• Parenting’s troubled history: Why changing family patterns is our most important work

    apunish2As we learned from the CDC-Kaiser Permanente ACE Study, negative childhood experiences are often kept secret, downplayed, or repressed because of our powerful desire to put such things behind us. Unfortunately, our minds and our brains don’t work that way. Patterns can play out automatically, no matter how hard we try to be original and create our own realities.

    Just as it is important to know family medical history (e.g., diabetes or tuberculosis) it is equally important to know about our social inheritance.

    What is your ancestry? What destructive patterns did your parents and grandparents overcome? Think back to your childhood, to how you were disciplined. What were the consequences in the short term? In the long term?

    There is a chilling quote from Time magazine essayist Lance Morrow, from his ACES-informed book, Heart: “Generations are boxes within boxes; inside my mother’s violence you find another box, which contains my grandfather’s violence, and inside that box (I suspect but do not know) you would find another box with some such black secret energy—stories within stories, receding in time.”

    Punishment and Fear-Based Leadership

    Authoritarian or autocratic leadership, the very strict style predominant in early 20th century European countries, was also the predominant style in the U.S. before the 1960s. Many families and subcultures in America still abide by this style. The primary goal of authoritarian parents is obedience; their tools are blame, shame, guilt, threats, force, and abuse. Their goal is to control, and their greatest tool is punishment.

    Punishment appears to be an easy fix in the short run, but it can actually cause bigger problems in the long run—instilling fear, distrust, and resulting in a damaged relationship. Youngsters learn that it is okay to bully to get their way. Furthermore, punishment causes great confusion: “How can the most important people in my life, who should be loving and protecting me, be attacking me?”

    Research shows that punishment increases aggressiveness and behavior problems, and lowers IQ and academic performance. Punishment provokes anger and the desire for revenge. When backed into a corner, humans may revert to their basest instincts.

    The American Psychological Association states that “corporal punishment is violent and unnecessary, may lower self-esteem, and is liable to instill hostility and rage without reducing the undesired behavior.” The APA adds, “corporal punishment is likely to train children to use physical violence.”

    Yet, many parents still rely on punishment, holding beliefs such as,

    • “My parents used it and I turned out okay”
    • “My parents never punished me, and I didn’t turn out okay”
    • “You have to beat your own kid or the world/the police/others will beat him/her.”

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  • Juvenile transfers to adult court: A lingering outcome of the super-predator craze


    By John Kelly, ChronicleofSocialChange.org

    Twenty years ago, in a speech at Keene State College in New Hampshire, then-First Lady Hillary Clinton made a comment about juvenile crime. Discussing the need for a top-level fight against gangs that harkened the mob-busting of previous decades, Clinton told reporters that “they are not just gangs of kids anymore.”

    “They are often the kinds of kids that are called ‘super-predators,’ ” Clinton continued. “No conscience, no empathy; we can talk about why they ended up that way, but first we have to bring them to heel.”

    The term super-predator was coined by author John DiIulio in a book that foresaw an America done in by child armies. From “Moral Poverty – and How to Win America’s War Against Crime and Drugs”:

    “America is now home to thickening ranks of juvenile ‘super-predators’ – radically impulsive, brutally remorseless youngsters, including ever more pre-teenage boys, who murder, assault, rape, rob, burglarize, deal deadly drugs, join gun-toting gangs and create serious communal disorders. They do not fear the stigma of arrest, the pains of imprisonment or the pangs of conscience … At core the problem is that most inner-city children grow up surrounded by teenagers and adults who are themselves deviant, delinquent and criminal.”

    DiIulio’s prose was based largely on the predictions of researcher James Alan Fox, who had forecasted a “bloodbath of teenage violence” coming in the 1990s and beyond.

    None of the super-predator/bloodbath stuff turned out to be true, of course. Juvenile crime, and specifically violent crime, plummeted in the United States after the racially tinged prognostications of the time.

    DiIulio, who would go on to lead the newly established Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives for George W. Bush, had publicly disavowed the super-predator comment by 2001. Fox pretty much immediately backed off his comments, conceding in a 1996 USA Todaycolumn that “I never meant there would be a blood bath. Some of it was part of getting people’s attention.”

    Clinton was publicly mum on the topic for 20 years until this year’s presidential primaries, when a young protestor disrupted a fundraiser to challenge on the subject. Clinton responded in a statement to The Washington Post the next day:

    “Looking back, I shouldn’t have used those words, and I wouldn’t use them today. My life’s work has been about lifting up children and young people who’ve been let down by the system or by society, kids who never got the chance they deserved. And unfortunately today, there are way too many of those kids, especially in African-American communities. We haven’t done right by them. We need to.”

    In the years since the super-predator forecast, some of the harshest punishments handed down to juveniles have been rolled back. Since 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court has separately ruled the following things to be unconstitutional:

    • Death penalty for juveniles.
    • Juveniles getting life without parole for any crime other than a homicide.
    • Juveniles automatically getting life without parole under any state sentencing guideline.

    In addition, several states have reconsidered their age of jurisdiction. Massachusetts and Illinois no longer consider 17-year-olds to be adults in the eyes of the law; Connecticut used to consider 16- and 17-year-olds to be adults.

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