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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Raising Children to Resist Violence



Has our society become more violent or is our perception that our society – or even our world – has become more violent? 

World War I, the Columbine shooting, domestic violence, and all kinds of other violent acts occur around us all the time. We read about them in the newspapers and we watch horrors unfold on our television sets. Our movies and games are saturated with blood, shooting, and inflicting pain.

If you are a parent who is trying to envelop your child in only a positive environment, unless you keep the child around you at all times, chances are he or she will be exposed to some sort of violence. How do you prepare your child for that inevitable day, whether the exposure is through a friend's video game, an unintentional look at a TV screen or computer monitor, or a photo in a magazine?

More importantly, how do you teach your child to resist violence if the occasion should arise where your child is confronted with a choice to fight back? What if your child is being bullied and comes to a point where he or she can no longer take it? Will the choice be that of the choice made by Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, the Columbine students who killed their classmates as a result of being bullied?

The American Psychological Association has put together a web site that helps parents teach their children how to respond to emotional issues without resorting to violence. It also teaches them what steps they can take to reduce or minimize violence. Some of their helpful advice, along with my commentary, follows.

First and foremost, make sure your child feels safe in his or her home. Encouraging, supportive, and loving parents can form the basis of a strong relationship between parent and child. Some children are difficult, and parents may need help themselves in dealing with special needs children and those with behavior problems. The American Psychological Association offers parents information to help them raise emotionally healthy children who will know how to resist violence.

Supervise your child. If your teenage slaps the laptop shut every time you enter the room, be suspicious, confront your child, and then examine the laptop by looking through the history. Invite friends into your home, so you can get a sense of the types of people your child chooses as friends. If you allow your child to spend the night at a friend's house, introduce yourself to the parents, get to know them, and ask questions to determine whether or not your child will be safe with them.

BE the kind of person you want your children to emulate. If you confront difficult issues with violence, they will mimic you. How you respond to trauma and problems will likely be the way they will respond to difficult situations.

Be consistent with your parenting. Allowing children to do something one day, and then punishing them for doing the same thing the next day confuses your children. When you make a rule, consistently enforce the rule, or don't make one at all. Better yet, include your children when making decisions that affect them, even for something as simple as bedtime.

For instance, if you are discussing bedtimes, find a reputable web site that lists the number of hours of sleep children need at a specific age. KidsHealth.org lists approximately how much sleep a child needs at a certain age. Pay attention to your child's regular sleep patterns during the summer. If 10 hours works during the summer, use that number of hours to help your child determine bedtime during school. Engaging children in the process of making their own decisions increases the likelihood of them enforcing their own rules. 

If you want to raise loving children, keep violence out of the home. Don't encourage children to watch violent movies or play violent games. When you consider the number of hours your child is awake and factor in the number of hours your child exposes him- or herself to violence, you can understand the percentage of hours your child is bombarded with violence. 

For more in-depth information on how to raise loving and responsible children who will know how to resist violence, visit the American Psychological Association by clicking the link.

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