Bringing Tools to Slow the Cycle of Violence in LA’s South-Central

How can I get my toddler to nap? What do I do about whining? How can I get my child to listen? Parents at one outreach center in Watts, South LA have the same parenting worries as you or me. But the teen parents also have other, graver fears:

  • Where can I get money for diapers?
  • How do I explain gunshots and unfair and abusive policing?
  • How can I keep my child from joining a gang?

“The parents were discussing how they would do anything to keep their kids from joining a gang,” says Ceci Hyoun, a Hand in Hand Instructor that runs parenting classes for the young parents. For many, this included discipline using corporal punishment.

But disciplinary methods like hitting and spanking could serve to continue the cycle of violence and gang warfare that the parents are desperate to avoid.

Raising Children with Connection Rather than Violence

Until they find parenting tools for connection…

At the center, teen mothers grow up around day-to-day violence, gangs, drugs, and poverty. Levels of trauma are so harsh that some become numb to these conditions including neighborhood gunfire and members of the community being killed. “Some of the parents talked about these traumatic events like they were talking about the weather,” says Ceci.

Ceci is one of many Certified Hand in Hand Parenting Instructors bringing change to communities like this one in LA. From working with prison inmates to slums in India Hand in Hand Instructors bring listening and connection to underserved communities, supporting parents in a way that’s almost impossible for them to find elsewhere.

Together they can help stop the cycle of violence and fear for a new generation.

Show the Opposite of Time Out and Spanking

Ceci teaches the Hand in Hand Starter Class, which introduces five tools that parents can use to build more connection with their children. They learn why children throw tantrums and how they can respond calmly, how to understand children’s emotions, and how the laughter, play, and kind support they provide heals fear and trauma.

A kind, firm, and emotionally warm approach to setting limits is the very opposite to time-outs and spanking and prevents feelings of isolation that could push children towards gangs, rather than away from them.

“I explained that by spanking and shaming, even if it is coming from a place of love, that we are in effect, training our kids to do what they are told,” she says. “Gangs use threats, punishments, and bribes to get kids to join and to stay and to make choices that put them in greater danger.”

A light bulb of understanding went off for the mostly teenaged moms.

“They were understanding how connection and not punishment would bring the safety they wanted to their children. Children with parents who were deeply connected to them without coercion and control would follow their loving parents' instructions about staying out of gangs. The children who had received punishments and shame might not be so willing to listen,” says Ceci.

Change soon took place. Moms explained how they shifted from spanking to Staylistening. Instead of getting angry and lifting a hand, they stay close by and support their children gently through big upsets. Many tried special time and listening time and found greater understanding for themselves and their children.

“These Teen Parents are Determined To Give Their Children the Best Possible”

“They are incredibly open to adding parenting tools to their toolbox,” says Ceci.  “These teen parents are determined to give their children the best life possible, and want to build a better connection with them.” They began to see the tools working in their families.

“I listen to their feelings a little bit and share the tools. They do the rest — that’s the hard part,” Ceci says. “One young father gave me such great hope with his determination, openness and willingness to try something new. I could see in him a burgeoning leader,” Ceci says.

When parents can focus on responding rather than reacting they begin to move on from punishments or bribes, arming their children with a new type of protection: connection, trust, and respect.

Hand in Hand can’t promise to feed or diaper a child, but it can give parents tools they need to thrive emotionally – thanks to the wonderful work done by instructors like Ceci. She’d like to return to South LA, with an extension of the Starter Class, providing more time and a deeper understanding of the tools in action.

Tools that work towards building a more peaceful world.

Help fund instructors to work in programs like this. Sponsor a heart for Hand in Hand and we can give scholarships to instructors who work with underserved communities. Give now. 

Meet The Instructor

Ceci Hyoun lives in Venice Beach, California with her two children. Ceci is passionate about sharing the Hand in Hand tools because connected families have more fun, more joy and are the foundation of a more connected and just society. Find out more about her events and classes on her Facebook page or send her an email.

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