Currently, there is a mass movement in response to the rampant violence that is escalating around the country. Places of worship, movies and playgrounds are examples of violated places. People are floored by the audacity of the actions of some that leave multiple innocent people (and even toddlers) injured or killed. I’m sure these irresponsible individuals who have displayed a lack of respect for human life had a reason for their actions. I’m sure the gang-bangers who shot a toddler in a playground have a justification for why they had to open fire on the rival gang in that setting and at that time. Their justification will not satisfy our standards by any means, but it led the aggressor to action. Reasons like, “he looked at me hard” and “he disrespected my set” sound ludicrous to us, but are heartfelt by aggressors.
Violence is an integral part of American culture. This land was obtained through battles fought with the indigenous people, also known as Native Americans. After the acquisition and claiming America as its own, violence has shifted to other countries under the label of war. It is not unlikely that a child in middle school could see reports of murder, rape and assaults on the news, then go to school where the culture may be one of dominance and bullying. They may be challenged by more of the same bullying on their way home, in playgrounds and on their block. We have yet to include rappers they may hear bragging of violent acts they have committed. Violent acts in sports like football and mixed martial arts (MMAs) are cheered by millions. Let’s not leave out the movies and video games that consume the time of many adolescents. A Harrison Poll reports the average teenager spends thirteen (13) hours daily playing video games. The Children Now Organization found that 89% of the video games contained violence.
The messages children receive around violence are complex. It’s negative when used in some situations, while it is often seen as necessary and justified when used by the hero of the story. While it is stated that violence is wrong and the aggressor or bully in the story is often the villain, violence is not limited to the bad guy. In the cartoon Tom and Jerry Tom, the aggressive cat, will get hit with a pan and face flattened after chasing Jerry down. There are countless stories of bullies whose sense of worth was restored after receiving some violent or humiliating act. These acts of violence are deemed acceptable because of the circumstances.
Justified or unjustified? We hear this question asked all too often when African-American men are gunned down by police. We as a society have attempted to stand in the gunman’s shoes trying to understand the rationale for the use of violence. The outcome? Brief attention by mainstream media, no resolution as to what is or is not justifiable and the drastic increase in deaths by gun violence with little to no attention placed on accessibility of guns.
As parents, we must take a stand on the issue of violence period. Our children are internalizing these messages and as a result developing a tolerance for violence that ultimately threatens their lives. We must consider a radical change of how we view and rationalize the many forms of violence and pass it on to our offspring. We must replace the violent-oriented rituals and routines our children are engaged in daily with engaging activities that teach values that promote team-building and community. Values of compassion, tolerance and love should replace the good guy who pounces on the villain while we applaud. This takes a radical change in culture that a single initiative or bill will not make a dent in. This type of change can only begin in the home. Setting regular times for family meetings where all concerns can be shared is a perfect beginning. By encouraging youth to communicate upsets in a nonjudgmental setting, differences can be aired and resolved and youth gain experience in conflict resolution, a skill that is sorely needed. Some parents have already said “enough is enough”. They are monitoring movies, video games, music and other media outlets to limit their children’s exposure to violence. Next time we’ll explore Steps to Self-Empowerment, the ultimate home-based empowerment process for these violent times. Remember, the transformation of a nation begins in the homes of its people. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org; visit The Parent’s Notebook/Facebook and nana411.wordpress.com.