According to new, as yet unpublished, data from a nationwide survey, 49 percent of teenagers report experiencing abuse at least once during a dating relationship. The findings, presented by the American Psychological Association, are part of a growing body of research aimed at identifying violent patterns early, in the hope that it will prevent teens from perpetuating cycles of abuse into adulthood. Not surprisingly, in the report released, girls were more likely to say they had physically abused their partners, and boys.
The question remains – how can we teach our teens how to have healthy relationships, where power is shared with another, rather than exercising power over someone? Since the media and romantic movies seldom talk or portray how a healthy relationship might look like, or how to practice having one, it is no wonder that teens struggle with this. Perhaps we can begin by not only having conversations with our kids about healthy, non-coersive relationships, but rather by practicing these types of relationships with them. We can start by sharing power with them, rather than exercising power over them — this is called non-coercive parenting.
Non-coercive parenting should not be mistaken with permissive parenting or “anything goes” parenting. Rather, non-coercive parenting is about setting and respecting boundaries, about teaching the concept of consent. It requires talking with our children without coercion. If we want to raise children to be caring, compassionate, and non-violent as adults, we must always treat them as caring, compassionate, and not use any violence or coercion. This way we can expect for them to be responsible and accountable for themselves, and others.