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Nine Ways Parents Can Keep Violence Out of their Kids' Lives

  • Dr. Michele Borba Author & Speaker
  • Published Nov 12, 2002
Nine Ways Parents Can Keep Violence Out of their Kids' Lives

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.


(5.) Boost empathy and highlight the victim. The best answer for preventing violence is to boost empathy in our kids. It makes violence an unthinkable option! So nurture empathy and stress the impact violence has on victims. Ask often: "How would you feel if that happened to you? How would the victim feel? What about his family?"


(6.) Learn peaceful problem solving. Our kids are bombarded with violent ways to solve problems. So teach them how to do so peacefully. This simple way uses the acronym STAND: (1) S: Stop get calm; (2) T: Tell the problem; (3) A: Name Alternatives; (4) N: Narrow to safe options; (5) D: Decide on the best option. Do it. Practice it often.


(7.) Discern "tattling" vs. "telling." In the wave of school shootings we've learned kids are always the best metal detectors: 75 percent school shooters report intentions So teach your kids to "tell" whenever they don't feel safe and who to tell. It will save lives.


(8.) Teach survival rules. In today's world kids could face potentially violent situations. So teach critical survival rules: 1. Use your gut instinct. If you feel you're in danger, leave. 2. Teach: Be wary of certain situations or actions instead of telling kids to fear strangers. It alerts them, so they can act right. 3. Teach gun safety; set clear rules.


(9.) Instill that violence is unacceptable. Talking about violence gives parents a chance to see into their kids' world-to get to know their everyday fears and concerns. So talk often. Turn violence in the news into teachable moments to instill that violence is never right. The only way kids know violence is not right is by learning it, so teach it.


Michele Borba, Ed.D. is a seasoned speaker who has shared her practical, down-to-earth advice with over a half a million workshop participants on four continents. She is a frequent guest expert on television and NPR talk shows and is quoted in numerous national publications such as Redbook, Better Homes & Gardens, Parenting, and Newsweek. The author of 18 books, her latest, Building Moral Intelligence (Jossey Bass), was selected by Publishers Weekly as "a most noteworthy publication for 2001." Borba is a former classroom teacher who now lives in Palm Springs with her husband and three teenage sons. For more information on Dr. Borba's work go to