Family violence is on the rise. It is not merely expressed between spouses, but also between children and between children and their parents. We need to be concerned because it is escalating everywhere. Even more disturbing is that parents and other adult figures seem to be tolerating this reprehensible behavior.
The violence we are speaking about is not a little pushing or shoving, but rather very aggressive confrontations where people are being physically victimized.
As a culture, we seem to be soft on violence. In too many social circles, we as adults tolerate violent behavior. Parents are sanctioning fist fighting as a means of conflict resolution. Parents are instructing their kids to hit first and ask questions later.
Our society has really deteriorated, when we tolerate children assaulting their parents. This behavior is becoming very commonplace. Too many parents are tolerating this kind of acting out and making lame excuses for it.
Parents need to reclaim their authority. Single parents should not feel shackled or controlled by their children. Reconstructed families should share parenting and disciplining. If the stepparent is not comprehensively a part of decision-making, disciplining and parenting, disaster will definitely strike. The family may never be able to recover from the ultimate damage inflicted.
As parents, we need to attempt to create a sense of family. However, we do not need to return to the days of fire and brimstone, where kids were expected to be seen and not heard. It was the parents' way or the highway. There needs to be more of an open line of communication and conversation where parents and children try to listen and hear what the other is saying.
Too often we talk at each other. We become defensive and don't really listen. Listening is a skill that takes time and effort to develop and maintain. Quite simply, it takes hard work.
As parents, we must model the kind of behavior we want our children to embrace. Thus, vulgar and crude language should not be a part of our vocabulary, especially with our children. We should not be physically confrontational or justify any kind of physical interaction. Violence of any kind merely begets violence. It solves nothing.
MJ and QR are brothers. They are a year apart. Presently, they are both in their late teens. They both graduated from high school. Both tried community college, but dropped out.
When they were four and five, their father died of cancer. Their mother remarried when the boys were nine and ten, their older sister was fourteen. Initially, things were okay. However, the boys always resented their step-dad. Their Mom felt guilty and never really allowed him to take part in their lives, especially in their formation and discipline. Mom did all of that. Their step-dad basically sat on the sidelines. He was not happy, but Mom thought it was the best way to proceed.
As time passed, the rift between the boys and their step-dad grew. They became more and more resentful of his presence and influence in their lives. He continued to be very critical and condescending when it came to the boys. Mom continued to defend and protect them. This only furthered the rift.
By the time MJ and QR were in high school, the yelling and screaming was escalating into cursing and shoving. The boys were now threatening, punching and breaking things. Their home was now a war zone that no one wanted to be a part of.
After high school both boys tried their hands at community college. Each boy hated school and just wanted to go to work. Neither boy was very skilled, but each desired to stay gainfully employed.
Unfortunately, their step-dad continued to criticize without any praise. According to them, he never had anything good to say about them. They resented that he always tried to put them down in front of their mother.
One afternoon in late fall, their step-dad came home early from work. Both boys were home hanging out. As soon as he came into the house, he started with them. Their Mom was still at work. Their step-dad started teasing and making fun of them. They went right back at him.
Before they realized what was happening, this mindless exchange escalated into a fistfight. The stepfather clearly provoked it. MJ, the older of the two brothers, felt he had no choice but to respond. He was out for blood. He hauled off and hit his step-dad a few times in the face. One punch literally landed the older man on the ground.
The older sister panicked and called the police. The boys left. Needless to say, the step-dad painted the picture that he had been attacked for no reason at all. He never mentioned the on-going history of conflict or that he had really provoked the boys. After he talked with the police, he decided not to press charges.
Later that afternoon, the boys met with their Mom. They were angry because before they had even gotten a chance to tell their side of the story, their Mom was siding with their step-dad. The boys were devastated, but were very verbal about their feelings. MJ made it very clear that he had no regrets except that he did not hurt or maim his stepfather. His hatred was dripping off his lips. He started to rant and rave as to how much he really hated his stepfather.
Hours later MJ was still justifying how he hammered his step-dad and how much he deserved it. He showed no remorse and felt very justified in his behavior.
Under duress, the boys agreed to counseling. For an hour they unloaded their rage and anger. They clearly believed that they were not the problem. They also indicated that they had no intention of apologizing. If anyone should say they were sorry, they felt it should be their step-dad.
Mom concedes that she should have parented the boys differently. She admits that her husband should have been more involved in her children's developing years.
The anger and rage in this family is lethal. The two young adults have been victimized on some levels, but they have also not been held accountable and are equally a part of the problem.
Parenting has to be a partnership. Violence, arrogance and continual negativity have no place in a family dynamic. If we want to create an environment that is life giving, then we have to be respectful and affirming, even when it hurts.