So I was listening to yesterday’s episode of Tell Me More about whether kids today are more violent than in generations past, and it has never been clearer what the answer is. (Here’s the episode.) (And here’s something transformative to read about the state of our schools.)
Question: How do we stem the tide of violence between children?
Answer: Spend time with your children. Parent them for them, not for you. Look at them as a GIFT, not a burden.
I know it’s not the easy answer that some of the show’s guests were offering. No, we don’t need more curricula to teach behavior modification or compassion for others. By the time you ask the schools to, in addition to educating our children, teach them NOT to want to shoot each other, you’ve already lost them.
No, the answer is not dropping off your kids at age 2 and waving bye-bye, hoping that the teachers who are paid a pitiful wage there are going to raise your kids to be wonderful human beings.
No, you can’t expect your children to have compassion for others if you do not have compassion for them.
What does a child need? First, basic needs met – food, clothing, sleep, shelter. Second, LOVE. And by love, I do not mean adoration or infatuation with how damn cute they are. I mean universal identification, a value that most in the Western world cannot relate to. If you relate to your child as a full, worthy human being – not an extension of YOU, not a job to do – you cannot be indifferent to their real needs.
Then, your child needs to be held, kissed, cuddled, listened to. He needs attention – in the full sense – where you look at him head-on, and fully listen, instead of nodding while you’re multitasking. He does not need to be planted in front of a television or iPad while you clean the house.
And more than school, your child needs YOU – for sure in the first five years of life, yes, but even after. Someone told me when my children were babies that they would need me more as they got older. I couldn’t imagine how that would be possible. But now that they are all in school full days, I see it clear as the white sky above me. They want and need my attention and my time more today than when they were babies.
So I give it to them because I know, deep in my bones, that the answer to their success in life – emotionally, physically, financially and more – is my unmitigated attention, appreciation and love, now and until they are standing on their own two feet, and perhaps even then, too.
A child who becomes violent – hitting, punching, stabbing, shooting and of course the insidious emotional and verbal and online bullying that permeates schools today – that child was lost so long ago. You cannot stop him at the moment of attack. It’s way before the idea would ever enter his psyche that you have to get in there and be a louder voice than the angry ones.
Anger is a learned behavior. It is something children pick up from the adults around them – and from the television shows and video games that are constantly in front of them.
Meanness and violence, those are learned too. No human is born wanting to lash out. And those with psychological challenges, well, if a parent were attuned to his child, he’d make sure to get him the help he desperately needs.
The answer to violence in childhood is really good parenting. Constantly, never relenting, hands-on parenting. There is no substitute.