How violence at home affects children

The goal in effective disciplining is to foster acceptable and appropriate behaviour in the child with a lot of love and mutual respect, which later pours into raising emotionally mature adults.

Family is the primary social unit in an individual’s life, an environment that helps you learn how to interact with yourself as well as others in the society. How disagreements and disputes are handled determines how an individual will relate to themselves and the world at large.

Family violence includes; verbal abuse (shouting and name-calling), physical abuse (domestic violence between both parents and children) and emotional abuse (being belittled, feelings are disregarded). Children growing up in such an environment are more likely to be negatively impacted. The impact is long term and more evident as they become adults. It may manifest as:

1.    A diminished sense of security and positive attachment, because they didn’t get that as children. They develop an anxious or an avoidant attachment style. This means they either become overly dependent, prefer doing everything on their own with no help, or develop attention seeking behaviours, like ‘pick me’ attitudes and people pleasing.

2.    A negative schema of the world. They are constantly thinking that people are out there to hurt them. They are constantly on defence mode and have difficulty in trusting people because they didn’t observe trust, mutual respect and love growing up.

3.    Find it hard to cope and adapt to different situations and especially healthy friendships and relationships. They are familiar with chaos, so peace and tranquillity shocks them and they don’t know how to deal with it. They decide to walk out or subconsciously create chaos.

4.    Find it challenging to communicate their feelings and thoughts.

5.    Become violent or a victim of violence. They accept abuse towards them either from friends or romantic relationships all because they are familiar with the concept of violence.


The goal in effective disciplining is to foster acceptable and appropriate behaviour in the child with a lot of love and mutual respect, which later pours into raising emotionally mature adults. In order for effective discipline to be achieved, first ask yourself as a parent the question “why?” Figure out the reason behind the disciplining. Why is it wrong? What alternatives should your child employ?

The mantra in positive discipline is always “there are no bad children, only bad behaviour.” Love, open communication with no judgment and criticism, and mutual respect between the parent and the child is encouraged.

Positive discipline puts emphasis on developing a healthy relationship with your child and setting boundaries and expectations around behaviour. The following are some ways that parents can use to promote effective/ positive discipline;

1.    Reinforce desirable behaviour by praising your child when they do the right thing rather than constantly mentioning their negative behaviour.

2.    Avoid nagging and making empty threats. This encourages maladaptive behaviour in the future. Apply consequences with love and trust as soon as possible, and without shouting and displays of anger. Ensure the child is aware of why they are facing consequences.

3.    Be consistent with rules.

4.    Prioritise rules that are more inclined to safety.

5.    Allow the child’s temperament and individuality.

6.    Allow for open communication and being present for the child. No matter how small the situation may be, actively listen and be present. This creates a bond for both the parent and the child.

7.    Be aware and accept age-appropriate behaviour [a toddler spilling coffee/water is not defiant but a toddler cussing at someone or refusing to put on a jacket while raining is defiant]

Gentle parenting is a parenting technique that is rooted in deep respect for children. It focuses on building a connection, having empathy for what children are feeling and mindful discipline, with the focus on teaching and guiding as well as setting up age appropriate boundaries and limits. It has four main components which are; understanding children, demonstrating empathy towards children, mutual respect and finally setting healthy boundaries and outcomes.

Gentle parenting brings up children who feel a sense of belonging, children who are kind, those that have important social skills like; active listening, respect, problem solving skills as well as communication skills. Children from this parenting technique have proven to be more emotionally and verbally mature.

Linah Kithinji,

Counselling Psychologist