January 22, 2018 Breaking Barriers in DV, Domestic Violence and Disabilities Tags: 0 Comments

July is National Purposeful Parenting month, which led to a flurry of articles, Facebook posts and Twitter bites regarding the concept. In general, Purposeful Parenting aims to build healthy relationships with children, to understand a child’s development and to help them grow in a way that emphasizes their potential. Being “purposeful” in parenting can include meeting a child’s essential needs (bathing, feeding) or involve more complicated issues of socialization, discipline, and communication.

Purposeful Parenting concepts include:

Structure and order

  • Responsibility and Accountability
  • Firmness and Fairness
  • Limits and Boundaries
  • Consistency
  • Problem-Solving
  • Understanding
  • Unconditional Love

(source: The United Way)

Purposeful parenting is an important idea for all parents but can be especially useful for those raising a child with a disability in a home where violence is occurring.


The goal is to teach a lesson and change behavior.

Many times we just stop the behavior for the moment but the question becomes what did we teach the child so it does not happen again? First we need to understand why the child is “acting out.” Usually there is a reason why the child is crying.

Children with speech delays tend to cry more often since they do not have the verbal language skills to express themselves. It is very frustrating for a child who knows what they want but cannot ask for it.

The child can also be reacting to living in a stressful environment and not knowing how to express their feelings. Maybe the child witnessed a violent incident several days ago and is acting out because they are confused about what happened. When your child gets upset try talking with them first. If developmentally appropriate, you can say, “You don’t have to cry, show me what you want” instead of “stop crying.”

You can give a child an alternative to crying and teaching them a way to ask for their needs to be met. By doing this you are teaching your child problem solving.


Children learn how to interact with others from their environment and by practicing.

Playing a game with your child is one way to help build the bond between parent and child so they feel safe and secure thus decreasing stress. This also teaches children how to interact with others.

Playing teaches a child how to take turns, share and even how to deal with excitement and disappointment. Play is the way children try out different roles: “You be the Daddy and I’ll be the Mommy.”

A child with a social-emotional disability may have difficulty in this area. Playing will help them practice their skills so when they are with their peers they have increasingly positive interactions while learning limits and boundaries.

In addition, a child who grows up in a violent household may learn that hitting or throwing objects when upset is acceptable. Talk with your child and explain that such behavior is not acceptable and the person who committed the violent act needs help in learning how to appropriately express themselves. This is a good opportunity to talk about what to do when you’re upset and learn what is socially acceptable.

Children learn best from what they experience from their parents. “Discipline” and “Disciple” come from the same root word. If a parent says “please” and “thank you” on a consistent basis, it will come more naturally to a child. If a parent commands a child to do things rather than modeling the behavior he or she wants from their child, “please” and “thank you” will not be the natural response.

Positive Communication

This is a key concept to help a child decrease stress and increase self-confidence.

When a child does something wrong, instead of just punishing them and ending the communication there should be a conversation. It’s important to do this when both parent and child are calm and can have a positive interaction. You can say to your child, “I know you will do better next time” instead of “You better not do this again.”

Also, praise your child when they do something well. We tend to comment on the negative behaviors and forget about the positive ones. Your words as a parent have a significant impact on the child’s self esteem so be “purposeful” in what you want to say and how you are going to say it.

This technique can be very helpful to a child with a disability so they have the self-confidence to believe they can succeed and try new things.

Sometimes when there is violence in the household the abuse is directed towards the child. For example, they may be called names such as “stupid.” Children hear this and if told several times may start to believe it. It is important that the non-violent parent talk with the child and explain that what was told to them is not true. This shows your child that you understand and even when they make mistakes are loved.

Living in a violent household affects the children. They may not always see the violence but the stress of the household can affect them. If you think your children may be affected by the violence please reach out for help from the child’s school, seek counseling, or call your local or National Domestic Violence hotline for assistance. To learn more please visit the resources below:

Domestic Violence Resources

Purposeful Parenting Resources


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Helping People with Disabilities Help Themselves