Thursday, April 1, 2010

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month

Parents who grew up in dysfunctional homes are far more likely to abuse their own children. The financial pressures of a tight economy, joblessness and under-employment only make it worse. Many of the parents today never learned how to be parents themselves, because their parents didn't know how to be parents.

Many Native American families have been crippled because the parents, grandparents or great-grandparents were raised in church or government-run residential schools. This was part of the forced-assimilation policy of the US government at the time. Thousands of do-gooders did more harm than good, establishing their religious schools, which in effect served the same purpose of forced assimilation.

Tens of thousands of children in past generations were removed from their homes, sometimes by force, and raised in boarding schools. Whether or not this original generation was abused at their school (many were), the fact is that they didn't grow up in a family environment means that they didn't learn how to be parents. They were marched around like little soldiers everywhere, dressed alike, and often suffered extreme punishment and dire consequences for misbehaving.

So the parents, grandparents and great-grandparents of today who were raised in a religious or government boarding school may over-react to typical childhood behavior, or simply not know how to show love and compassion, because none was ever shown to them. Those who were raised in a brainwashed religious environment may be just as damaged as those raised in a military-type school. Their children and grandchildren often suffer, due to this history of family-deprived living.

What we need to do is flip this around, and teach parents today how to be good parents. That way, their children will learn how to be good parents, and they will have broken the cycle of child abuse and neglect. This can be done in one generation, once the problem is recognized and the behavior is changed. The following are some tips for today's parents, who may have been raised in a dysfunctional environment themselves. These tips were taken from the following website:

Five Parenting Tips For Today's Parents from Dysfunctional Homes

1) Remember that children are NOT miniature adults. They are little children with immature minds. Laura Ramirez, author of the award-winning Keepers of the Children: Native American Wisdom and Parenting, says "kids... don't come into the world knowing how to behave... Instead of punishing kids (which only teaches them what NOT to do), kids need parents to teach them what to do, when and why."

2) Figure out what triggers your angry over-reaction to your kids. When you learn to recognize these, you can be in control of your behavior, and your kids won't be able manipulate you to make you react. Remember to ACT - not REACT. If they throw a screaming fit in the aisle of the grocery store, don't REACT to their behavior, just ACT calmly and walk to the next aisle. They'll soon realize that their bad behavior won't get them what they want, and they'll stop it. Then praise them grandly when they behave well, and they'll get the idea and it's a whole lot nicer to behave than it is to misbehave. Deep down, kids want to please their parents.

3) Take a timeout yourself. When the kids are driving you to anger, go to your room & shut the door, walk outside or lock yourself in the bathroom. Make the kids learn to respect your limits, and to leave you alone with you need time to cool off. Ask a friend or neighbor to watch the kids for a while if you need a break, there are a lot of people around who would be happy to give you a break, if you'll only ask. Empty-nesters without grandchildren nearby might cherish the opportunity to have kids around for a couple of hours.

4) When you over-react, accept responsibility for it and apologize to the kids for yelling at them. Spend some time with them after you cool down. Don't try to buy their love, even younger kids will feel cheated if you try to buy their affection and trust. You can explain to the older kids why you get so upset; they might not always understand, but they will appreciate your honesty. When you have older children who don't understand why you don't want them spending time with strangers, you may need to explain why you are so afraid of the situation. Kids can be very understanding if you teach them that you are human too, and can make mistakes just like them. I used to tell my daughter "I'm not perfect, but I'm doing the best I can".

5) Respond appropriately to your kids. Try not to react instinctively based on your own dysfunctional upbringing, and recognize the triggers and patterns that didn't work for you when you were growing up. You may not have learned HOW to be a good parent, but chances are that you learned HOW NOT to be a good parent. Overall, think of how you WISH your parents had treated you. Don't be afraid to show your children love, no child was ever spoiled by showing them too much love. As they get older and start needing their independence, they will start pushing you away when the time comes.

Laura Ramirez is the author of the award-winning parenting book, Keepers of the Children: Native American Wisdom and Parenting. The book teaches parents how to overcome the negative aspects of their upbringing and raise children who are strong, happy, healthy and resilient. Contact her on her web site or by calling 775-815-2872.