Yesterday I was walking around in a crafts store trying to find a canvass and I watched a mother pin a little note to her daughter’s shirt that said “I’m whiny, don’t pay attention to me until I can use my big girl voice”. She was probably three or four years old. I waited until her mother was out of sight and went over to the little girl and took the note off of her shirt and I told her “I think you’re wonderful, it’s ok to be frustrated, everyone gets frustrated sometimes”. I patted her back and stood up to go to the check out counter before her mother came back around. This month, I have been a match to witnessing more emotional abuse between parents and their children than ever before. I am blown away by the sheer amount of emotional abuse that exists within our species and even more blown away by the fact that much of it is seen as normal by society. Normal is no measure of health. If you look back at history, “normal” parenting techniques included sitting children in dunce chairs, washing their mouths out with toxic soap, smacking them on the hands with rulers, whipping them with belts and paddles and depriving them of dinner. Just wait to see how future human society views our practices today! I am sure now that in the future I will be doing workshops and books aimed specifically at parenting. Parents need tools and knowledge. Children need healthier environments to grow up in. Physically abusive styles of parenting have for the most part gone out of style in the mainstream and now it is time for emotionally abusive styles of parenting to be abandoned completely. In my opinion, having endured all the kinds of abuse available to experience, emotional abuse is by far the worst. I found it to be even worse than sexual abuse; it’s just that sexual abuse never comes without the side dish of emotional abuse, so the two are inseparable.
It turns out that this practice of shaming children by making them wear self worth stripping notes on their clothing is not an uncommon practice. When I told this story to my friends, a few of them seemed totally un-shocked and said oh yeah, my mom or my teacher used to do that to me too. What do we as a society say to that? What does it say if we as a society watch parents do that to their children and don’t interfere? That’s no worse than watching someone hit a child and doing nothing. It raises the question; to what degree do children belong to their parents? This seems to be a very slippery subject because it involves many shades of gray. For example, many of us may be doing a great many unconventional things with our children because we believe that what we are doing is better for them. If they did not “belong to us” in society’s eyes, we might be prevented from making many of these decisions for our own children. But on the reverse side, if children were not thought to “belong” to certain parents, they would not be spanked or shamed or malnourished or filled with racist beliefs.
For the sake of awareness, I want to offer this question to you… To what degree do children belong to their parents?