Talking with children about violence
Violence -- no one wants to see children victimized by it. No one wants to see kids hurt others.
Many things today -- TV and movies, words and actions that adults learned when they were children, and the daily news -- send the message that violent behavior or being a victim of violence is okay, even commonplace.
What can parents and other concerned adult do?
Start early. Talk about effective ways to handle frustration, anger, and arguments during a child's youngest years and continue through the teen years. Stress respect for self and others, describe how you have settled arguments and other conflicts without violence, and teach children not to use words that hurt. These valuable skills can last a lifetime.
For very young children, some physical acts such as hitting, kicking and biting may be a part of their development. But by age three, most can understand non-violent ways to deal with anger and frustration, even if they are not perfect at using these skills.
When you talk with children and teens about violence...
- Make clear that you do not approve of violence as a way to solve problems. Explain the difference between feeling angry and frustrated and acting out these feelings violently.
- Ask about the child's ideas on violence. Listen carefully and encourage him or her to talk about worries, questions and fears.
- Try not to lecture. Instead, take advantage of "teachable moments." For example, when there's a violent scene on television, talk about what happened and how people could have prevented it. When something violent and freighting happens at school or in the neighborhood, talk about what other choices besides violence might have been available.
- Make sure other adults in the child's life- a grandparent, a cousin, a neighbor-know and respect your teachings about violence, It confuses children when adults they trust send contradictory messages about the ways people should act.
- Know who the child's friends are and know how they feel about violence. Always know where your children and their friends are.
- Set a good example. Don't let yourself resort to violence to settle conflicts or let off steam. Even in tense or very annoying situations, calm down, walk away and talk it out.
Some basic tips to teach children
Children need to learn to take care of themselves when they are in school, with friends, or just out and about. There are many ways young people can reduce their risk of being involved in violence. Teach them to:
- Play, walk, bike, or skate with friends rather than alone, and always let a responsible adult know where they are.
- Never go anywhere with someone they and you do not know and trust.
- Not let an argument grow into a fight-cool off, talk it out, even walk away if they have to. Settle the problem with words, not weapons or fists.
- Never carry a knife, gun or other weapon. It is against the law and a sure way to turn a simple argument into a fight where someone gets badly hurt or killed.
- Not use alcohol or other drugs. the effects they have on people's minds often encourage violence.
- Stay away from kids who think fighting and other forms of violence are "cool" and from places where fights often break out.
- Become a conflict solver for brothers and sisters, friends, and classmates by getting training in mediation skills to help others work out problems without violence.
- Tell a police officer or other trusted adult if they see a violent crime, and talk about it to you or another caring adult.
National Crime Prevention Council
1000 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036