By Louise A. Williams
Violence to children is a global issue that must be addressed by all nations. This paper will focus on the solution that over the long term should bring about positive change for all and the solution is LOVE.
Origin of Love and Violence
Before discussing the solution, let’s look at Love and Violence. What is the origin of love and violence? According to Dr. James Prescott, a neuropsychologist, human violence is fast becoming a global epidemic. He states in one of his numerous research papers that unless the causes of violence are isolated and treated, we will live in a world of fear and apprehension. Unfortunately, violence is often offered as a solution to violence. Imprisoning people will not solve the problem, because the causes of violence lie in our basic values and the way in which we bring up our children and youth. He is convinced that the deprivation of physical sensory pleasure is the principal root cause of violence. On the other hand the biology of love is in the giving of physical sensory pleasure, the affectional bonding in the maternal-infant relationship, and the paternal-child relationship.
After conducting years of research at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in the United States, Dr. Prescott feels that the single most important cause of violent behaviour, the developmental depression that precedes it, and the later drug/alcohol abuse that is used to treat the emotional pain that underlies the rage of uncontrolled violence is the failure of physical affectional bonding in the maternal-infant relationship; the paternal-child relationship and the failure of adolescent sexual affectional bonding.
When young children are not touched, held or surrounded with affection, the neural systems required to experience pleasure are not developed, which leads to an individual and a culture that is self-centered, violent and authoritarian.
Rene Spitz, and Austrian born psychoanalyst known for his studies of the effects on infants of hospitalization with extended separation from mother, noticed that most institutionalized infants, who had the best medical and physical care, but no ‘mother love’ – no one touched, held or hugged them – had depressive and autistic-like behaviours. With deprivation of physical affection and body contact, which is the biology of love, these infants and children withdrew into their own world and in extreme cases, they gave up and died.
Experimental studies of isolation-reared infant monkeys documented that maternal-infant separation constitutes a specific form of affectional deprivation that involves the touch and movement sensory systems and results in a variety of abnormalities of brain development that includes structural, neurochemical and neuroelectrical abnormalities. These deprived animals engage in mutilations of their own bodies. Animals deprived of touching early in life develop impaired pain perception and an aversion to being touched by others. Physical violence and physical pain become therapies of choice for those deprived of physical pleasure.
In short, it is the failure of physical love in human relationships that begins with the failure of that physical love when an infant is not permitted to bond with the body of its mother, which then begins the infant’s journey of depression, rage, hatred and violence for not being loved. Thus begins the peril of infant and child daycare centers, which impedes, if not prevents, the affectional bonding between mother and her infant/child and, thus, all later affectional bonds.
While focusing on violence, it is important to look briefly at a scripture in the Holy Bible that states: “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” Most Christians believe this means to spank, beat or punish, a child using any form of abuse, so she/he won’t go astray. However, a different interpretation of this scripture needs to be looked at. If one looks at a young tree freshly planted in the ground it usually has from two to four rods along the sides of its trunk to provide support so it will not grow crooked. Therefore, the scripture means to provide loving, kind, gentle support to the child, not physical abuse.
Like a computer, television, refrigerator or mobile phone, children unfortunately do not come with an operator’s manual. They are created by a sexual act between a man and a woman; birthed usually after nine months of growing inside the mother’s womb; and then sent home to be raised, hopefully with love, by the two who created the child. There are no required courses for the parents to take on child rearing and no owner/operator’s manual to follow. The parents must rely solely upon their own instincts and the advice of friends and family.
In the world past, children were birthed and raised at home usually within a joint family where the mother remained at home or if she worked, there was usually one blood relative present with the child at all times. That is, until the children were at an age to go to school to receive an education. Then the children were placed in the hands of total strangers who were to provide education. Unfortunately, some teachers or childcare providers did not give the type of love the child received at home. In fact, some used violence. Some molested children.
In today’s world where both parents are required to work to survive and to meet the costs of day-to-day living, numerous children at a very early age are placed under the care of complete strangers who run Daycare Centers. Hopefully the parents are able to find kind, loving individuals to provide the necessary care, but then again, if there are more than three children to one person, the children will suffer and not get the required nurturing needed in their early years. In the Western world, mothers and those who care for have opted to carry infants in little seats/carryall – thus depriving the child of what it needs most – touch. Mothers have stopped breast feeding their babies and are giving bottles propped up on a pillow or towel as they go about their day-to-day chores while the baby lacks being held during feeding. It is now a status symbol in the USA to outsource potty training and other parental duties.
In addition, there are numerous people providing care for children who have not been trained and are doing it for the money and could care less about what the child requires. Then there are those who are disguised as childcare givers who are misusing the children while they are under their care. The misuse could include using the child in child pornography films, labour or if the caregiver has a deranged mind, for personal pleasure.
Now let’s take a look at love, here a story about love and friendship.
There was a friend in high school who saw a kid from his class walking home from school. His name was Kyle. It looked like he was carrying all of his books. The friend thought to himself, “Why would anyone bring home all his books on a Friday? He must really be a nerd.”
Having quite a weekend planned (parties and a football game with his friends) my friend shrugged his shoulders and went on.
While walking, he saw a bunch of kids running toward Kyle. They ran to him, knocking all his books out of his arms and tripping him so he landed in the dirt. His glasses went flying, and my friend saw them land in the grass about ten feet from Kyle. He looked up and my friend saw his terrible sadness in his eyes.
My friend’s heart went out to him. So, he jogged over to him as he crawled around looking for his glasses and he saw a tear in his eye. As he handed him his glasses he said, “Those guys are jerks. They really should get lives.” Kyle looked at him and said, “Hey thanks!” There was a big smile on his face.
It was one of those smiles that showed real gratitude.
Having helped him pick up his books, he asked him where he lived. As it turned out, he lived near my friend, so he asked him why he had never seen him before. He said he had gone to private school before now.
My friend would have never hung out with a private school kid before. Yet, the talked all the way home, and my friend even carried some of Kyle’s books. Kyle turned out to be a pretty cool kid. And my friend started hanging out with him over the weekend.
Monday morning came, and there was Kyle with the huge stack of books again. My friend, Jim, stopped him and said, “Boy, you are gonna really build some serious muscles with this pile of books everyday!” Kyle just laughed and handed Jim half the books.
Over the next four years, Kyle and Jim became best friends. As seniors they began to think about college. Kyle decided on Georgetown, and Jim was going to Duke. Jim knew that he and Kyle would always be friends, that the miles would never be a problem. Kyle was going to be a doctor, and Jim was going for business on a football scholarship.
Kyle was valedictorian of their high school class. Jim teased him all the time about being a nerd. He had to prepare a speech for graduation.
On Graduation day, Jim saw Kyle. He looked great. He was one of those guys that really found himself during high school. He filled out and actually looked good in glasses. He had more dates than Jim had and all the girls loved him. Boy, sometimes Jim was jealous.
Today was one of those days. Jim could see that Kyle was nervous about his speech. So, he smacked him on the back and said, “Hey, big guy, you will be great!” Kyle look at Jim with one of those looks (the really grateful one) and smiled. “Thanks,” he said.
As he started his speech, he cleared his throat, and began. “Graduation is a time to thank those who helped you make it through those tough years – your parents, your teachers, your siblings, maybe a coach…..but mostly those who showed a lot of love…..your friends. I am here to tell all of you that being a friend to someone is the best gift you can give. I am going to tell you a story.”
Jim just looked at Kyle with disbelief as he told the story of the first day of how he had met Jim. He had planned to kill himself over the weekend. He talked of how he had cleaned out his locker so his Mom wouldn’t have to do it later and was carrying his stuff home. He looked hard at Jim during the speech and gave a little smile.
“Thankfully, I was saved. My friend saved me from doing the unspeakable.” Suddenly a gasp went through the crowd as this handsome, popular boy told everyone about his weakest moment. His mom and dad turned towards Jim and smiled that grateful smile. Not until that moment did Jim realize his depth.
Never underestimate the power of your actions. With one small gesture of love you can change a person’s life – for better or for worse.
The Holy Koran states that we are to love our neighbour as our self. This is also said in the Holy Bible. Would anyone intentionally inflict violence upon their own body? Hardly! Then why inflict violence on children?
Here’s what the Bible says about love.
“Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, love does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, love does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”
An Indian guru says this about love:
“Life is love, and living a life of love is the only religious life, the only life of prayer, peace, the only life of gratitude, grandeur, and splendour.”
In 1984 while president of an advertising agency, I was approached by a national organization called ChildHelp USA to develop a public service ad campaign in order to create an awareness of the problem of child abuse in the United States. The challenge was accepted and a campaign was developed that won national acclaim. However, while developing the campaign numerous discussions with several people on, ‘How Do We Stop Child Abuse’, were had, which remained in my thoughts for numerous years.
One day, I realized that if a survey was taken among parents and childcare providers about abuse, the majority who were abusing the children under their care would not feel they were abusing the children. Why? Because they honestly believe they are doing what is in the best interest of the child, albeit wrong.
Violence begets violence. Love begets love.
Change the focus from stopping violence to teaching love
We must change from a violence based society to one of love. Prescott’s recommendation to reduce violence would be that every newborn be carried on the mother’s body as much as possible and for extended periods of time. Close intimate body contact with the mother provides the foundation for emotional trust upon which other relationships will be built. Without the first foundation all other relationships will flounder or fail. The warmth of human touch and security of body contact are, without question, the most effective way to reduce violence. Fragmentation and isolation of human relationships, the denial of true intimacy and the pleasure it implies, builds into the brain a predisposition for anger, rage and violence.
When children are birthed, they come into this world without judgment or preconceived ideas about hate, violence or for that matter love. All of these ideas come from adult caregivers. If children are raised in loving home environments where peace and harmony exist, and where they are taught the appropriate behaviour in love, the chances of violence spreading are nil. By focusing on the solution of LOVE and not the negative of Violence………change will take place. But how do we focus on love? Is it something that can be taught?
In looking at research it is evident that it can be taught. The greatest teacher is ‘action’. If the mother, father or childcare giver provides care with love, the child will automatically learn love. Yet in today’s society most parents or caregivers do not know how to teach their children. They know only how to slap or punish the child when they do something wrong, instead of praising or rewarding a child when he does something right. In other words, the children learn how to behave through pain. It would be better if parents or childcare providers would lovingly & patiently teach children what is to be done.
Another interesting finding is that human societies differ greatly in their treatment and care of infants. Some cultures lavish physical affection on infants, while in others, the parents and childcare providers physically punish their infants.
In an anthropological study prepared by R.B. Textor, A Cross-Cultural Summary, Dr. Prescott was able to analyze the statistical data and found that societies that provide infants with a great deal of physical affection (‘tender loving care’) are later characterized by relatively non-violent adults. In 36 of the 49 cultures studied, a high degree of infant affection was associated with a low degree of adult physical violence – and vice versa. When the 13 exceptions were investigated, it was found that the violence of all but one could be accounted for the presence or absence of premarital sexual behaviour.
There since violence may stem from deprivation of touch either in infancy or in adolescence, a system needs to be developed where individuals are taught how to raise children with love. And this must be done before they ever have a child or for the childcare provider, before they ever care for a child. In addition, courses must be made available continuously so individuals may take ‘refresher courses’, just like post graduate courses physicians or other professionals take to keep abreast with changes in their professions.
The public-at-large must stop focusing on the negative (against violence) and start focusing on the positive (love, peace, harmony, etc.). Instead of always talking about stopping something, start talking about teaching new alternatives on how to love – How to love a child, how to love a person or how to love someone who believes differently.
There was a good ad campaign in the USA years back that posted billboards with the following statement: “Have you hugged your kid today?” it was not focusing on the negative but bringing the positive to light.
It goes without argument that the necessary laws must be in place to protect a child. Yet, being in place is not enough……they must be enforced. But to be enforced, resources must be developed. Safe placed must be created where children can be placed either temporarily or permanently to avoid or to heal from maltreatment.
Although there is not just one way to create positive change, it is recommended that all nations join together and start focusing on providing alternative loving methods of raising children. By loving a child from birth, change will take place. We must empower the children, but to do so we must work with and through adults. We must provide them with the necessary tools to be kind, loving parents and childcare providers.
One way this can be accomplished is through community awareness and educational programs on alternative ways of raising and treating children, using love and encouragement as the basic foundation.
Audiences for the educational programs could include:
In India, Love Humanity International (LHI), is preparing to do just this. Its mission is to effect positive change in the future by empowering the children of today to grow into self-sufficient adults of tomorrow who may one day change the future of their community, country and/or possible the world.
Challenges in India
According to research study conducted by USAID in the year 2001, India had over 26,000,000 (twenty-six million) known orphans. This number was 7.8% of its total population of children. By the year 2005 this figure was estimated to be one million less as a result of education and birth control. Although progress is being made there is still much work to be done. These children are part of the future. They must not be ignored when looking at any subject to do with children.
Some of the abandoned and orphaned children in India have been placed in institutions where they are housed in barracks type environments with a warden caring for approximately 30 to 50 children at a time. Although this is better than living on the street, it does not give the children the needed love and affection.
Different resources state that from 13 to 17 million children in India live on the streets have no place to call home, no parents, caretakers or significant adult figures that they can trust. They become beggars. They revert to crime to survive. Both boys and girls are put out for prostitution at a very young age. Violence to these little people is horrific, to say the least. As these children grow up, they never experience the love of parents or know how it is to live in a loving caring family and barely receive adequate education so when they reach adulthood they are unable to come close to reaching their full potential. These are the children who grow to be criminals, beggars or a dependent upon the government for support.
It is a known fact that orphans and children living on the streets face unusually high amounts of violence every day. This is understandable as they do not receive the necessary touch and comforting parents or caregivers. Yet, it appears that the public-at-large seems to pay little attention to this huge problem. Here’s a quote from someone who does care:
“There are those who enter the world in such poverty that they are deprived of both the means and the motivation to improve their lot. Unless these unfortunates can be touched with the spark, which ignites the spirit of individual enterprise and determination, they will only sink back into renewed apathy, degradation and despair. It is for us, who are more fortunate, to provide that spark.”
His Highness the Aga Khan
And accordingly, I feel that spark is LOVE.
Child abuse is staggering throughout India. According to a recent study conducted in 2002, 49.1% of children in India suffer from severe psychological abuse and 42.5% of children in India suffer from severe physical abuse not including any form of slapping. And this is from their immediate family only. Imagine what the figures would be if daycare teachers or childcare providers were also part of the research.
Another study showed that 2 out of 4 girls and 1 out of 6 boys are sexually abused before they reach 16 years of age.
Responsible Childcare Training – LHI is in process of preparing to launch a Responsible Childcare Course using a combined curriculum of Common Sense Parenting® (CSP) that has been modified for the Indian culture and a segment of preventive healthcare with emphasis on HIV/AIDS prevention developed by the Mumbai District AIDA Control Society.
One of the keys to assist individuals in the caring for children is in teaching them how to raise them properly. It is a known fact that individuals around the world have never been required to take any type of parenting courses to prepare them to be parents before becoming parents. Because of this, if a person has had an abusive childhood, it is likely that they will raise their children using the same abusive techniques. After all, one can only do what one knows.
Therefore, it is important that individuals who want to have or to care for children find a way t get the appropriate information they need to take on this demanding role. One approach is for the person to learn from their own family members. Another approach is for the person to take some type of childcare classes. It is LHI’s opinion that childcare classes should be made available and be required for any individual who intends to care for or to have a child of their own.
Common Sense Parenting® (CSP) was developed by Girls and Boys Town Training Center and offers techniques, strategies and models of care that are research-based and outcomes-oriented and can be used by any culture.
In 2001, Girls and Boys Town training and program development experts touched an estimated 1.5 million children and families through outreach and training programs.
CSP is a practical, skill-based parenting program that applies to nearly every situation. The program’s logical strategies and easy-to-learn techniques address issues of communication, discipline, decision-making, relationships, self-control and school success. CSP is used to arm parents with the skills they need to raise responsible, healthy children.
Along with the CSP curriculum LHI decided to add segments on family planning and preventive healthcare with emphasis on HIV/AIDS prevention.
Loving Family-like Homes – To address the need of homeless children or those who are referred to most as ‘street children’, LHI is now preparing to launch a concept of providing, managing and monitoring permanent loving family-like homes where the children will be raised and nurtured in permanent supportive family-like environments with a married couple providing the role of parents/caregivers. Since these homes are permanent the children will all be raised as brothers and sisters.
Each individual home is slated for one family comprise of a well-trained married caregiver/parent couple and up to six (6) children. The husband is employed in his line of work or profession within the city where the home is located and the mother will be a stay-at-home full-time mom. Since there will be 6 children at home, a trained childcare assistant will be working with the mother.
Children of both sexes, at the time of acceptance into the community, will range from birth to 10 years of age. Every effort will be made to ensure that siblings stay together. They will be placed, if possible, with parents/caretakers of their own religious beliefs. If the children have no known religious background, they will be placed with the first available parent couple regardless of religion. The children in each home will grow up together as brothers and sisters in a loving, abusive free, family-like atmosphere.
Children are to be raise in the culture of their respective areas of their country. All basic and emotional needs will be met, which include:
In normal everyday world, every family has relatives. Therefore, since research proves that most cases of sexual abuse are from relatives and/or people who are known by the children, the role of grandparents or other relatives such as aunts, uncles, cousins, etc., will be filled by individuals who have been screened and who have passed the parental training course. These individuals can either be the actual relatives of the parent/caregiver couples or volunteers.
Each aspect of the program will be monitored, reviewed and fine-tunes on a continuing basis. Policy and procedures will be established, followed and modified as needed to care for the children in safe abuse-free environments. The methods used by Girls and Boys Town, the developers of Common Sense Parenting® that is used in our Responsible Childcare training, will be used as our benchmark, taking into consideration the Indian culture.
Similar Models of Care - Globally
SOS Children’s Villages www.soscvindia.org: The village concept of SOS is very close to what Love Humanity intends to do. The provide a village type setting with cottages where a single woman becomes the “Mother” of up to 12 children at a time. The male administrator working at each location is said to fill the father role. Some locations have as many as 120 children.
The main differences we have found through research include that there is no father in the home; the boys are required to leave the home once they reached puberty, which can again be very traumatic and unsettling; and each woman cares for 12 children.
Udayan Care, New Delhi www.udayancare.org: This organization was formed in 1994 to provide care for orphaned, neglected and/or abused children. It provides care for both sexes – currently 25 girls and 11 boys. The children live in flats owned by Udayan Care in middle class neighbourhoods. The boys and girls live in separate homes. Volunteers called “Mentor Mothers” fill the role of mother. However, they do not live in the flats, but come and visit and take the children on outings on a regular basis. Approximately 12 children live together in each flat. Udayan Care has a full time staff of 14 and approximately 25 regular volunteers helping with tutoring.
From our research we see the absence of a father figure and the mother figure does not live in the home with the children.
Karuna Welfare www.karunasharan.org: Currently, Karuna Welfare is running four Homes that house 80 Children collectively. They have also constructed a school for them. All are located in Vasai District of Mumbai. Each home has a married couple acting as parents. There are from 20 to 23 children in each three bedroom row house. I visited this organization and they appear to be the closest model to Love Humanity’s family home concept. Yet, they have crammed these children in homes that in reality are too small for so many children, are very sparsely furnished and have just two caregivers. Fortunately, all four homes are in the same society, which makes it convenient for the caregivers to interact and help each other in the child rearing process. Yet, they all go to a school specially built for them, which in turn keeps them isolated from society and the stigma of being an orphan remains with them. In addition these homes are all Christian and appear not to teach other religions.
Girls and Boys Town www.girlsandboystown.org: In the USA there is Girls and Boys Town that uses this model for the severely abused, neglected or abandoned child. Its program is on a temporary basis with the goal of each child returning to their respective parents. The average stay for their children is about two and a half years. In each home they have six children with a married couple playing the role of Parent/Teachers. The couple is allowed to have two of their own children under the stipulation that they are treated equally with the other children. Each home has four bedrooms with two children per room. There are at least two adults present when more that three children are present.
To my knowledge, Girls and Boys Town is the only one of the above mentioned organizations that reaches-out to the community by offering training to the public on alternative ways of parenting. Their intention is to spread the course worldwide.
This course or others similar must be required by all who care for or have children. Common Sense Parenting teaches individuals how to spend time with and to love their children.
Coming from an abusive childhood I know from experience that teaching works. Fortunately for me, when I was pregnant with my daughter who is now 31, a beautiful woman who became my mentor, Joel Marie Teutsch, was in my life before I conceived. As soon as she knew I was pregnant, she sat down with me and told me various responsibilities I had as a mother to the unborn child. She coached me on a regular basis to healthy, to be around positive people, to be in a positive environment and to walk at least three miles daily. She also taught me to talk to the unborn child and tell it how much it was loved.
After birth, she mentored me until she died 8 years later. She taught me to teach my daughter to make decisions and to teach her to be able to take responsibility for her life. She taught me how to love my daughter unconditionally. She taught me to use a positive vocabulary and to never ever lie to my daughter, even in jest. Had Joel Teutsch not been in my life I know I would’ve abused my daughter as that was all I knew when I was a child.
A physician, after 30 years of practice, was asked, “What works best with patients?” He replied, “Love is always the best medicine.” He was then asked, “What if love doesn’t work?” The physician’s answer was plain and simple, “Double the dose!”
Love is powerful. Let’s teach and be love.