i found out today that another of my little ones has a very rough home life. my first instinct when getting this information continues to be kicking. i never act on it, but usually i'm picturing myself kicking the hell out of anything near me while i listen to just how bad it really is at home. it makes me so angry when i find out about children who are being beaten.
i'm not a psychologist, or an expert on the impact of hitting your children when they are young, but these are my thoughts on what happens to children who get hit frequently based on my emotional disabilities grad class, my research on attachment disorders, and observations. because kicking doesn't help and i feel powerless in every other way, i'm writing so that i don't explode. these are only my thoughts...
when children are hit by adults it shows them at first that they are not in control, the adult is irrationally in control. depending on their developmental stage this can disturb their world-view, making them unsure of cause/effect relationships. do they trust their care giver? if they aren't in control, if their parent is, then why put effort into life? why try?
then, slowly, the children start to realize that they do have control... they may not be able to control not getting hit, but they can control when they get hit. in an effort to grab control, any kind of control, some kids act out until they are hit to reaffirm that they do have some power, even if it is the power to make bad things happen to them. they learn they can control adults, they learn how to push buttons and watch how they can magically make their parent so angry that they can predict what will happen next. it's almost comforting for them to know these sorts of patterns.
then they come to school. the slightest redirection from teachers seems to send them over the edge. they fight to gain the control they have with their parent- how angry can they make their teacher? can they have the power over their friends that their parents have over them? they use their world-view, based on their relationship with their family to define their new school environment. they push and pull to see what will happen, do they fit in the same manner at school they fit at home? what's their role? and this whole time, this searching for validation and control, they aren't available for learning. they can't relax and listen to the story because relaxing means they might do something a five year old does all the time, which at home ends up being hit. they can't trust adults so they are on edge, scared to attempt work. it's easier to mess up on purpose than to try and fail. if you mess up on purpose you're in control, you know what will happen. if you try your stomach becomes tight with anxiety, what will happen if you didn't succeed?
watching these kindergartners enter school for the first time in their 5 years of life has been surprisingly depressing this year. we've seen so much anger, so much desperation for any sort of control. and every time we're stumped it comes back to abuse, however minor it may be. there need to be more parenting programs out there, and it needs to be more socially acceptable to go to them. i'm not a parent yet but when i think about what some of my families go through day in and day out with their multiple jobs, their families overseas, their tight budgets, it almost doesn't surprise me their children end up being hit. and then they come to parent conferences with us and we tell them another way their life isn't working out as planned. i can imagine how frustrated i'd be if some 20 something teacher without children suggested i take parenting classes to learn "better strategies". i don't know how we make these programs more socially acceptable, more available, and more common, but everyday i see how essential good parenting really is.