Authoritative, authoritarian, liberal, permissive, attachment, helicopter, uninvolved or free range parenting ? No matter which style of parenting you choose or operate with , it has a deep impact and influence on many aspects of your child’s physical and mental health. While most parents consciously focus on a child’s development , the concern of freedom, protection and prevention from Child Sexual Abuse is always underrated and royally ignored.
It can be attributed to cultural factors, social factors, lack of education and awareness or unwillingness to confront this issue and know it all attitude too. This write up aims to help you understand the importance of keeping your children safe by working on your parenting styles . Parenting styles can create fertile grounds for perpetrators to prey on your kids or it can create a safe physical and emotional ground that the perpetrators dare not meddle with. It determines what kind of adults they grow up to be. Moreover, your parenting style determines the safety of your child and has an impact on prevention of child sexual abuse.
Parenting style is defined as a consolidation of parents’ strategies, attitudes and behaviors toward children and how they bring them up. Knowingly or unknowingly, you might be using one or more of these parenting styles in your life with your children. You can take this online quiz to know your parenting style. [Disclaimer - this is not a definitive tool to determine your parenting style and will not provide reasoning, but it can help in navigating your parenting style/s]
There is no right or wrong way of parenting your children, your style of parenting will depend upon how you were brought up as a child, your childhood, your values, other such aspects of your life and most importantly your children. We at Cactus Foundation do not endorse any parenting style as good or bad, rather our attempt is to create awareness about how parents can create safe childhoods for their children, by keeping your child’s physical and emotional safety at the center through their parenting styles. We want you to understand the gaps in your parenting style that can feed the perpetrator with easy accessibility and opportunities to groom , abuse ,gaslight, manipulate, threaten ,reward, punish and betray them .
Parenting Styles and Child Sexual Abuse Prevention
Your parenting style has a huge impact on child sexual abuse prevention, its education and reporting. Perpetrators of child sexual abuse evaluate the loopholes in parenting and the relationship between the parent and the child they are targeting. By filling this gap in the loophole, the perpetrator can get close to the child and groom them. For example, children who might be experiencing neglect or too much discipline at home might have a need for love, space and warmth. A perpetrator who identifies this loophole might fulfill these needs of the child and get close to the child, putting them at a higher risk of being sexually abused.
If a child is often being criticized, punished, scolded, controlled by the parents as seen in a couple of parenting styles, the child becomes less confident and has low self esteem which puts them at a higher risk of being groomed.
If a child is being styled through free range parenting , kids often end up getting into situations that aren't too pleasant. The perpetrators get free access , win the trust of the child due to flexible boundaries and end up sexually abusing them after winning their trust.
When a perpetrator sees that a parent has a healthy relationship with the child, they would avoid preying on this child as there is no gap in the parent- child relationship where they can creep in. Children who are often scolded by their parents would feel good with somebody who talks kindly and affectionately with them, a perpetrator being this person can misuse this parent-child dynamic and gain the trust of the child, making them vulnerable. Situations like these become conducive environments for child sexual abuse.
Parents need to remember that a perpetrator can be anybody, a close family member or a neighbor, or any person observing their relationship with their children. Hence parents need to be mindful about how they communicate with their children in front of the world, respect your child and what they say in front of the extended family, friends instead of scolding them or opening a conversation about their shortcomings. It is in everyday normal situations that a perpetrator will try to get close to the child, gain their trust and groom them. Remember that every action you take as a parent can be either in the favor of a Perpetrator out there or in the favor of your child.
Also the unsupervised parenting, uninvolved parenting, permissive parenting or any other style is now more vulnerable since online sexual abuse of children has become really common and easy. Without thinking much parents give gadgets to their kids. Whether its a latest smartphone , easy internet access , game subscriptions the scope of your parenting style has definitely become increasingly challenging, tricky and worrisome too.
As child sexual abuse prevention experts, parenting attitudes that we feel should align with your parenting style to create safe childhoods -
- Being present emotionally and physically
- Engaging and understanding
- Being mindful and conscious
- Establishing emotional connection
- Effective , respectful and open communication
- A comfort level to have all sorts of conversations
- Imbibing feelings of respect, trust and belief in your child for you
- Empathy so that children do not fear reporting mistakes and sharing secrets
- Supervising and monitoring age appropriately
- Proactive parenting over reactive parenting
- Morale building of kids through positive role modeling.
- Never say it will never happen to my child. Always be vigilant
- Trust and believe in your child.
- Focus On Prevention
- Attention and chanelisation of parenting energies for real world as well virtual world problems relating to sexual abuse of children.
We all know that communication is the key, and it is the most important one in parenting and child sexual abuse prevention and its reporting. Recognize if you and your children have an effective way of communication, do they fear telling you some things because they think if they did you might be aggressive with them? Does your child keep secrets about who they are talking to or how somebody is treating them? Or you and your children can talk about anything under the sun?
If your children will observe you having and initiating open effective communication and conversations with them, they will have them with you too. Children should be able to tell you if they feel uncomfortable in certain situations or with certain people and what makes them feel this way. Carefully understanding this situation and inspecting it can be an early intervention and prevention of a bigger possible future problem. Always keep the channel of communication open and make sure that your children know you do.
Remember that the early signs of your child being in trouble can only be detected and recognized when you have a close bond and effective communication style with your children.
Stop, Start and Continue
Here is an activity for all the parents: make three columns on a page in your diary and label the first column as STOP, second one as START and third one as CONTINUE. Identify the attitudes of your parenting and categorize them.
- Identify with which attitudes of your parenting you might be going wrong or which ones could be unhealthy and unsafe for your children, possibly pushing them towards a perpetrator; put these attitudes in the STOP column.
- After reading this and the previous article, what parenting attitudes do you think you need to inculcate in your way of parenting to protect your kids and keep them safe; you can list these in the START column.
- Similarly, what are your current parenting attitudes that you recognise to be healthy, safe and in favor of your children and would like to keep practicing; you can add them to the CONTINUE column.
No matter what your parenting style is, no matter how you have been parenting your child and plan to do in future, always believe your child. Believe your child if and when they come and tell you that they feel unsafe around somebody, in a particular situation, or do not feel like going to a relative or a friend or a tuition class, or if they have been touched inappropriately by anybody no matter how respected or good you think that person is.
Be a proactive parent and not a reactive parent. Do not be in denial that something like this can never happen to my child, rather what is helpful is understanding that something like this can happen with my child or any child for that matter and making sure you are doing things in your capacity to avoid such incidents. Be prepared for an early intervention if a possible situation of CSA happens or can be seen happening in future.
Remember that every action you take as a parent can be either in the favor of a Perpetrator out there or in the favor of your child.
- Ask for feedback about your parenting and be open to receiving it from your children. Ask what their expectations are about how they want you to be with them and take inputs from this conversation. This will make your child feel that their opinion matters to you and will help strengthen your bond with them.
- Consistent checking in on your children through open communication and healthy emotional ties will be really helpful. Teach your kids the value of sharing and not keeping secrets. Your parenting style will determine how much or how little kids trust you with their secrets.
- Encourage problem solving, conscious safe choices and a collaborative teamwork climate at home. Helping kids learn that every action has a consequence. Safe choices lead to safe outcomes majority of the time.
- Let your eyes be open to spot the discomfort that your kids go through around certain individuals. Your ears should be willing to hear uncomfortable questions and conversations. Your heart and brain must be open & generous enough to trust your kids instincts. All this needs to be in sync with your actions.
Remember , children cannot control the probability of being sexually abuse or being safe. It is through your normal situations, normal circumstances and normal interactions that the perpetrator is going to slowly get close to you , your child and win the trust only to groom and sexually abuse your child.
Your parenting style, your reactions , the way you handle crises, the way you approach problems, your interpersonal skills are all going to work in your favor or against the child if any untowards incident happens. Building a safe space through dialogue, authenticity, empathy and assertiveness will help you even if your child goes through any such dreadful experience of abuse.
Finally, your parenting style will not only determine the safety or threat to you child in terms of prevention of child sexual abuse but also help your child to open up and heal through the scars of this horrific act if ever happens .
With the modern day challenges its time to
Revamp your irrational beliefs about PARENTING to help you steer through the slippery challenges concerning safety of your kids in online as well real world.