Even though we never actually do anything about it, it is popular in 2022 for everyone to “speak out” against domestic violence. But this is always in the context of adults being violent with each other and usually in the context of adult men perpetrating violence against adult female partners.
But what about children?
The fact that we don’t consider traditional parenting domestic violence is prima facie evidence of the fact that our society still does not consider children to human beings.
For almost 20 years, I posed a two-part question to students in an Introductory sociology class. Part one asked them if they thought it was ever OK for an adult to use physical violence to control their partner. Part two asked them if they thought it was ever OK for parents to use physical violence to control their children. Hundreds of students over the years responded, and almost all said “never” to the first part, but more than half said “YES” to the second part. Of course, these were American students, and America is the most violent nation on earth, but it was still eye opening to me.
Our society cannot get its’ collective head around the idea that children are entitled to the same rights as any humans. We argue against children’s rights with much of the same rhetoric that was used to deny rights to women or to people of color.
In my opinion, any outrage about the use of violence is destroyed when we accept violence against children. And I am not just talking about physical violence. The same coercive control that we now believe defines patterns of domestic violence is a cornerstone of traditional parenting. We threaten, we intimidate, we take things away, and we yell. This is every bit as much domestic violence as the more common picture of a man hitting or controlling a woman.
The opportunity is there for all of us to realize that we cannot control any other human beings, whether they are smaller adults, or they are much smaller children. All we can do is react, and hopefully as parents that means reacting with kindness, respect and love. Accepting that we cannot control, and substituting love and acceptance for power, is likely to key to eliminating all forms of domestic violence.