Violent Behavior and Positive Parenting
The first purpose of a clear prohibition of violence is educational – to send a clear message that all violence against children is unacceptable and unlawful and to reinforce positive, non-violent social norms. – Paulo Sergio Pinheiro–.
An Act Relative to Nonviolent Discipline has been introduced in Massachusetts for Family Nonviolence Inc by State Representative Vinny. deMacedo. Below is a summary of the reason for this legislation.
It was not until the 1970s that researchers in the academe earnestly researched why so many family members, intimate partners and peers use assaultive, battering and/or coercive behavior to “get their way” regardless of age gender or sexual orientation. Massachusetts General Law 209A, section (a) defines “abuse” between family or household members as “attempting to cause or causing physical harm (1).” Through a number of Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decisions the court has held that “under certain circumstances” beating a child with a belt is a “reasonable force” and not “abuse” concerning parental corporal punishment (2). Family NonViolence Inc. is supporting legislation that would open a dialogue to discuss what FNI believes is a disconnect of logic and common sense concerning these two propositions. To date, this attempt to engage members of the legislature, the media and the general public in this discussion has received little to no support. FNI urges you to visit their website at http://familynonviolence.wordpress.com/ for more details. Interveners for child, sibling, spousal, intimate partner, elder abuse and bullying agree that anyone who remains a bystander is silently condoning the behavior they witness. FNI urges you to contact members of the legislature, the media and discuss this issue among colleagues, family and friends.
(1) Massachusetts General Law 209A, section (a). (2) See Commonwealth v. O’Connor, 407 Mass. 663 (1990); Donald R. Cobble, Jr. vs. Commissioner of the Department of Social Services; Commwealth v. Rubeck 64 Mass Appt. Ct 396; Massachusetts Law Updates, Spanking and the Law – http://masslawlib.blogspot.com/2007/11/spanking-and-law.html
By state statutory law domestic violence is defined as child, sibling, dating, intimate partner, spousal or elder abuse (WomensLaw.org, 2010). Domestic violence is the multilevel, multifaceted use of manipulative or coercive behavior and/or physical assaults with the objective of changing or controlling the behavior of a family member or intimate partner with the intent of achieving a specific goal. This behavior ranges from threats, to injurious, sexual and lethal assaults.
Bullying as well as acquaintance and stranger violence are also the multilevel, multifaceted use of manipulative or coercive behavior and/or physical assaults with the intent of changing or controlling the behavior of a peer, acquaintance or stranger with the objective of achieving a goal (Murphy, 2010). These behaviors also range from threats to injurious, sexual and lethal assaults.
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence defines domestic violence as a pattern of behavior used to establish power and control over another person through fear and intimidation, often including the threat or use of violence, when one person believes they are entitled to control another. This behavior may seem familiar to many parents because it is how they choose to raise their children.
Recent research documents that most coercive behavior or physical assaults do not spontaneously appear the first day children attend school. Most often dating violence does not mysteriously arrive when young adults date. The majority of intimate partner violence does not suddenly occur when dating couples reach adulthood or marry. Elder abuse does not inexplicably emerge when adults become elders. Research clearly documents that most often these behaviors are linked to one another and one is often the precursor to another.
A National Research Council (NRC) report documents that too often research on familial violence against women has been isolated from the research of violence in general. The NRC urges an end to this almost total separation of research that can hinder, not help, the exploration of proactive solutions for all forms of violent and abusive behavior regardless of age, gender or sexual orientation.
Empirical research about violent behavior documents there are far more similarities than differences linking family, intimate partner, acquaintance, stranger violence and bullying behavior. One use of family violence often begets another. The cycle of violence will not end by breaking the middle or last link. Fragmented research, differing research methodologies and ideologically held beliefs sometimes create as much confusion as clarity.
Culture of violence
In a Boston Globe article Spike in violence has city on edge , the Boston Police report homicides and shootings are on the rise again. This most recent spike in violence has raised calls for more patrols and tougher firearm penalties. Both, at best, are temporary reactive interventions that provide little to no life span or communitywide violence prevention. However, the last sentence in the above article does note both cause and solution. Police Commissioner Davis notes that, “There is a cultural norm that we’re fighting that really needs to be addressed.” There are also members of the Boston clergy who are working to break the culture of violence.
Some neighborhoods and families are disproportionately at risk. Those at highest risk are families in crisis because of violence in the home and neighborhood either witnessed or as victims, cyclical poverty, chronic unemployment, lack of education, family support, chronic alcohol and/or drug abuse and individuals affected by emotional disorders.
A Boston Globe columnist writes that neither the mayor, the police commissioner, nor the district attorney know what to do to end the cycle of violence in homes and communities that cause many people to live in fear. Empirical evidence demonstrates the solution is not in their hands alone. Politicians and law enforcement can do little to provide comprehensive violence prevention. The ultimate solution rests in the willingness of individual parents to provide their children with positive parenting and more opportunities than they had as children. Collectively, neighbors must set specific and achievable goals for better homes and neighborhoods.
In a Globe article, Some laud new antiviolence effort it is suggested where the city, neighborhoods and parents could begin. Most people ignore or have overlooked the fact that this Globe article identifies the necessity of breaking the cycle of violence in the home. The article notes that, “Violence starts and ends in the home, even though its most visible effects may play out on the streets.”
The report Early Learning Prevents Youth Violence demonstrates that intervention and prevention must begin the day a child is born. Recent research reveals that children express anger and aggression soon after birth. Unless they are provided with positive parenting and proper role modeling they are at a very high risk to engage in aggressive behavior, risk-taking, substance abuse and criminal activity.
A primary cultural norm that needs to be addressed is that many parents raise their children using coercion and physical assaults to control or alter their child’s behavior and/or to achieve parental goals. The American Medical Association report, Connecting the Dots to Prevent Youth Violence documents that:
· Experiencing child abuse and neglect increases the likelihood of arrest as a juvenile by 53% and committing violence crime by 38%.
· More than 3.3 million children witness physical and verbal abuse in their home each year.
Many people are unwilling or unable to recognize that the cultural norm of verbal abuse and physical assaults too often begins with parents in their homes because as a once famous (now mostly forgotten) possum, POGO noted, “We have met the enemy and the enemy is us.” And the enemy is in denial.
An Act Relative to NonViolent Discipline – (187th Session (2011-2012) - Representative Vinny deMacedo and Senator Bruce Tarr have introduced the below legislation:
Section 24M. The Department of Public Health shall collaborate with the Massachusetts Children’s Trust fund, the Department of Education, the Department of Early Education and Care, and the Department of Children and Families to develop and implement a comprehensive and coordinated state-wide public awareness campaign to expand the knowledge of parents, caregivers, and the general public on the advantages associated with the use of positive parenting techniques. The department shall work with public and private universities and not for profit organizations to obtain grants and private funds to implement the provisions of this section. For the purposes of this section, positive parenting is a non-violent, solution-focused approach that includes but is not limited to: clear communication of expectation, rules, and limits; building a mutually respectful relationship with the child; teaching the child life-long skills; and developing long-term solutions that develop the child’s own self-discipline.
Parents use and society continues to condone raising children with the use of coercion and physical assaults. Why do societies in general and parents in particular appear surprised when toddlers, adolescents, teens, young adults and adults continue this parental role modeling behavior with peers or intimate partners to achieve their real or perceived needs or goals? Educational and community wide preventative programs must better connect these lifespan violent behavioral dots. Children should not receive less protection under the law from violence than adults. Until we begin at the beginning, there will be no end in sight.
Richard L. Davis, President Family NonViolence, Inc. –firstname.lastname@example.org / Shirley Pearson, Vice President –email@example.com / Jean, DeCoffee, Secretary, DeCoffeJ@comcast.net / Joni Gaudiello, Treasurer – Joni.Gaudiello@Bristolcc.edu / David A. Buehler – Clergy Representative – firstname.lastname@example.org, Kathleen Wolf – Kwolf789@yahoo.com – board member
Below is a letter to the editor that appeared on page A10, in the October, 9th, 2010 issue of the Boston Globe
Outrage over how children die, but not over how they live.
There has been much deserved public outrage over the murder of 2-year old Amani Smith, and I read with sadness Andrew Ryan’s front-page Oct. 3 article “Outcry over youngest victims has echoed through city before.” What I wonder is: Where was the outrage when Amani Smith was found, a few days before he was murdered, wandering alone in only his diaper on a Boston street (as you reported in your Oct. 1 front-page story “Key evidence in shootings recovered”) Where was his family? Where were his neighbors? How many other children are being neglected, abused, or ignored today in his neighborhood and in others across the Commonwealth? Where are the street rallies screaming for justice, for protection, for parenting education to protect the most helpless Bostonians?
Protecting children from neglect and abuse is among the most important responsibilities of the state.
Boston Globe, November 7, 2009, p. A10
If you are reading a hardcopy of this pamphlet please visit http://tinyurl.com/2echdw9 for the hyperlinked online copy. This is an opportunity for you to act on your beliefs and to help the weakest and most disempowered citizens of the commonwealth. If you believe that everyone in the Commonwealth deserve the rights vested upon them by the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights please help end the silence concerning violence against children by passing this pamphlet on to at least one person who will promise you they will pass it on to another person. Please contact your legislators and ask that they support this legislation. This truly is a grassroots effort that will succeed with your assistance or fail without it. Use this URL http://www.mass.gov/legis/ to find the email address, phone number, and postal address for your legislators.
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