Violence amongst children when GD is used ... Your thoughts? - Mothering Forums

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Old 01-16-2013, 08:21 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I've been pondering something a lot lately. If you are a GD parent, do you allow/encourage/tolerate violence amongst children? Things like buying violent toys or games or bringing them to karate, etc. Also, how they interact with each other. Do you consider kids hitting, pushing, roughhousing as a phase or something kids just do?

I'm very curious to know the thoughts of other GD parents. For myself, I consider myself GD. I would never hit my child and that stems from thinking ALL violence is wrong. I know as a child I felt just as violated and scared when my father hit me or my brother hit me. Coming from another child did not make the violence any less hurtful.

So I've been very surprised to find that many people I know IRL who consider themselves GD and are horrified at the thought of a parent hitting a child have no problem with all the other kinds of violence. They will stand by while siblings pummel each other. They will justify hitting kids at the park as kids just being kids. And some even strongly encourage violence - even with very young kids by providing toy guns and swords and games where killing and fighting are the main goal.

I'm trying very hard not to judge but it's very confusing to me. I'd like to understand where this line of thinking comes from.

So, any insights? How do you handle this?


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Old 01-16-2013, 09:21 AM
 
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Well, the first thing I did was read child development books. Violence is a normal stage. However I try to guide them towards choices I think are more appropriate. I don't freak out or shame when they hit but I do say, "Do you think that hitting your sister will accomplish what you want to accomplish?" 

 

Even though it isn't completely GD I do time outs for hitting/biting/whatever that hurts someone else. In my view you hit/etc when you don't know how to react. I give short time outs so you can try to think of a better way of handling it.

 

But I will put my kids in martial arts and we play with swords and watch "violent" cartoons (like She-Ra). *shrug*

 

We live in the world we live in. I don't hit my kids but I'm not trying to hot house them.


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Old 01-16-2013, 09:42 AM
 
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I think part of the confusion might be different people's definitions of violence.  I don't consider karate class to be violent.  It's very physical, but I don't think hitting an inanimate object is violence, and I don't think sparring (where both participants are willing participants) is the same as attacking someone.  Similarly, I see a big difference between kids attacking each other, and kids play fighting.  Maybe I'm biased though because I enjoy sparring.

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Old 01-16-2013, 10:14 AM
 
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I almost avoided this thread, since you seem to have some strong opinions already, but I'll go ahead and give you my 2 cents.

 

I define violence as a hurtful act done by an individual onto another without regard to the consent and willingness of another.  That's the simplistic answer.  I'm sure it is not a water-tight one.

 

So, when my girls are roughhousing and both having fun, that is fine.  I have not encountered a game where they were actually hurting each other and still both enjoying it.  Usually once it gets too rough, one or the other stops the game, and I verbally reinforce the "rules" about roughhousing: everybody is on board, having fun, and can end the game at any time for whatever reason.  

 

I do not buy guns or even swords or shoot-em-up video games, but I do not discourage that kind of play.  I do remind them that pretend-gun-and-death games can be upsetting to other children, and other parents might feel uncomfortable with it as well.  It's also a good reminder that everyone needs to be fully on board with the game.  If either of them begins to feel uncomfortable with the game, they can end it, and should be able to without repercussions from playmates.

 

As a former Aikido instructor, I don't see karate and many other martial arts as violent, or teaching violence.  I guess I'm one of those people who don't see  sparring as violent, and I don't believe that teaches people to be violent just because it teaches punches and kicks, throws and pins.  There is a mountain of philosophy tied into martial arts, in general, something that is missing from video games.  Good instructors at good dojos teach as much of this as they do technique.

 

I personally do not know any GD parents who "strongly encourage violence".  The ones I know are like me, more or less, and my children's games that include death do not have fighting and death as "the main goal".  Everyone has their own comfort level, to be sure, and I feel it is incredibly important to teach my girls to respect that other people are more sensitive to these things that we are.  

 

That is the essence to avoiding violence, IMO--teaching respect and empathy, to be in tuned to the "willingness and consent" of others.  It is not, IMO, avoiding the teaching of punching and kicking; it is not banning all roughhousing and swordplay.  


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Old 01-16-2013, 10:45 AM
 
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The first day I picked up DD from her new preschool, a mat was on the ground and children were wrestling.  I must have had a funny look on my face because the teacher felt the need to explain why all these 4 and 5 year olds were all over each other.  I chose the school because they were onboard with a GD approach and after listening to the teacher, I still believed they were but I also changed, or expanded, my views on what GD means.  It is okay for kids to learn to use their bodies in a fun, safe, expressive way.  Verbal and nonverbal communication are very important.  I believe that kids this young can learn that with the help of adults.  

 

I spent a great deal of my childhood competing in martial arts.  I was a very gentle child.  It taught me self-control, self-discipline and respect.  It was an awesome experience.  

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Old 01-16-2013, 11:09 AM
 
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I spent a great deal of my childhood competing in martial arts.  I was a very gentle child.  It taught me self-control, self-discipline and respect.  It was an awesome experience.  

Martial arts, at their best, teach mindfulness of action, presence in one's body, "groundedness" with the universe, resolution of internal conflict, first (and supremely) within oneself, and then with others.  The best instructors will teach these deliberately, alongside and integral with technique


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Old 01-16-2013, 12:39 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you for the thoughtful replies. I hope the tone of my original post showed that I am trying to actually get an understanding of this topic and not start some dramatic thread ...lol.

I guess my main question is ... When there are so many other options, why do we almost always choose the violent one? It can certainly be argued that yoga and meditation is just as good, if not better for teaching the positive qualities that martial arts can bring about but I know waaaaaaaaaay more children in martial arts than yoga. Gymnastics and other sports can give children a fun way to use their bodies just as much as sparring and wrestling.

Also, I think I shouldn't have used the word roughhousing. I was definitely not referring to two happy kids rolling around and tickling each other on the floor. I am talking about violent play. Play where fighting and guns and explosions and murder are acted out. Play that reinforces a rush of excitement and even sometimes happiness when pain or death is inflicted. Regardless of it being make believe, is this really what we want our children spending time doing?

I also should have specified that when I was asking about children hitting each other I meant older children, not babies and toddlers. IMO, a cranky one year old swatting someone away and a seven year old whacking another kid out of anger is not the same thing. I'm talking about the kind of parent who insists that a parent hitting a child under any circumstances is wrong but will then turn around and witness a child getting smacked in the face from another kid and says it's not a big deal because kids will be kids. I really don't understand this. I cannot accept any excuse from anyone for hitting a child - or anyone else for that matter. It's just not okay ... ever. Why is it criminal for a parent to hit their kid on the hand (again I don't condone this) but when a child hits another child out of anger or exhaustion or any number of the reasons that the parent hit a child it's somehow okay? 

Going back to play ... I'm thinking about this because it's an issue in my life right now. My child is having a very hard time finding playmates that can sustain interest in any kind of play that doesn't include violence. We have had to leave places and even end friendships over this. For example, we had an occasion where a child just would not stop shooting and throwing things at my child. It was clearly upsetting my kid. My child made it very known this was bothersome and when the child wouldn't stop was starting to get scary. The parent actually told us to toughen up our kid and that we should think about teaching our child how to be less sensitive. When I'm living in a world where a child is considered weird for NOT wanting to shoot someone or be shot at, I begin to question why we are putting so much value into violent play. 


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Old 01-16-2013, 01:32 PM
 
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Thank you for the thoughtful replies. I hope the tone of my original post showed that I am trying to actually get an understanding of this topic and not start some dramatic thread ...lol.

I guess my main question is ... When there are so many other options, why do we almost always choose the violent one? It can certainly be argued that yoga and meditation is just as good, if not better for teaching the positive qualities that martial arts can bring about but I know waaaaaaaaaay more children in martial arts than yoga. Gymnastics and other sports can give children a fun way to use their bodies just as much as sparring and wrestling.

 

I think as a species, we all have a violent streak, some people's are larger than others, but we all have one deep down there somewhere, and martial arts address that in a way that yoga and meditation don't, and can be a way for people to get a handle on it in a controlled way.

 

Also, I think I shouldn't have used the word roughhousing. I was definitely not referring to two happy kids rolling around and tickling each other on the floor. I am talking about violent play. Play where fighting and guns and explosions and murder are acted out. Play that reinforces a rush of excitement and even sometimes happiness when pain or death is inflicted. Regardless of it being make believe, is this really what we want our children spending time doing?

 

Play is one of the ways that kids work on making sense of stuff.  There's a lot of violence in the world, and death is inevitable, so playing at it is part of getting their heads around it.  Maybe those kids would play at murder less if they had a chance to talk out their feelings and worries about it, but I don't think that playing at violence is necessarily a bad thing.

 

I also should have specified that when I was asking about children hitting each other I meant older children, not babies and toddlers. IMO, a cranky one year old swatting someone away and a seven year old whacking another kid out of anger is not the same thing. I'm talking about the kind of parent who insists that a parent hitting a child under any circumstances is wrong but will then turn around and witness a child getting smacked in the face from another kid and says it's not a big deal because kids will be kids. I really don't understand this. I cannot accept any excuse from anyone for hitting a child - or anyone else for that matter. It's just not okay ... ever. Why is it criminal for a parent to hit their kid on the hand (again I don't condone this) but when a child hits another child out of anger or exhaustion or any number of the reasons that the parent hit a child it's somehow okay? 

 

Does the parent gently correct the behaviour without making a big deal of it, or just ignore the behaviour altogether?  On the one hand, I agree, it's not a big deal when a kid hits another, it's part of growing up, but on the other hand, that doesn't mean parents should just pretend it's all okay and ignore the behaviour.

 

Going back to play ... I'm thinking about this because it's an issue in my life right now. My child is having a very hard time finding playmates that can sustain interest in any kind of play that doesn't include violence. We have had to leave places and even end friendships over this. For example, we had an occasion where a child just would not stop shooting and throwing things at my child. It was clearly upsetting my kid. My child made it very known this was bothersome and when the child wouldn't stop was starting to get scary. The parent actually told us to toughen up our kid and that we should think about teaching our child how to be less sensitive. When I'm living in a world where a child is considered weird for NOT wanting to shoot someone or be shot at, I begin to question why we are putting so much value into violent play. 

 

Yeah, I wouldn't be okay with that particular scenario either.  I'm fine with playing at guns, etc... but part of that is learning what/who is and isn't an appropriate target.  Expecting your kid to be a willing target seems a bit weird.

How old is your child?  I remember an awkward stage where ds just hadn't developed the communication skills or emotional maturity to be able to play with other kids his age for very long.  Depending on how old your child is, I wonder if that's a big part of what's going on?

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Old 01-16-2013, 02:04 PM
 
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 I'm thinking about this because it's an issue in my life right now. My child is having a very hard time finding playmates that can sustain interest in any kind of play that doesn't include violence. We have had to leave places and even end friendships over this. For example, we had an occasion where a child just would not stop shooting and throwing things at my child. It was clearly upsetting my kid. My child made it very known this was bothersome and when the child wouldn't stop was starting to get scary. The parent actually told us to toughen up our kid and that we should think about teaching our child how to be less sensitive. When I'm living in a world where a child is considered weird for NOT wanting to shoot someone or be shot at, I begin to question why we are putting so much value into violent play. 

I agree that in no situation is it acceptable to excuse your child's behavior, when it clearly upsets another child.  Perhaps yours is the only one with whom this is an issue, and she hasn't really given it much thought.  

 

In my children's Aikido class, I did do some mild desensitization exercises, mainly playing "bumper cars" where we bumped into each other's stomachs gently and turned.  I used a foam noodle to strike towards bodies gently so that they didn't come unraveled at what was essentially an invasion of space.  It made a difference how a child perceives an action--attack or not?--and their reaction--fear or grounding?

 

And yes, some children are so sensitive that even gently encroaching on their space can unsettle them.  Like I said, parents need to both respect others and teach their children to be sensitive towards other's needs.  

 

Regarding choosing martial arts vs yoga and meditation, well, even "yoga" has many different paths.  "Hatha yoga" is just one.  Why choose a path that visually copies acts that can be violent, or is based on martial techniques learned in war?  First-- we cannot erase our history.  The fact that war and battle and have cultivated certain intense skills and traditions cannot be changed.  What modern humans have found was that these skills can have a benefit outside of the original intent of the skill.  

 

Some people who are not open to hatha yoga might find the same end in study Japanese sword or archery.  They find beauty in the discipline and intense focus, the melting away of all other distractions until you exist in the singular moment.  If someone used those words to describe their ecstatic experience, but you had no idea what the source (perhaps you walked into the middle of the conversation), would your reaction be one of disagreement? Or would your first reaction be, "this is my kind of person"?

 

So, why bring children to these classes?  I suppose since I see the value in it as an adult (both in my opinion and practice--I have studied both Aikido and Japanese sword) I see it also as a benefit to children who enjoy it.

 

In the end, though, how you perceive these activities is going to be based on the ongoing conversation and debate about the nature of human violence and what to do with it.  Do we turn our backs on everything based in it?  Is that necessary to prevent real violence between people once and for all?

 

Again, I'd like to reiterate that your example with your son is an unacceptable situation in my mind.  I'm sorry you are not finding parents that cannot accommodate your son's sensitivities--to dismiss them is wrong.  Teaching children to be aware of other's willingness is a much-needed skill, and they need help from their parents to see when they've lost the consent of their playmate or never gained it.


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Old 01-16-2013, 03:00 PM
 
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I have a vague memory of being around at least one situation where kids are involved in what was clear angry/trying to hurt each other type of play with parents who had a 'well, gee, I can't do anything about that'.  

 

It wasn't my child at that time, but my dh has/can/will sometimes take this attitude himself when our dd's are playing and have some kind of conflict with each other and their playtime escalates to something like that.  Thinking about his perspective - having grown up in a household where he was hit with regularity - I think he's ended up with both a 'I turned out okay and it happened to me' attitude, as well as feeling like the only solution to stop it is his own violence (hitting/spanking them) and he's choosing not to do that (so not intervening violently is better).  Clearly there are other solutions (walking over to the kids, separating them, talking about the situation, etc) - but he hasn't always made it to where he can do and follow through with those and so will do nothing and let the kids continue.  So - just some thoughts about why these incidents may be as they are.  

 

 

 

 

I do try to minimize violent toys, but not a ton (we have dd's so that keeps the amount of violent toys down too, people aren't as inclined to get them for girls for no reason).  I think a huge part of it is how kids may be taught to play with their toys.  I mean, we've had incidents with a relative handing our young kid what was (somewhat) a violent toy, and then handing one to her cousin and then telling them to 'Now hit each other, like this!'.  

 

I stopped it and put the toys away (wooden swords - would've been like hitting at each other with foot long 2x4 planks eyesroll.gif IMO not a good idea for 3 y/o kids.).  BUT the whole situation could have been different approached like "Here are some wooden swords, now how about the couch over there is a dragon and you have to slay him to get his pot of gold".  I don't think I would have stopped the situation.  It just seemed unwise to foster more play where they were supposed to hit each other when that was a problem sometimes with regular non-violent toy play, anyway ("You need to stop hitting your cousin with the pillow, he's telling you to stop.  We have to stop and do something totally different now.").  Instead the kids are getting coached that 'what you do with play swords is hit each other'.  I mean, people could coach kids to play with guns in different ways than shooting at each other - and do they?  and does it make a difference?  

 

I don't know that I (personally) buy the idea that kids naturally pick up violent play on their own without coaching to do it from other adults/kids and excessive violent influences.  Gun or sword play, sure, they'll do it anyway - but not necessarily naturally at each other with killing and everything as aggressive.  Just play where you're using these things.     

 

 

On the other hand, we totally have foam swords and play with them a lot at home and that's fine - we have reminders to pay attention to whether someone is asking you to stop and it's really a somewhat supervised activity anyway because I perk up my attention to what's going of for the sake of whomever is playing (and stuff around the house that may be at risk), but they're 2 feet long and made of foam and that seems totally different than, say, the above incident.  And they're used for characters with imagination - not a 'ok, now hit each other' free for all.  I do think sometimes that is presented to kids as what play is or what some parents understand as play themselves.    

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Old 01-16-2013, 03:01 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I don't know why I'm having trouble using quotes right now. 

 

In response to this ... On the one hand, I agree, it's not a big deal when a kid hits another, it's part of growing up, but on the other hand, that doesn't mean parents should just pretend it's all okay and ignore the behaviour.

 

It saddens me to hear someone say that getting smacked around by other kids is just part of growing up. I'm assuming that being on a GD board you agree that hitting children isn't okay so why is it okay when children do it to other children? No one likes to be hit, regardless of the reason. I'm clearly in the minority on this topic but justifying being physically hurt by someone else for any reason ... I don't even know what word to use. Women were conditioned for generations to accept that husbands can treat them that way when they step out of line. We now know that is BS ... there is no justification. As children most of us were conditioned to accept that our parents could hit us and get out the belt when we were naughty. We now know that is BS. There is no justification. I will never teach my children it is a learning experience or something to accept or just part of growing up when physically harmed by someone else.

I have to get going but I think my bottom line opinion on this particular part of the discussion is that the need to be and feel safe should supersede the desire to be violent.


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Old 01-16-2013, 03:27 PM
 
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"In response to this ... On the one hand, I agree, it's not a big deal when a kid hits another, it's part of growing up, but on the other hand, that doesn't mean parents should just pretend it's all okay and ignore the behaviour.

 

It saddens me to hear someone say that getting smacked around by other kids is just part of growing up."

 

first off, apologies, my quotes aren't working either! Sorry if this makes the message a little unclear.

 

My reading of that was not that its really ok for kids to hit others, but that its a bit inevitable with some kids, and in some situations. I'd honestly say that every single boy I know (and of course I don't know every single boy in the world!) but homeschooled, Waldorf schooled, and probably in the majority GDd because that's the kind of people I mainly know-goes through a deeply difficult stage at some point before age 10 where they just seem to lose the ability not to lash out when frustrated. So in my experience, especially of boys, it is something that seems pretty inevitable, or at least wiser parents than me have not worked out how to prevent it! I've never had significant issues with my girls hitting, by the way, so much as I hate to say it I suspect there is a gender element. Some kids are later developers and start hitting later, onlies in particular I've noticed-but it seems to be so incredibly common at SOME point in boys that I truly think, short of shipping boys off to military school or something, its just a case of keep trying, keep trying, on the part of the parents. 

 

I would be interested, purely out of curiosity, to turn the question back at you. We can agree that its not ok to hit-I dunno, is anyone saying it is? (sorry if I've missed that, but I didn't get that impression from the thread). But kids do seem to hit, and its not something that, as far as I can see, really correlates that well to how they are parented. So what then should the parents be doing, within the structure of gentle discipline, other than dealing with it as best they can, not ignoring it, talking about why it should not have happened (and I would add, helping kids recognise and learn to work through frustration-I think that's what is very often at the root of hitting), 

 

The only thing I'd add is that to be the parent of a kid who hits is bloody hard work, and assuming that they are trying to parent gently, they need support and understanding like any parent going through a tough time. Its the kid who has hit, not the parent, almost 100% of the time they will be mortified.

 


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Old 01-16-2013, 03:33 PM
 
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I would like to start taking aikido in the nearish future. Why not just stick with yoga and meditation? Because I've been raped more than a few times and I feel it would be prudent for me to get better at defending my body. Obviously that is a skill in which I am not yet skilled enough. Just because I don't want to teach violence to my children that does not mean that I think I live in a non-violent world. I think that self defense is quite important. I do actually talk to my kids about appropriate circumstances for hitting back. 

 

So yeah. Gentle Discipline is kind of vague. :) People vary a lot.


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Old 01-16-2013, 03:51 PM
 
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I don't know why I'm having trouble using quotes right now. 

 

In response to this ... On the one hand, I agree, it's not a big deal when a kid hits another, it's part of growing up, but on the other hand, that doesn't mean parents should just pretend it's all okay and ignore the behaviour.

 

It saddens me to hear someone say that getting smacked around by other kids is just part of growing up. I'm assuming that being on a GD board you agree that hitting children isn't okay so why is it okay when children do it to other children? No one likes to be hit, regardless of the reason. I'm clearly in the minority on this topic but justifying being physically hurt by someone else for any reason ... 

With children, it is not "OK" but it is "normal".  "Typical", but not "acceptable".  Hitting by children is not premeditated and is caused by immature filters when dealing with new, powerful emotions.  It is caused by a natural immaturity in the development of empathy.  It is our job as parents to inform children.  It is our job to teach our children to reflect on their actions and to work to have our voices become their internal voices *before* the hitting.  It is our job to help cultivate empathy.  

 

I think that is what was meant by "it's part of growing up".  It is not a dismissal and an excuse not to intervene.  


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Old 01-16-2013, 04:21 PM
 
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I have a 4yo DS and our last 6 months or so have really opened my eyes as to child development, aggression, violent play, etc.

I agree with the pp that there is probably a gender component. Most of the girls I know may hit occasionally but are easily redirected, seem to feel empathy for the child they hit, seem motivated to avoid hitting again, etc. Whereas most of the boys I know really, really struggle with not lashing out in some circumstances. This is not an excuse -- and I think it can easily become that, "Boys will be boys," and the aggressive behavior increases because there is an underlying expectation that boys just will be aggressive no matter what. But at the same time, there is a little truth to that, IMO. I think boys require a lot more supervision/direction/discipline to avoid aggressive behaviors. I find parents of girls (who don't have any boys) struggle to really understand this. And as a parent of a boy myself, I've really struggled to accept that gender has anything to do with it. But I really believe it does.
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I guess my main question is ... When there are so many other options, why do we almost always choose the violent one? It can certainly be argued that yoga and meditation is just as good, if not better for teaching the positive qualities that martial arts can bring about but I know waaaaaaaaaay more children in martial arts than yoga. Gymnastics and other sports can give children a fun way to use their bodies just as much as sparring and wrestling.
Well, I don't know much about martial arts, but my impression is that it can channel that aggressive energy in a way that is appealing and effective for kids with high energy. I have also heard that martial arts instructors work hard to reduce violence, not condone it. And I agree with rightkindofme, that as someone who has been physically & sexually abused multiple times, I would really, really benefit from learning some self-defense. I suspect it would increase my sense of security, confidence, and ability to protect myself, in a way that yoga simply could not.
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I also should have specified that when I was asking about children hitting each other I meant older children, not babies and toddlers. IMO, a cranky one year old swatting someone away and a seven year old whacking another kid out of anger is not the same thing. I'm talking about the kind of parent who insists that a parent hitting a child under any circumstances is wrong but will then turn around and witness a child getting smacked in the face from another kid and says it's not a big deal because kids will be kids. I really don't understand this. I cannot accept any excuse from anyone for hitting a child - or anyone else for that matter. It's just not okay ... ever. Why is it criminal for a parent to hit their kid on the hand (again I don't condone this) but when a child hits another child out of anger or exhaustion or any number of the reasons that the parent hit a child it's somehow okay? 
Like a pp mentioned, I question whether this is deemed "OK" or just that perhaps it's not addressed in the way you'd prefer? The thing with GD is that you might not always witness the discipline. Many GD parents won't yell at their kid or put them in time-out for hitting, but instead may address it in less obvious ways. Some will also avoid publicly disciplining their kids because it can be embarrassing or shaming. So just because you aren't seeing an obvious response, that doesn't mean the parent is failing to address the issue.

I don't think it's OK for kids to hit each other. But I also feel it's developmentally normal for kids to lash out when they are angry. Most kids just don't have the emotional maturity to always stay in control. So while it's unacceptable and should be addressed in some way, it also is just part of being around other kids. My DS has gone through a very aggressive stage recently and I have been hit, kicked, bitten, etc. more than I ever expected I would. He has some issues, but I know even kids who are 100% developmentally on track go through stages like this (though hopefully less intense!) It's not so much that getting hit is part of growing up, but it is unfortunately part of being around other kids.
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Going back to play ... I'm thinking about this because it's an issue in my life right now. My child is having a very hard time finding playmates that can sustain interest in any kind of play that doesn't include violence. We have had to leave places and even end friendships over this. For example, we had an occasion where a child just would not stop shooting and throwing things at my child. It was clearly upsetting my kid. My child made it very known this was bothersome and when the child wouldn't stop was starting to get scary. The parent actually told us to toughen up our kid and that we should think about teaching our child how to be less sensitive. When I'm living in a world where a child is considered weird for NOT wanting to shoot someone or be shot at, I begin to question why we are putting so much value into violent play. 
We have a couple of friends where this is a struggle for us too. Their kids have very violent play themes and aren't very willing to engage in much else... and not coincidentally, they do tend to watch violent movies etc. that aren't necessarily age-appropriate. I suspect for them it is just a way of processing what they've seen. Most of our friends, however, do encourage more peaceful (or at least more varied) play themes. It's too bad you've been having trouble finding families like this! How old is your DD?

One thing that I think is important to remember is that AP does not always equal GD. I kind of assume that everyone who is AP is GD but I've discovered that I'm wrong! And also that GD means something different to some people.

Anyway... we do not allow violent toys, but we do allow DS to play in ways that are violent. So in other words, he is allowed to turn a stick into a pretend gun, but he is not allowed to have actual toy guns or weapons. And he isn't allowed to shoot me (or anyone else who doesn't agree to be shot). We are still working on our rules around this. For DS it is definitely a way of processing the violent play he's been exposed to through playdates, as well as accidentally witnessing one or two violent scenes (like, he doesn't watch violent TV but once he was watching a documentary about lions and one of the lions was euthanized -- shot right there, with no warning, I couldn't stop the show fast enough! It was really upsetting to him and one way he dealt with it was by pretending to shoot animals). DS is in therapy and in play therapy violent play is considered a valid & effective way of dealing with strong emotions & serious issues -- provided there are certain constraints around it so that it does not hurt anyone etc. I've been reading up on this since it is on the forefront for us right now, and many (most?) experts agree that some types of violent play are part of healthy childhood development! I'm still trying to totally wrap my head around it. DS's play therapist had a list of toys required for our home therapy sessions and one was toy soldiers. I tried to buy some but just couldn't bring myself to do it! I've settled for items that are more abstract instead (waldorf-style wooden dolls who could be turned into soldiers if he so desired), and I'm more comfortable with that.

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Old 01-16-2013, 08:31 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Their kids have very violent play themes and aren't very willing to engage in much else... and not coincidentally, they do tend to watch violent movies etc. that aren't necessarily age-appropriate. I suspect for them it is just a way of processing what they've seen.

 

This is a huge part of the point I was trying to make. What on earth possesses us to expose our children to this kind of inappropriate stuff that they are very very clearly not ready for? Maybe if we weren't literally filling our kids with violence before they are ready to understand it, they wouldn't need to act it out. 

To me it's very hypocritical to say that a child is too immature to be able to control or be held responsible for their behavior but on the other hand say they are capable of processing violent and mature information and images that some adults may find disturbing. 

 

As far as the self defense in martial arts goes .. I think there is a big difference between a teenager or adult learning self defense and glorifying fighting to a young child. I have NEVER met a young child up until preteen at least that talks about how karate gives him discipline and self esteem but I have met many children who will go on and on about kicking and fighting and how cool it is to break things. Again, I think there's a maturity level that is not capable of being reached at this young age. Since all the replies on this thread seem to be in agreement that children lashing out is normal or inevitable ... Is it wise to give those kids the tools to perfect exactly how to really hurt someone? 

 

Regarding the gender thing .. I would agree that boys tend to be a little more prone to these issues than girls. I think that is a nurture thing not nature though. It's not just culturally acceptable but it's encouraged for boys to be into fighting and superheros and battles, etc. while we are boxing little girls into a very different stereotype. But gender roles and bias is a whole other issue .... 


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Old 01-16-2013, 09:29 PM
 
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 NEVER met a young child up until preteen at least that talks about how karate gives him discipline and self esteem but I have met many children who will go on and on about kicking and fighting and how cool it is to break things. Again, I think there's a maturity level that is not capable of being reached at this young age. 

I was a young child that could articulate the benefits of participating in martial arts.  Was I mature for my age?  Possibly, but I don't think so.  There is such a high level of respect that goes into this practice.  For example, just walking into the dojo and removing your shoes and bowing as you enter, then bowing to your instructor and classmates.  We even had to bow to the American flag and a picture of the grand master.  I am of the thought that practicing martial arts can reduce the incidence of violence in children.  Learning m.a can increase a child's self-esteem and offers commaraderie. These are things that some kids who act out violently lack. Using m.a. for anything other than true self defense was seriously frowned upon and we were taught to use it as a last resort.  I carried this with me.  So when a male acquaintance in college snuck into my dorm room and attempted to assault me, I consider that situation a last resort and little ol' me was able to fight him off.  

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Old 01-17-2013, 04:19 AM
 
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This is a huge part of the point I was trying to make. What on earth possesses us to expose our children to this kind of inappropriate stuff that they are very very clearly not ready for? Maybe if we weren't literally filling our kids with violence before they are ready to understand it, they wouldn't need to act it out. 

To me it's very hypocritical to say that a child is too immature to be able to control or be held responsible for their behavior but on the other hand say they are capable of processing violent and mature information and images that some adults may find disturbing. 

The most dangerously violent kids I've met were purposefully sheltered from violent media.  Unfortunately, their parents didn't address their kids' feelings of violence, they just told them violence is bad, so the kids didn't really learn much about controlling their urges.

 

Some of the most emotionally mature kids I know have always watched lots of stuff you would probably call inappropriate, but they have ample opportunity to discuss what they're watching with their parents, and are given lots of guidance about how to properly channel their feelings.

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Old 01-17-2013, 05:42 AM
 
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I think it's possible to have an entirely pacifist household yet raise children who have had experience using their bodies with emotion. I mean, part of using GD is that we're communicating to kids how to manage emotion without violence. But kids are not born ready to handle big feelings. We get to help with that. When a 5 year old chucks an offending book across the room, this is not particularly what we'd like to see as an adult, kwim? But she lacks the ability at the time to say "I am becoming quite frustrated with the content of this book. The characters are not progressing as I'd expect". As a GD family, we don't necessarily say "whatever. Kids chuck books. It's normal" and leave it. We probably intervene in some way, such as "I see that book offended you. I wonder if I can help". If we weren't GD we'd probably say "that is not how we treat books. Go to your room and think about it" and we'd likely miss out on a really great moment.

 

When kids are involved in what we might see as violent play, sometimes it is pretty disturbing, yet I think it has a lot to do with what is behind the play. If a kiddo is attacking a friend with frustration, anger, jealousy, etc....it can go bad fast, and I think that is a good time to step in. If kids are playing with soldiers and making the soldiers do heinous acts upon each other, they may just need a way to reduce the number of items they are currently managing in play...what a better way than to lose them to war? 

 

In my play therapy office, I can't tell you how many times I was handcuffed to something and demeaned by a kid. They needed to act it out, and they needed a safe individual to do it. Would I have recommended that a parent get a nice pair of handcuffs to play with at home? Nah. I got "killed" a lot with pretend guns, but the play had a lot more to do with a sense of power and control than of violence.  In therapeutic play, I can say it is a whole lot more comfortable to be engaged in object A destroying object B than it is to "be" one of those objects, for sure, but both types have a place in using play to "speak" problems. Kids just don't have the verbal capacity yet to articulate all of it. Often times, I would remind a kiddo that "it's okay to play this here, but not at home or school or friends' houses"...same would go for my liberal acceptance of language with the older kids.

 

So, I'd probably be one of those parents who could tell with a quick glance if the roughhousing was going into dangerous land, and might appear "meh" to other parents who are growing concerned. The trick in roughhousing is that the one who is "winning" has the ability to stop immediately when the other is having no more fun, and for the one starting to have no fun being able to speak up and say "time out!!" or "I give!" when it's still at the fun place. That's usually where I step in and give hints if needed.

 

Something has stood out to me in watching kids play over time, and it's one of the reasons I parent gently. Kids raised in a controlling environment have typically been the ones who are controlling or rigid in their play with dd. Those are also the kids who ask me "how come some moms are mean"? (which is a bit heartbreaking) (but so validating).

 

But--I suppose it all boils down to what we call "violent". For me, it's not just the behavior, but it's the emotion behind the behavior too. There would need to be both on board, along with an apparent incapacity to manage it, for me to want to step in.

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Old 01-17-2013, 05:58 AM
 
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Going back to play ... I'm thinking about this because it's an issue in my life right now. My child is having a very hard time finding playmates that can sustain interest in any kind of play that doesn't include violence. We have had to leave places and even end friendships over this. For example, we had an occasion where a child just would not stop shooting and throwing things at my child. It was clearly upsetting my kid. My child made it very known this was bothersome and when the child wouldn't stop was starting to get scary. The parent actually told us to toughen up our kid and that we should think about teaching our child how to be less sensitive. When I'm living in a world where a child is considered weird for NOT wanting to shoot someone or be shot at, I begin to question why we are putting so much value into violent play. 

Yeah...I'd leave this family behind too. Clearly, the idea of "toughening up" a tender child does not fit into my idea of raising kids. I think sometimes parents in that situation feel really uncomfortable about their kid being over the top, and if they pitch out the "time to toughen up" thing, and then you agree, they would be "okay". If you do not agree, that parent might have to do some thinking. 

 

Then again, giving a tender child some skills in being able to say "yikes, friend! Can we play something else? That's driving me nuts!" as opposed to collapsing in tears (we've been down that road) is a really great asset!

 

My kid would come to me in that situation and say "can we go? ___ won't quit shooting me, and I don't want to play with her anymore", and I would say to the other parent "time to wrap it up for today. Seems like we have a mismatch in play energy this time around".

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Old 01-17-2013, 06:02 AM
 
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Violence is a natural human trait. We have to learn how to deal with our anger and violent tendencies. It is my opinion that ignoring violence in the world doesn't help children learn to deal with their own natural violent feelings or the violence around them. And there is violence around them even if they never see a single TV show or movie. (I'm thinking of the first time my older daughter saw a child get spanked and asked me why "that mommy" was hitting "her sweetie." "Mommies don't hit their sweeties! Why would she do that?"

I don't buy weapon toys, but I don't stop pretend weapon play. I do let the kids watch kids TV, though they watch very little (they have little interest in TV), and play some video games (little interest there as well), and while there is no serious violence I'm guessing there is probably some cartoonish violence in some of it? They haven't become violent with each other or others so I don't think it's hurting them.

I don't think GD means that we shelter our children from any view or knowledge of violence, only that we are not violent with our children. If one of my kids were to hit another child, I would absolutely address it, but the older one seems very gentle. The younger one is gentle too but it young enough that she hasn't learned to control her impulses as well. They seem to get along well together and not fight but that might be due to a large age difference.

I don't see any conflict between martial arts and GD either, though my kids aren't in martial arts.

I think the difference we have is that you see children as naturally gentle and who get filled with violence, where I see all people, including children, as having a natural amount of violent feelings, and I feel they need to not feel shamed over those natural feelings, and they also need to learn how to deal with those natural feelings and control any impulses they might have. In my view, to ignore violence would be to ignore part of their nature.

There is an article about gun play here at MDC. I think it's called something like "Bang Bang You're Dead." I'll have to look around for it and put a link here.
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Old 01-17-2013, 06:04 AM
 
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Apparently Mothering doesn't have that article up anymore. shrug.gif:
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Old 01-17-2013, 06:06 AM
 
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I think the difference we have is that you see children as naturally gentle and who get filled with violence, where I see all people, including children, as having a natural amount of violent feelings, and I feel they need to not feel shamed over those natural feelings, and they also need to learn how to deal with those natural feelings and control any impulses they might have. In my view, to ignore violence would be to ignore part of their nature.

 

yeahthat.gif  And you expressed it very eloquently!

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Old 01-17-2013, 09:18 AM
 
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I think the difference we have is that you see children as naturally gentle and who get filled with violence, where I see all people, including children, as having a natural amount of violent feelings, and I feel they need to not feel shamed over those natural feelings, and they also need to learn how to deal with those natural feelings and control any impulses they might have. In my view, to ignore violence would be to ignore part of their nature.

Nicely put.  

 

I think that this is the fundamental difference between the two lines of thought. This is the key to understanding other points of view, though you might not agree the premise.

 

 

Bolded italics are mine.  I think this is an important point, and possibly the reason so many AP parents do not see the dichotomy between their non-violent parenting policies and the behavior they tolerate in their children.


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Old 01-17-2013, 10:55 AM
 
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I think the difference we have is that you see children as naturally gentle and who get filled with violence, where I see all people, including children, as having a natural amount of violent feelings, and I feel they need to not feel shamed over those natural feelings, and they also need to learn how to deal with those natural feelings and control any impulses they might have. In my view, to ignore violence would be to ignore part of their nature.
 

 

clap.gifI love the way this is stated.  I think this is also in line with GD - listening to/recognizing kids' feelings, repeating them back to them, helping them label them, guiding them to a better way of dealing with them, etc.  I also agree wholeheartedly with what others have said about violent outbursts being a direct result of inability to process strong emotions any other way.  

 

Reflecting on my own childhood, I remember playing all kinds of violent or scary games that would probably disturb me to see DS play, but it was vitally important to me as a child to process all the fear-based messages about the world, and things I had heard (about kidnappings, murders, etc.).  Kids absorb so much, even if you limit access to the worst of it - they'll still catch a bit of news, or overhear adults talking - or even learn things about "stranger danger" in school.  Incorporating these things into play was a major way of processing it and "owning" the threat.  Sort of like the story that Stephen King started writing scary tales to get over his fears, because his mother told him if he could make it up in his head, it didn't really exist.

 

To me, pacifism is all about equipping people with the ability to make other choices when they WANT to wring someone's neck - but it starts with meeting people where they are, with acknowledging they really want to wring somebody's neck!  So I agree with SweetSilver - that part, about not shaming, is crucial.


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Old 01-17-2013, 11:51 AM
 
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Interesting thread!  I think there's a lot here - Martial arts (fighting or not? I say not), whether children should be able to choose if they want to play a fighting game (yes, they should), whether violence play is because of exposure or if it is children working out either natural tendencies, rough housing - it good or bad?                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

I'm guessing, OP, your DC has not taken any age specific martial arts. My DC did and it was not at all focused on violence, fighting, or self-defense. It was age appropriate and more about balance, focus, fitness and etc. I'm sure programs vary but I don't think lumping them all together is the way to go.                  

I do agree with you 100% that children should have a say in what they want to play and I suppose I would pay even closer attention to this if there was violent play going on - though I like to think that I always helped kids respect this idea regardless of the type of play.                                                        

Does anyone remember reading some of the philosophical theories on fairy tales? There was a movement in my town about 10 years ago to sanitize fairy tales for kids. Gone were the kids pushing the bad witch into the fire and etc. Then I read this great article that talked about how kids have those fears and thoughts and they need avenues to express them and ways to understand that they are not freaks for thinking these things.  

So, here I suppose I'm realizing that my DC has been exposed to violence since an early age by way of fairy tales. I really am OK with that and feel like that was something good for her - something that she needed. She enjoys her bow and arrow and has played occasional fighting games. I just think it's childhood fantasy...and serves a purpose the way lots of other pretend play does.    
                                               


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Old 01-17-2013, 12:35 PM
 
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 My child is having a very hard time finding playmates that can sustain interest in any kind of play that doesn't include violence. We have had to leave places and even end friendships over this. For example, we had an occasion where a child just would not stop shooting and throwing things at my child. It was clearly upsetting my kid. My child made it very known this was bothersome and when the child wouldn't stop was starting to get scary. The parent actually told us to toughen up our kid and that we should think about teaching our child how to be less sensitive. When I'm living in a world where a child is considered weird for NOT wanting to shoot someone or be shot at, I begin to question why we are putting so much value into violent play. 

This doesn't sound like the type of violent pretend play that I have seen - it sounds more like toddler impulse control. I think there is a world of difference between "pretend play" and a child acting out aggressively. How old was this child?  As far as that parent's reaction...well, that is pretty crappy, IMO. hug2.gif


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Old 01-18-2013, 05:26 PM
 
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Just to add to the martial arts thing, the big rule that Sensei ALWAYS had for the kids was that karate stayed at the dojo. He reminded them every week that when they leave the dojo, they represent not only themselves but also their parents and their sensei to the outside world. It was ok to practice form and kata at home peacefully but never ok to use on another person. There is something very liberating about channeling all your frustration into a well executed technique. It's high intensity movement combined with balance and control. Sparring was always about control. You could make light contact with the torso but had to stop an inch away from the headgear or receive a penalty. Btw what people seem to forget is that besides the punches and kicks, karate (as well as other MA) teach a ton of blocks. With training, your reflexes sharpen and if you work hard you will be able to PREVENT being hit. Just my own experience.
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Old 01-18-2013, 06:48 PM
 
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Just to add to the martial arts thing, the big rule that Sensei ALWAYS had for the kids was that karate stayed at the dojo. He reminded them every week that when they leave the dojo, they represent not only themselves but also their parents and their sensei to the outside world. It was ok to practice form and kata at home peacefully but never ok to use on another person. 

 

This was our experience, too - my kids went to a "Junior" class from 4-7 years old, and every week they were reminded that karate is NOT about kicking and punching your siblings/friends/classmates, AT.ALL, and in fact that was disrespectful to the concept of karate entirely.  They had a pledge they recited every class, with a similar message and pledge about respecting themselves and others.


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Old 01-19-2013, 01:59 AM
 
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It has been my experience that "kids hitting, pushing, roughhousing" is a normal phase during childhood. With hitting, or any other rough play where someone is upset by it we redirect them, using time out if they can't stop themselves after receiving verbal redirection. If they're roughhousing but they're enjoying wrestling/playing, we let them do what they want.


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