As a child every time I got a whipping from my mother, I just knew she was killing me. I had to select my own switch and if you got the switch you thought you deserved, it would be in shreds by the time you got a couple of licks. If you brought the kind she thought you needed, you’d have a sore butt for days. Her “this hurts me more than it hurts you,” couldn’t possibly have been true because she made sure I clearly understood the error of my ways and I had tears to prove it.
One time I decided to run from her instead of taking my punishment. I figured she was old and I could outrun her–what I learned that day is yes, she was old but she ran rings around me and then she beat me! Despite all the whippings and lectures, she always promised to get me “for old and new,” whenever I got a mercy raincheck. I think she whipped me for the same old every time, but she assured me she didn’t.
She called it discipline, I called it child abuse. I know now there is a marked difference. The instruction I received was always tempered with love and while I never thought I’d fix my mouth to say it, I appreciate the time and effort my parents made in bringing me up with courage, great expectations, morals, values, patience, and good sense.
Child abuse, not discipline, is what we’re talking about today. Abuse has taken on a dark side and now it’s about saving the lives of children and sparing them the horrors of their everyday home life and neglect. During April, Child Abuse Awareness Month, awareness is the first step to prevention. Child abuse has many faces and causes: children who are left alone, unattended, unfed, harshly punished, poverty, addictions, predators, inadequate healthcare, immigration, molestation, obesity, unprepared and stressed out parents or guardians—the list is extensive whether we’re talking abuse in one or multiple facets.
States and courts are struggling to cope. According to United Way of Connecticut, “Children experiencing homelessness are sick four times more often than other children, go hungry at twice the rate of other children, have high rates of obesity due to nutritional deficiencies, have three times the rate of emotional and behavioral problems compared to non-homeless children, are four times more likely to show delayed development, and are twice as likely to have learning disabilities as non-homeless children.“
In many communities, churches and civic groups sponsor weekend backpack programs for school age children who are suffering from food insecurity. As summer approaches these same groups will offer lunch and programming when resources are stretched thin and parents can’t afford to provide care and nourishing meals.
Child abuse is real and it goes much deeper than the beatings and verbal abuse we often witness in the grocery aisles when children are misbehaving. Too often when we don’t intervene, children are yelled at, hit, disrespected, berated, beaten or even shaken to death. When we lived multi-generationally, there were extra hands and soft words to help and protect little ones but too often we have left them to fend for themselves.
There are no magic bullets but pay closer attention and affirm good parenting when you see it. Like at the airport, if you see something problematic, say something, intervene, or diffuse if you can. In non-confrontational times, suggest parenting classes, or share good techniques you have, in a non-judgmental way. Every child is sacred and they deserve love, care and patience—from all of us. It really does take a village to raise a child—let’s build one today.
Looking for inspiration, empowerment, uplift, straight talk, an encouraging word to brighten your day? You’ve arrived! Meet Dr. Cynthia Ann Bond Hopson, best-selling author, educator, inspirational speaker, sistergirl–she’s all that and more. All the way from Stanton, TN (you can’t get there from here) to 50 states, six continents and everything in between, she’s wise, witty and altogether wonderful. She enthusiastically invites you to slow down, sit a spell, and share a giggle or two.