As society is made more aware of harassment and abuse in our communities, schools, in the workplace and even at home, it is clear that we should address these issues at an earlier age in our children’s lives. We need to teach our children to speak up, stand up, as well as to learn the importance of equality, respect and valuing everyone in their lives. There a few tips to fostering sensitivity, compassion and empathy in our young ones.
We, as parents worry about the safety of our children as well as any aggressive tendencies we notice in their behavior or that of their friends. We wonder: Is it possible to raise nonviolent children in this violent world? Yes, it is possible. Beginning in toddlerhood, children can be taught to deal with their anger and resolve conflicts with words rather than by violence.
1. BE THE BEST ROLE MODEL. Your values and behavior convey a strong message that can teach your child certain social skills, so what you do at home sends a strong message about being respectful. Children know from infancy the difference between a conversation and a hostile exchange. Value everyone in the family. Name-calling or physical fights between siblings or hostile arguments with your spouse should not be tolerated. Keep your temper in check.
2. BE CLOSE. Children whose parents are actively involved are more likely to be nonviolent. We spend hours with them when they are babies, but as they get older, daily lives seem to intrude. Spend regular one-on-one time with them – talking, listening, playing and reading. Talk about their day, show interest in their activities and try to listen without criticizing. Ideally, time spent together should be tension-free.
3. BE THERE. Teaching young ones to make good choices requires three things: structure, guidance and supervision. The best way to teach structure is to have a routine. Notice aggressive behavior, intervene and be consistent. Your child will become confused if you impose a time-out for biting one day and ignore the behavior for the next couple of days.
4. MONITOR THE TELEVISION. Numerous studies over the past thirty years confirm a link between watching violent programs (and playing video games) and aggressive behavior. They convey the wrong message: that hurting someone has no consequences and that the only way to resolve conflict is by violence. Experts believe that many of these children lack adult supervision. Monitor what your child watches and limit the amount of time they watch television. Try to watch and discuss the program with them, emphasizing the difference between fantasy and reality.
REMEMBER: Children watch, learn and emulate their parent’s behavior.
Visit https://kidshealth.org and www.parenting.com for more information about parenting.