The Parent’s Notebook
Parents to the Front of the Antiviolence Movement
The Newtown massacre has ignited another round of conversations about gun control, the response by the NRA adding fuel to the aimless fire. While there has been a heightened reaction to the Newtown incident, news of other killings send a signal that something more is sorely needed. Facing the fact that gun ownership is widespread and uncontrolled and the victims of gun violence include males, females, children of all races, translates into “our lives and the lives of our children are at risk.”
Places of worship, movies, playgrounds and schools are examples of violated places. People are floored by the audacity of the actions of some that leaves 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 gangbangers 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.
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. Let’s not leave out the movies and video games that consume the time of many adolescents.
While the discussions around gun violence focuses on gun control and psychiatric treatment, there is a danger of extending and strengthening the dependency on politicians and mental health practitioners who too often prescribe medications that produce violent side effects. Are we then in a hopeless situation? The answer is no – we are in a situation that challenges us as parents to make home a place where children know they are loved and accepted and they can share any and everything with their parents.
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 violence-oriented rituals and routines our children are engaged in daily with activities that teach acceptance and appreciation of self and others and values that promote acceptance, team-building and community. Peace in the world must begin with peace in the home and that begins with adults finding peace within themselves, which requires introspection. As an adult, I discovered the emotional impact when (at the age of five) my mother refused to take me to church with her because my hair wasn’t combed. I screamed and my father frantically tried unsuccessfully to comb my hair. While the memory of the incident faded, the emotional impact –the feeling of not being good enough – I later discovered had led to the choices in relationships and the absence of feeling competent in spite of a resume impressive to employers but not to me. The interpretation I made at the age of five left its emotional imprint that lasted for years. While parents can’t control interpretations, we can create a safe space where children can communicate their feelings, where they can share their feelings and not be brushed aside, where adults do not go on the defensive. Our children, more than ever, need and deserve a safe space to voice and clear their fears and upsets to lessen the chances of them becoming a killer or being killed.
An assignment for adults: Find an adult and share an incident from childhood that was upsetting. Explore and share your feelings at the time and look for similar feelings that have surfaced over the years. This is the first step in the 21-day Umoja Project and the beginning of a powerful remedy for ending violence. For more info e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org