When parents get too involved in violence between children, they make it worse

June 10, 2024 | 04:31 pm PT
Vo Nhat Vinh Researcher
Meeting me at school, a mother complained that my child had beaten hers.

I apologized profusely and then went home to talk to my five-year-old son. He is hyperactive and loves rough games, including fighting games - heroes fighting bad guys.

He loves playing them during recess, and the "hero" character admitted he had been a bit harsh on the "bad guys."

I explained to him the signs of violence and asked him to stop playing fighting games. He understood and promised to apologize the next day.

I feel relieved because it stopped after just one game and the consequences had not been serious.

I feel even more glad that the other parent chose to talk to understand the problem, or else the situation would have become complicated.

Small things turning into big things and small conflicts ending up with serious consequences are no longer rare.

Parents wait to pick up their children as they get the Covid-19 vaccine at a school in Hanoi, November 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy

Parents wait to pick up their children as they get the Covid-19 vaccine at a school in Hanoi, November 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy

In fact, recent violent incidents at schools did not just stop at clashes between children, but also involved adults, which have tended to make matters worse. Much worse.

In Quang Ngai, a man blocked the road and beat his child's friend leading to brain damage.

In Vinh Long a couple broke into a primary school and slapped a student who had fought with their child.

The grandmother and father of a sixth grader in Dong Thap even assaulted a teacher who had slapped their girl.

According to data published by the Ministry of Education and Training, in 2023 there had been 1,600 cases of school violence occurring both inside and outside the campus.

The number had been 2,624 for the previous five years combined.

Besides the rise in number, experts say the violence is increasingly complicated with the participation of adults, especially parents lacking any restraint.

So how to restrain these hot-tempered parents?

I still remember that mother's red face and grumpy voice the first time she mentioned our children's fighting. But the next time we met, she smiled and told me that her son seemed "satisfied" with how my child was dealt with.

She had told him my son had been scolded at home and would not dare hit him again.

It is necessary to understand the desire to retaliate if a person's child has been beaten. Tit for tat is an understandable psychology and that urge needs to be gradually eliminated so that it does not cause consequences.

But if parents' hasty fists cannot be stopped in time by schools and other parents, the law needs to intervene.

Normally, the stronger tend to attack the weaker. In a conflict between children, if an adult intervenes to defend one side, there will be a fight between the stronger one (the adult) and the weaker one (the child).

To protect the weaker party, there needs to be strong legal deterrants. The adult here needs to be aware of the very severe punishment they will receive.

Aggressive adults in the incidents I have mentioned are often criminally prosecuted for intentionally causing injury, but the penalties are not harsh enough: they are merely fines, non-custodial sentences or short-term detention.

While writing this, I read heart-breaking news about the death of a 13-year-old boy in Hanoi. Because of a minor conflict at a playground, a 12-year-old boy brought his 16-year-old brother to beat the 13-year-old until he suffered a traumatic brain injury.

He stayed in a coma for two months until death.

One child has to end his life as a teenager and another has been arrested on criminal charges.

It is unclear whether or not adults were involved in the altercation. But I wish that, when the 12-year-old boy went home to ask his family for help, some adult had intervened at the right time and in the right way. Then, maybe no one would have died unjustly and no child would have been imprisoned.

In cases of child-to-child violence, parents cannot be innocent, whether directly or indirectly.

The collision between my child and his friend came from a fake battle. But if the boy had not been corrected immediately, he most likely would have grown up to see violent fights as a normal thing.

No child should be raised and nurtured with a fist-bump mentality.

*Vo Nhat Vinh is an R&D expert based in France.

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