people with children go in front? I'm perfectly fine, waiting a minute. Would that work for you?" When we see a stressful situation, to be comfortable -and not in a righteous way - but to be able to go up to a family and say, "Is there something I could do to help right now? Can I hold your bag while you pick up your child? Can I offer some support?" Sometimes, people will be angry. That's true. Not everybody welcomes this. But I've had experience where people have said, "Oh, yes, thank you." I had one woman who said, "Give me a hug! Nobody knows how hard it is!" She had three, little kids in a market. I've also had somebody else who told me they would meet me outside. And I had the security guard walk me out. But visioning this change means that we have to - like any movement - be proactive. We have to give voice, we have to advocate for children. Even if the parent can't hear. Maybe that child will feel, "well, not everybody thinks I should be hurt."
BOSS: You also say, there's the larger issue of this being a human rights issue.
BEAGLEHOLE: This is a very profound thought for me - that children are the last group to be protected. We have child abuse laws, but these laws say that we can spank children, as long as we don't leave a bruise. For those of us who worked in the very beginnings of the domestic violence movement, that's not what we said about women. We wanted the violence to stop. So, with my definition of violence being anything that hurts a child - and I don't mean sad feelings - I mean hurts their self esteem, their sense of worth, their sense of smartness, their sense of creativity, their sense of voice to speak up for social justice. If that's what we believe, then we have to have a social justice movement for children.
BOSS: Do you have any suggestions, perhaps a few, key strategies, for parents who are listening now about how to create a more peaceful home and more peaceful relationships between family members?
BEAGLEHOLE: Every child -- and this is the most beautiful piece of this nonviolent philosophy to me - every child is motivated by the best intent to meet a need to solve a problem. You have that little, two-year-old, picking up that huge pitcher of milk. And then, it spills. Well, we so often place the emphasis on the spill, rather than, "my God, this child is really trying to be independent, to manage something." They watched Mommy and Daddy do it. They're wanting so much to do it; they just don't have the coordination. So, rather than, "that milk is spilled again!" and a slap on the hand, try saying, "you really want to pour your own milk. Let me get you a pitcher and put a little bit in it that you'll be able to manage. That big pitcher is so heavy, isn't it?" If I can understand that my child's behavior is always motivated with the best intention, I let go of bad behavior.
BOSS: Is there a difference between punishment and discipline?
BEAGLEHOLE: I've come to find that I try to avoid both words - punishment and discipline. The problem I have with it is people are clear what punishment is. But, with discipline - positive discipline might be taking away a child's favorite thing. I tell the story that a bath is my favorite thing. And, if somebody was mad at me and said to me, "you can't have a bath for a week," it sounds ludicrous to an adult. It has no connection to problem solving. It has no connection to being in a relationship. I like to think about children learning self discipline, by being supported through a connected relationship that's based on understanding feelings, needs, through empathy, which is trying to imagine what the other person feels.
BOSS: What about limits? Because I would imagine that parents do need to do that, to some extent.
BEAGLEHOLE: Absolutely. Sometimes, people say, "oh, so you think children should just do anything, anything they want. If they want to swing from the chandeliers, that's ok. No. Limits have to be there for safety reasons, for reasons of socialization. Every family has family values. But they're not power-over orders, demands, like the military. They grow from the organic nature of being in community, of being connected, of being respected.
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