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Opinion & Essays - Jun, 1993 Issue #22 

YOUTH AND VIOLENCE:
A Preventable Combination
Dan Davis
, Ph.D., Clinical Director
Buckeye Boys Ranch
614-875-2371

(The following essay is being re-printed from the Buckeye Boys Ranch's Winter 1993 newsletter CARING CONCEPTS. It is located in Grove City, Ohio, 614-875-2371)

Frequently, it appears that violence is rampant in our society. Professionals who work with children and youth face increasing challenges in helping families prevent aggressive behavior. However, we must remember that we are not powerless. Violence is preventable. There are simple, basic things that each of us can do regularly to help prevent violence.

BE A POSITIVE ROLE MODEL. Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that we adults are role models. Children watch us constantly, learning not by what we say, but by what we do. We must teach children to talk about their feelings and to resolve conflicts nonviolently. If we are not practicing these skills in everyday relationships, then we can never expect our youth to do the same.

USE PRAISE HONESTLY AND OFTEN. Adults should not only discourage violent behavior but reward nonviolent problem resolution. "Catch them being good--nonviolent," and praise them. Even the seemingly most self-assured teenager seeks out the attention and approval of adults. We can use this fact of psychological development to encourage the development of a nonviolent lifestyle.

CONTROL THE ENVIRONMENT. Adults must control the media that surround children and youth. Exposure to aggressive role models increases the likelihood of aggressive behavior in children. Turn off television violence and teach children to monitor the content of TV programs. Listen carefully to the lyrics of popular music. Do not be afraid to limit access, but be sure to explain your reasons.

AVOID CONFLICTS. Explain acceptable ways to deal with anger. Teach youth that violence is but one response to anger. Remember that anger can be a helpful emotion. It is not anger that causes us problems; instead, it is what we do with that anger that causes problems. Children should be taught to neither act out violence in an aggressive way nor to hold in their anger. Don't just tell children how they should act; instead, give them skills, strategies, and examples. Teach them that they are always in control of how they respond. Things are often not as important as we first believe them to be.

SET LIMITS. Be consistent in discipline and remember that the purpose of discipline is not to punish bad behavior but to teach positive skills. Avoid the use of physical punishment which only gives license to the child to respond aggressively to interpersonal situations.

HUMANIZE. Violence against other persons happens most often when we do not see others as equal to ourselves or deserving of respect. Actively combat attitudes and values that promote racism, sexism and abuse by exposing children to persons of other cultures and values. Let them get to know others as different, not inferior.

TAKE TIME TO LISTEN. Listen and try to learn the child's perspective. Listen for both content and the emotion behind what the youngster is saying. Allow youth to develop a sense of self-respect and individuality. Encourage them to be independent, but, first, teach them interpersonal skills and how to make wise decisions to live nonviolently.

DE-EMPHASIZE MATERIAL VALUES. Teach children that things are never as important as people. We are not powerless. There are many strategies that we, as parents, counselors, and teachers, can implement to prevent violence in our society and in the society of the future.

Copyright 1993, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

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