You hear this on the playground by a child. “My mom told me if they hit me I could hit them back!” When our children and youth are told this kind of advice: “If they hit you then hit them back” they are learning an eye for an eye. In the late great Rita Pierson’s voice: Can we hit someone back at work? If we hit someone at our job we will expect repercussions leading to termination. The advice children are given is confusing.
Children are in a process of becoming. Children are learning. Their brains are still growing and often they use the lower part of it. As adults we at times have a difficult time controlling our emotions in our brain. So, imagine this piece of advice in the hands of a 3 or 4 year old. Imagine it in the hands of an 8 or 9 year old. Imagine it in the hands of a 13-14 and so on year old. If we don’t use this advice then why are we teaching it to our children?
When we give this kind of advice then we are teaching children not to solve problems and work it out with one another. We are doing the extreme opposite and teaching them to solve problems with violence. Meet violence with more violence. This is the bottom layer of this piece of advice as you scratch away the multiple layers of it.
The best advice is to not hit someone back but to use phrases such as “Stop!” as a child raises one hand up. Modeling a non violent reaction is vital so that a child will not become a victim (or abuser) and empowered to stand up for their rights. Our voices are powerful. Words are powerful.
Educators, families and communities have the power to empower the voices of children so they stand up for their rights and wellbeing. Ultimately, this teaches children to advocate for themselves in non-violent ways in order to get their points across.
Turn on the news. Bomb. Turn the channel. A shot fired into someone else. Lives taken. Flick to another. Injustice. Time to turn the TV off and solve this.
There are way too many bad things happening around us. It is across the ocean, opposite side of the world and right here in our own backyard, front yards, alleyways and cities. We see and hear the news of hurt and killings on the front page of the newspaper, in social media and on each and every news channel. Sad, depressing and terrifying events. We even hear from those directly affected in unsafe neighborhoods.
We cannot ignore what is happening but we cannot keep hearing this disturbing news without doing something about it. Where have we gone wrong? I cannot help myself and ask “was this person loved? Cared for? What type of childhood did he or she have? How did the family miss the signs of violence? Mental illness? Did he or she grow up in violence? Ignorance? Maybe … maybe not.
Recently, I read a story about a four-year-old little girl who was abused and neglected. When the police asked her her name she responded with “Idiot”. How did this happen? When the neighbor was asked about her child playing there she said that her child stopped playing there after a while but never said why. She said families in their neighborhood stay to themselves and stay out of each other’s business.
Child abuse and neglect is everyone’s business. How we treat children is everyone’s business. They say you can tell a lot by how a country treats it’s prisoners…well I believe the same can be said for how we treat our children.
As families, teachers, country leaders, and citizens… we have a tremendous amount of responsibility for our youth, our future generation. This world belongs to all of us, all of them. We talk about conflict resolution, social interactions, healthy relationships, social roles and responsibilities. We talk about then a lot. Do we do enough to ensure our younger generations and people in general are learning, comprehending and being diligent? There are several things we must do over and over again. Tirelessly, relentlessly and repeatedly… Our children should know a few powerful unwritten rules
- Violence is not the answer nor is it the solution to injustice.
- Be proactive, observe and communicate.
- Take direction, follow direction and do your part.
- Be positive, stay positive even during injustice. Using words is more powerful than using fists and sarcasm.
- Stand up for yourself and avoid confrontation as much as possible. If you have the need to defend yourself, do it within the frame of legality.
- Remove yourself from dangerous situations and surround yourself with positive, productive people.
- Guide and help a friend in need. If you do not know how to help, ask someone. A teacher, a doctor, someone you can trust.
- Do not give in when you come across adversity. Stand by what you believe in and respect others’ beliefs.
- The most important thing is to stay alive. Cherish your life and protect it. Remember, self-expression and freedom are not an excuse to invade someone else’s space, disrespect others’ rights and roles.
- Drop the “I don’t care, what is in it for me? Me for me” attitude. Become a community, be part of a community.
- Do all of this regardless of religion, race, heritage. Unite for the common good. After all, we are all connected, we all need one another and we are all created as humans.
In all of this madness Fred Roger’s reminds us to “Look for the helpers…[there is good in this world]”. If you don’t see any in your neighborhood, become one.