Parents are the most influential model for their children who thus learn various social roles and skills, developing self-confidence. This means that if you are not tolerant, hardworking and sincere, peace loving and similar, you should not expect it from your children, either. It is not sufficient to tell children that they should be kind, generous and so on, to teach children social skills. Situations in which children can learn and acquire these skills have to be meaningful and pre-arranged. Neither is it sufficient to talk about what is not allowed and what they are doing wrong. On the contrary, it is extremely important to tell them when they have done something good.
Research has shown that violent and aggressive behaviour is acquired at an early age. Parents, family members and all involved may teach the child how to cope with feelings of anger without the use of violence. We can all take steps to reduce violent behaviour. These suggestions are designed for parents so they can contribute in preventing and reducing violence. Parents, by raising children in safe homes and with abundant love, have a very important role in reducing violence.
Here are the suggestions that may help. Even if you may not be able to realise them fully, if you try your best, you will bring about a change in child’s life.
- Give your children love and care
- Every child needs a close relationship with loving parents in order to feel safe and protected, and to develop a sense of trust. Without a sound reliance on an adult, the child may become aggressive, anxious and insecure.
- The probability that the child will suffer from behaviour disorders or be delinquent is smaller if parents devote much of their time caring for the child, especially at an early age.
- It is not easy to show love to your child all of the time. It is even more difficult if you are young, inexperienced, or single parent. If parenting is too difficult or stressful, talk about it with child’s paediatrician or a professional in the kindergarten/school. They will give advice or direct you to a parents counselling institution, where parents are educated how to solve problems they encounter raising their children.
- It is important to remember that children have their own personality and reason and that the process of their acquiring independence sometimes causes feelings of anger, frustration and disappointment in their parents. Be patient. See the situation through your child’s eyes. Do your best not to react unfriendly to your child’s behaviour.
Be present in your child’s life
Children depend on their parents’ support, protection and encouragement while they are learning how to use their own minds. Without the appropriate supervision, they do not attain proper confidence. Studies have shown that the children who lack proper parents’ supervision, very often develop behaviour disorders.
- make sure that you know where your children are at all times and that you know who their friends are. When you can not be with the children, entrust them to someone you trust. Never leave young children below 10 home alone, not even for a short time.
- encourage school children to participate in controlled school activities such as additional classes, sports or recreational groups. Include them in preventive programs of various associations and societies in the community.
- take your children to those activities and observe how they relate to other children. Teach your child how to cope with insults, threats or punches. Explain that such behaviours are not acceptable and encourage them not to associate with the children who behave so.
Be a model of acceptable behaviour to your children
Children mostly learn by example. Behaviour, values and attitudes of parents and other adults have great impact on children. The values of respect, truth and pride may be an important source of strength for your children, especially if they have to cope with negative pressure from their peers, if they live in a violent neighbourhood, or attend a school where there is a lot of violence. Most children sometimes react aggressively and can punch other persons. Warn the child about the possible consequences of violent behaviour. Praise them when they solve problems positively and non-violently. Children are more likely to repeat positive behaviours if such behaviours are noticed and rewarded by praise and attention.
Children can be taught how to solve problems non-violently. If you discuss a problem with them, stimulate them to think about what can happen if they solve problems violently versus non-violently. This mutual ‘loud thinking’ will help the children understand that violence is not a productive way of solving problems.
Parents sometimes unconsciously encourage aggressive behaviour. E.g. some parents consider it good if the boys learn how to fight. Teach your child that it is better to solve problems with calm words than with fists, threats or weapons.
Help your children learn how to constructively and non-violently use their free time. Teach them how to play their favourite games, hobbies or sports and help them develop their talents and skills. Read stories to younger children, take the older ones to libraries and talk about the people who made the world a better place.
Do not spank children
Punching, slapping and spanking show children that it is all right to fight with others in order to solve a problem and may motivate them to punish others in the same way they have been punished.
Corporal punishment prevents certain behaviours only in the short run. Children can get used even to heavy punishments, so such punishments do not have any influence on them later. Spanking eventually becomes inefficient.
Here are some suggestions about how to proceed when we are concerned with child’s behaviour:
- Withdraw certain privileges – like a short term ban on playing with other children or watching TV
- Say how you feel when s/he behaves so
- Give the child a ‘time out’ – let her/him sit quietly and silently for a number of minutes which agrees with the number of years s/he is old. This is not recommendable for very young children.
Children have to feel that mistakes can be amended. Teach them how they can learn from their mistakes. Help them understand how they can avoid getting into similar conflicts in the future. It is very important that you do not humiliate them and make them feel ashamed. Children should feel loved and respected at all times. The problem is the behaviour, not the child. You can say something like: ‘I love and accept you, but I do not like what you have done.’
You should rather gratify the good behaviour than punish the bad, because children like to please their parents. Remember that praise and attention are the best rewards.
Be consistent with rules and discipline
When you create rules, follow them. Children need structure with clear expectations. Setting the rules and then not following them confuses children and does not give them an insight into which behaviour will be unpunished. Parents should involve children in setting the rules whenever it is possible. Explain what is expected from them and what are the consequences of not following the rules. Agree on how you are going to behave to each others.
Be sure that children do not have an access to weapons
Weapons and children may be a deadly combination. Teach the children about how dangerous weapons are, if you have any. If you keep a gun at home, unload it and lock it separately from the ammunition. Never leave it at children’s reach even if unloaded. Do not carry weapons because that is how you teach your children that weapons solve problems.
Protect children from violence in the home or in the neighbourhood
Home violence is always intimidatingly harmful for children. They need a safe home with an abundance of love and free from fear. Children who witness home violence do not necessarily always become violent, but are more likely to apply violent conflict solving.
Work on creating a safe, non-violent home and do not support violent behaviour among siblings. Take into consideration that hostile and aggressive row between parents scare children and give them a bad example. Sometimes children can not avoid witnessing violence in the streets, at school or at home. Help them cope with the issuing feelings of fear originating from the situations they have experienced.
Protect the child from watching too much violence in the media
Watching violence on TV, in movies and in video games may enhance aggressive behaviour in children. As a parent, you can control the amount of violence your child is exposed to via the media.
Here are some suggestions:
- limit the amount of time for watching TV to 1-2 hours per day
- know which programmes and movies your children are watching and which video games they are playing
- talk to your children about the violence they are exposed to in TV programmes, in movies and in video games. This is a way to develop their media literacy. Help them understand the serious consequences of violent behaviour.
- talk to your children about non-violent ways of problem solving
Help your children resist violence
Encourage your children in resisting violence and teach them to react when somebody is insulting, threatening or punching other persons. Help them understand that more courage is required in resisting than in accepting violence. Help them accept children of all ethnic groups or religious orientations. Teach them that criticism for being different is painful and that insulting is unacceptable. The use of words in order to trigger or encourage violence is harmful for the child. So is the quiet acceptance of it. Warn the children that threats and abuse may trigger violence.