Snipers. School shooters. Kidnappings. Terrorists. Bombings. War. The news is filled with violence, but it's also become a part of kids' lives. Need proof?

  • 24 percent of high school males brought a weapon to school at least once this past year.

  • U.S. kids are 10 times more likely to commit murder than same-aged youths in Canada

  • U.S. adolescent homicide is 12 times higher than in most industrialized societies.

  • 43 percent of 9-12 year olds said they hit someone in the past year.

 

Violence isn't just an adult issue: it affects kids. A Reuters study finds violent behavior develops in early elementary years. So how do we protect our kids?

 

Dr. Michele Borba, educational psychologist and author of No More MisBehavin: 38 Difficult Behaviors and How to Stop Them (Jossey-Bass), says: "Violence is learned, but so too is calmness. That's why it's critical that we teach our kids healthy alternatives to aggression."

 

California is taking her ideas seriously. Borba's School Violence Prevention Plan formed the basis of Senate Bill 1667 recently signed into law by Governor Gray Davis and mandated in California schools by January 2003.

 

Kids don't become homicidal maniacs overnight. Violence is learned behavior, according to Borba, who offers nine critical tips to protect kids from violence and boost their peacefulness:

 

(1.) Model coolness: kids are watching! Calmness is learned and starts at home, so parents must show kids they can keep cool even in crisis. A telling question parents should often ask is: "If my kid watched only my behavior, what did he see today?"

 

(2.) Mandate home calmness. Set a family rule: "Talk only when calm," then refuse to talk until the person is. Exit (or walk away) until calmness is restored. Stress your beliefs for peacefulness to your kids over and over--then walk your talk.

 

(3.) Monitor media consumption. By age 11 kids witness over 8000 TV murders. One thousand studies show that TV violence does increase aggression-especially vulnerable kids. Monitor what your kid watches-then pull the plug when you see too much violence.

 

(4.) Teach anger management. Kids need to learn to control anger appropriately so them how. One way is "1 + 3 + 10." When you feel you're getting angry do 3 things: Tell yourself: 'Be calm' (that's 1). Take 3 deep, slow breaths (that's 3). Then count slowly to 10 (that's 10). Practice it until it becomes a habit in your family.