Kids and Violence

“There’s so much comedy on television. Does that cause comedy in the streets?” – The great Dick Cavett

I don’t want to write about Aurora. But sometimes you can’t write about anything else until you write about the thing you don’t want to and get it over with.

I have no expertise in this area and don’t intend to comment about that event. In fact I’ve been doing my best to put it out of my mind (though I was reminded by my dear friend who lives in Aurora that we don’t all have that luxury). These three articles explain it far better than I could ever attempt to.

What I do have expertise in is kids and violence. In the rush to explain why someone would do this, out come the statistics and quotes from all the children’s groups. It’s TV, it’s movies, it’s children being desensitized to violence.

Of course we’re trying to understand why it happened and how we can stop it from happening again. We want to be able to predict it, avoid it, or even see it coming and do something about it. And I think as time goes on it becomes less and less easy to say “that will never happen here.”

There are ways to teach our kids that violence is not acceptable. We do it every day by being non-violent people. I have to agree with Mr. Cavett. We deny a child’s capacity to know the difference between reality and imagination when we say “if they see it on TV they become it.” Kids actually don’t like violence, and they don’t like to be hurt or see their friends get hurt.

I have two boys. They’ve been playing with guns since they were five. I’m not proud of that, and I wasn’t very happy with it, but I realized it was inevitable. Now they love watching the WWE, witnessing some of the ugliest behavior and nastiest hand-to-hand (or table, ladder, chair, 2X4, sledgehammer, whatever’s handy) violence you can see on television.

But my boys are also sensitive, kind, thoughtful, and caring. They’ve learned it because it is my number one priority to raise kids who have compassion. Good grades, what they eat, how they do in sports, it’s all secondary to being a good person. I pick my battles with other subjects, but meanness is never allowed.

They’ve also learned it because they’ve watched me for ten years now using compassion every day, all day, when dealing with my day care kids. I demonstrate for them over and over again how anger does not work in interpersonal relationships. In fact it pretty much never works (or if it does, the momentary success isn’t worth the hard price you pay trying to clean up the mess).

At the same time we learn what to do when we are angry, because we sure as hell get angry. And that’s completely natural and normal, and you’re not wrong to be angry. But you can’t take it out on someone else – and there are very good ways to get the anger out of our body without hurting another person.

My boys certainly fight, to the point of pain and tears sometimes. Without this book I wouldn’t know how to handle that. It saved my life. So I recommend that EVERY PARENT OF SIBLINGS read it. Now.

When I was young and my future husband started taking me to grimy clubs in New York to see groups like the Ramones, Stiff Little Fingers, and the Butthole Surfers, I told our friend I didn’t understand the allure of punk music (I have since seen the error of my ways). He said, “Look – we’re angry young men. We’re full of testosterone. We’re sexually frustrated. Isn’t it better to be here taking it out on the music than picking fights with people?”

That one little comment spoken on a drunken night at 2AM changed the way I see the human animal. And now that I’m raising two small (male) human animals, I remember it often. I have no answer for mental illness and psychosis. But I do know that depression – some say the leading cause of shootings – is anger turned inward. If we could learn to handle our anger we’d be a happier society.

2 thoughts on “Kids and Violence

  1. Amy, your timing, once again, is spot on. Boy did I need this today- if I didn’t have to work tonight I’d be on your doorstep with a bottle of wine. thanks. D

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