What a Child Learns About Violence
By Jeffrey Segal, PsyD (APA Member and Licensed Psychologist)
“What a child learns about violence, a child learns for life….teach carefully.”
Little did I know that when I first heard these words 12 years ago as one of the early facilitators trained in APA’s Adults and Children Together Against Violence (ACT) Raising Safe Kids Program, that they would inform a lot of my clinical work over the next decade.
When I started out as a psychologist 27 years ago, I did forensic work in a hospital-based child abuse program – evaluating and treating children who had been physically, sexually and emotionally abused.
At that time, I witnessed the long-term effects of violence in children’s lives. These children were abused by those family members who were supposed to protect them and make sure they were safe in the world.
What attracted me to the ACT program was having concrete, tangible information that I could share with parents to prevent the kinds of abuse I had encountered in my forensic career.
It is hard turning on the news, reading the papers or other online postings where we do not hear about violence in our world. It can be overwhelming to think that there is nothing that can be done to change such a pervasive societal problem.
Being involved in the ACT program has given me hope that even though I cannot change the world, I can hopefully impact my small piece of the world by using this parenting program to teach nonviolent ways of managing anger, problem solving, effective discipline and educating parents about media violence.
What I love about the ACT program is that it is a research-based evidence-informed program. So, I know that what I am teaching parents is based on developmental theory and research about the effects of violence on children’s development.
In looking back on the years I have been a psychologist, I can honestly say that my involvement with the ACT program has been one of my most gratifying professional endeavors. It has brought together my interests in working with underserved populations, child development and non-violent parenting.
One of the things I love most about the program is that what Julia da Silva (Director, APA’s Violence Prevention Office) began 12 years ago in a couple of places in the country, is now all over the world. When I attend the yearly ACT National Leadership Conference I am mesmerized by the work of the international psychologists.
When I think that what I do in New Jersey has now been translated into Spanish, Portuguese, Greek, Arabic and Japanese and is being expanded internationally to help parents in Puerto Rico, Colombia, Peru, Brazil, Greece, Cyprus and now Japan is amazing.
When a parent comes back to me after I have taught them how to manage their anger when their child acts out and ways of calming down instead of spanking them or how to appropriately and developmentally discipline a child, their reaction often is “it (ACT) works…it really works.” It is incredibly gratifying that they are now able to “teach carefully” and hopefully end the cycle of violence in the next generation.
Give us your thoughts in the comments.
What can we all do to “teach carefully” in order to ensure non-violent parenting?
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