While many opportunities exist to join others in protesting the gun violence, the potential power and influence of individuals in family and community receives little or no attention. Reminded of our adage, “The transformation of a nation begins in the homes of its people” some pointers follow to empower the community in contributing to the rescue of the children and shape the future by filling the void that produces a violent mind while growing self-esteem that empowers choice, reducing their need to belong.
Since behavior is a language, violent behavior warrants serious attention. Violent people, young or old, are products of hostile environments or those perceived as hostile. Where do we look to find the source of hostility? We begin by looking at families, schools and neighborhoods -all play major roles in shaping children’s self-image. If you spend any time at all with a youth, you have an opportunity to make a difference.
Family – Many homes are often battlegrounds where wars are constantly being fought between parents and children’s emotional needs are overlooked. Often, adults assume ownership of the child because they pay the bills – not different from that of slave masters. Feelings of “not being worthy”, “I’m not good enough” can grow filling the MO of a predator or a victim. Parents, grandparents and family members must declare war on low self-esteem for us and our children. Energy is spent talking about others obviously seeking approval by comparison. It’s time to stop the gossiping and find support in building the family’s self esteem. While there is no perfect status, each one is born with innate intelligences and we owe it to ourselves and to our offspring to discover and grow them.
School- Schools are too often hostile battlegrounds between administrators, staff and parents chained to standard test results that reduce students to numbers. While there are schools that seek to provide a lively curriculum with projects that stimulate students of varied intelligences, the need is for all to be that. The question is why not all? Children are required by law to spend long hours in school. It is the second-most influential place where self-concept is groomed.
Neighborhood-Neighbors are afraid of being victimized. They see young people with the sagging pants, hairstyles, language, music and groupings as strange, wild and dangerous.
Our children are growing up in communities that need resurrecting. While we’ve been focused on all the isms that exist, I think it’s time to resurrect the highest-held African cultural value –relationships. In order to heal relationships, we start with the self and our children.
Instead of allowing our children to be used as fodder for jails and other systems that profit from their dysfunction, let’s examine the needs of children and make commitments to play a role in changing the experience for all children wherever we encounter them. .
1. Do a self-inventory. What unpleasant memories are hiding out in your deepest memories? Can you see how that affects your actions today? Make peace with your past, including forgiving your parents for whatever you think they did to you – regardless of how much agreement you have from others that your sibling was the favorite.
2. Take responsibility for the relationship that produced your child and make sure your child has both parents. Our children’s self-esteem suffers when they don’t have relationships with both parents. They suffer when one parent constantly puts the other down. So you and your partner may not have had a purpose for your relationship at one time, but now you do – saving your/our child.
3. Acknowledge your child’s feelings. Encourage her to express her feelings without judging them. You’ll be giving him the ability to own his power, not being triggered by circumstances or people.
4. Accept and acknowledge your child’s uniqueness. If you accept and allow differences (uniqueness), she can grow up knowing self and not comparing and competing with others.
5. Teach respect for learning. Model a love for learning – making lessons be more important than having the answer or being right.
6. Don’t judge, attack or curse. Simply state the problem so that constructive action can take place. We need to stop the attacks, blame and criticisms. Start listening to hear what your child hears from you.
7. Connect to Resources. We can’t raise children in isolation. Look around – resources are there…. form relationships with other parents, neighbors, after-school programs.
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