Confronting the Consequence of Public Knowledge
In most occasions of family violence, the perpetrator (in this case, the willful child) does not want news of what happened to be broadcast outside of the family because reputation with significant others could be affected. “Don’t tell my grandparents!” pleads the child. “I don’t want them to know.” Make the violent child understand that significant outside others—extended family, close family friends, other important adults—will be told about any act of family violence that he commits. Explain, “When what we have to say is not enough to discourage you from acting this way, then we will reach outside of family to others who care about us for advice on what we can do.” The child learns that private family acts of violence will receive public attention, that attention affecting his reputation.
One of the most powerful responses parents can make when a willful child engages in family violence is to let in the eyes of the world by letting significant others outside the family know what has happened, soliciting their advice, and letting the child know his violent act has become more widely known. Secrecy only enables family violence.
The long-term consequences of family violence are severe. Children who are allowed to be violent will become statistics of crime and domestic abuse in the future. This is not what you wish for your little one.
Confronting Concerned Others
If the previous confrontations have failed to persuade the willful child to cease his violent ways, assemble a circle of caring. To his surprise, the child finds a circle of significant adults assembled at home, all of whom are there to express caring and support for him. Include a grandparent, an aunt, an uncle, a couple of close family friends, a valued teacher, a coach, the parents of a close friend—any adults whose good opinion would matter to the child.
Like an intervention, these adults are all there to express positive regard and sincere concerns, and what they have to say is noncritical, only caring. Their mission is:
To express concern over specific violence that has happened
To express all the positive regard in which they hold the child and why
To express how they each stand ready to be of help to the child in any way they can
To commit to more communication and contact with the child to keep up with how he is coming along
Confronting Social Reality
If the previous confrontations have failed to persuade, you can put the child on notice that any further acts of violence will cause you to call in social authority by reporting a family disturbance to the police. When the police arrive, describe the incident to the officers, the officers will speak to the child, and the child will have a chance to speak to the police and hear the trouble that additional acts of family violence can bring.
Confronting Outplacement from the Family
If all the previous confrontations fail to persuade the child to cease his acts of family violence, let the child know that you’re considering temporary placement outside the family in a highly structured situation to teach him nonviolent ways of living. This could be a treatment facility. It could be a strict residential home. “We want you to be able to live with us, but if you continue to be a danger to the safety of other family members, then you forfeit the right to live among us until you have learned better self-control.”
Sometimes extended family can provide the external placement and learning the violent child needs. For example, a child who is violent in his immediate family may never resort to such destructive acting out while living with grandparents, because he respects them too much and does not want them to see his violent side.
The first step is giving the child this notification. The second step is to visit a treatment or residential facility. And, if the violence continues, the final step is to exit the child from the family for outside help for some period of time. The first step should not be considered unless you are serious and feel temporary outplacement from family can teach the child self-discipline that cannot be taught at home.
If you are going to confront the violent child with the possibility of outplacement, it must be presented as a necessary change to preserve safety in the family and not used as a threat, punishment, or rejection. It must be done with love and hope that the child can learn to live by nonviolent choices and very soon be back in the home.