Children learn by example — good and bad
March 21, 2003
By this time most of America has seen the disturbing footage aired in September on prime time news of a mother physically assaulting her 4-year-old child. The reality of such incidents occurring in this country is overwhelming. The unfortunate truth is that many adults who are physically abusive to their children have no idea of the emotional damage they are inflicting on these youngsters.
Sure, this mom has tried to explain away her monstrous actions. “I was in a bad mood, I am not a monster.” However, these excuses are far from the truth. The more logical approach to understanding such violence is to look at her upbringing.
When we are young we rely on our parents or primary care-giver to teach us how to soothe and calm ourselves at times when we are overwhelmed with aggression, anxiety, fear, and other such emotions. If such guidance and role modeling is unavailable, young people are left to their own devices and, consequently, this often results in violence. Therefore it is the responsibility of all adults to educate themselves and to teach the children in their lives healthy ways to let go of aggressive energy.
Things such as organized sports, physical exercise, playing or listening to music, and writing in a journal can all be effective outlets for aggression. If children learn to let go of aggressive energy only through physical violence, then it safe to assume that they will pass on this same detrimental coping mechanism to the next generation. Thus, perpetuating the cycle of abuse.
We at Tahoe Youth and Family Services are committed to empowering children and their families to understand the nature of aggression and to adopt healthy and effective ways to deal with such emotions. By no means is there any valid excuse to justify the violent act that this mother is guilty of committing toward her child. However, it is a slap in the face reminder that there is an immediate need for stress and anger management education in this society.
In an effort to stop this cycle of abuse we are working to educate our adult clients on the importance of positive discipline. It is also our goal to promote healthy ways for the children we work with to express aggressive feelings. Please join us in an effort to stop the physical abuse of children in our community.
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Kelly Webb works for Tahoe Youth and Family Services. She may be reached at (530) 541-2445.
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