Children in our communities are continually exposed to violence, and, in many cases, perpetuate the same violence they see being carried out. In such circumstances, it is hard to believe that anything can be done to decrease such violence. Yet out of love for our children, we continually look for a solution. This month, let’s begin the search within ourselves. 

Before we point the finger elsewhere to find the cause of violence in our neighborhoods, let’s first identify the violence that we may be condoning and creating within our own homes. Let’s explore how we use violence to entertain, express ourselves, and gain respect, and then identify healthy alternatives to violence-provoking attitudes and behaviors that we may be encouraging. 

Alternatives to violent entertainment

Several of the top 15 most popular television shows, as rated by TV Guide, are shows that contain violent material or language. Current movies, from Dawn of the Planet of the Apes to The Purge, involve violent scenes or expressions, and popular music heard on radio stations throughout the day often explicitly states or makes reference to fighting and murder. Yet how often do we protect our children from such visual and auditory stimulation? We may even at times watch and listen to such media with our children and then expect them not to depict it later, only to find them re-enacting a climactic murder scene with a friend the next day. 

With the popularity of violence, it may be difficult to find healthy and enjoyable forms of entertainment, but it is not impossible. With television shows “On-Demand,” it takes little time to find entertainment that is also family-friendly. If you subscribe to a satellite or cable provider, use the television menu to search for “family” shows and check the ratings on the programs before you and your children view them. For more detailed ratings, use the Kids in Mind website to determine the level of violence in movies on a scale of 1 to 10. Parent Previews is also a great site to use in order to identify the types of violence in movies. Writers for both sites describe the reviewed movies’ violent scenes in order for you to determine whether they are appropriate for your children.

Alternatives to violent expression

Threatening language is another way violence is expressed in our homes. When we tell our children what we are going to do to their backsides if they don’t sit down or be quiet, we tend to express ourselves in ways that create violent imagery. Although this imagery provokes them to sit down or be quiet, it also desensitizes them to violent language and gives our children the words to then express violence to others.

The healthiest alternative to violence is honest and open expression. Honest expression does not condone slapping a child into next week, and open expression allows parents to be vulnerable with their children instead of being defensive. Open expression supports comments, such as “I get scared when you jump on the bed like that, so please stop” instead of “Stop jumping on the bed before I beat your butt.” Of course, honest and open expression takes more time and patience, but it provides a great example of how your children can express their anger, fear, and frustration without using violence.  

Alternatives to violent discipline 

In many of our homes, a hand, belt, or switch were used to amend behavior, and its perceived effectiveness is what has allowed many of us to continue carrying on this form of punishment with our own children. While it may be getting you the respect you deserve, it may also be showing your child how to use violence to gain power, respect, or control over others. 

In the wake of so many of our children turning to violence to handle conflicts, consider other options for managing your children’s behavior, such as taking time-outs, removing privileges, or earning rewards for good behavior. 

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