Monday, April 15, 2013

Teaching Children to be Kind in the Face of a Violent World

Teaching our kids to be better, kinder people.

It’s a simple concept. One that you can’t deny is the goal of ANY good parent. Nobody ever has children and says “Hey, I think I’ll really screw this one up”.  In spite of this, we continue to witness random (or not-so-random) acts of violence and aggression.  Is it parenting? Society? TV violence? Interactive, first person shooter games? The breakdown of the family? Polarization of political views and religions?
At any rate, maybe it’s a combination of these elements that have come together to form a “perfect storm” of conditions that have taken away our compassion, empathy and caring about others.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe there are a lot of good people out there. Lots of em. And someone pointed out that there were way more people running to the scene of the bombing to help, than probably perpetrated this horrific event. I believe that there may be some fundamental parenting strategies that can help kids learn the right values, maintain their compassion, and teach them empathy. 

 Here are some basics that we can use everyday to teach kids to care:

1. Talk to your child! Let them know it’s important to you that they be a care, kind, helpful person. Explain things in simple language and be brief. DO NOT LECTURE!!
2. When your child does something nice, helpful or compassionate, tell them you noticed and praise them!!
3. If you child does something mean, hurtful or violent, let them know this is not acceptable and what acceptable behavior you expect from them. Explain what they did that was inappropriate or hurtful, in simple language. Identify the behavior as being wrong, not that they are wrong. For example say “It was not nice to take Joey’s toy.” Instead of “You are not very nice”.
4. Limit exposure to extremely violent programming and games. Yes, it really does matter. Be sure your child has a lot of creative outlets and stimulating, positive activity. Especially physical activity and reading nonviolent material!
5. Teach your child to be a helper.
6.  The single most important thing you can do to teach your child is walk the walk. Being a good role model cannot be overstated, and children see and hear everything you say and do. Even if you think they don’t.
When events occur such as the Boston bombings, we have to sit down with our kids and have honest and frank discussions about them. Ensure they know you care and that you will do everything you can to make sure they are safe. Help them feel secure and don't expose them to repeated new coverage of the event. Tonight would be a great time to turn off the TV and have family game night.

Providing  a stable, positive and caring environment is one of the key ingredients to raising a caring, helpful and empathic child.  If you are concerned about your child, and need help, ASK A PSYCHOLOGIST!!!


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