By Kristin Lyle
For the past couple months, my sons, aged 9 and 12, have been complaining about behavior at school. There is an escalation of anger, disrespect, and hatred between students. Our children are modeling the anger, disrespect, and hatred we see in the world. Almost all of us will agree that all of the violence going on around us in schools, in our communities, and in our world needs to cease. How do we do that? Where should we begin?
Parents can begin by discussing how to respond to violence with their children and families. We talk about their school days each evening, highlighting the things they saw or how they were treated that were not pleasing. After that, we discuss how to respond to bullies and negative behaviors. I found the simplest way to combat violence between children is to teach them how to respond with kindness. Here’s a role-play scenario of what my 9 year old and I came up with to respond to anger, disrespect, or hateful words:
Son: (Explains to me that he was being called short and dumb again today at school.)
Me: How did you respond?
Son: Just as I always do, I asked him to stop bullying me and I told the teacher.
Me: Great job on calling him out on bullying and telling the teacher. I have one more thing you can do, respond with kindness. It is not easy to think fast and respond with kindness but if you can remember to respond with the opposite thing they are saying, it would do the trick. Let’s role-play, you be the bully and I’ll be the student.
Son (bully): Haha, you need to sit up front because you are short and can’t see the board.
Me (student): Well you are tall so it is ok for you to sit in the back.
Son: (look of confusion)
Me: In that situation, the opposite of short is tall. Let’s try another one.
Son: Ok, you must be dumb because you ask the teacher for help in math.
Me: You must be really good at math because you don’t ask for help.
Son: (look of confusion again)
Me: Do you see a pattern?
Son: Yes, you are saying nice things about me even though I say bad things to try to hurt you.
Me: Are you going to keep saying those things to me?
Son: No, I don’t want to play anymore because you're not being affected by my words and your response confused me.
Me: Exactly! Respond with kindness by saying the opposite that they said to you. You will leave them confused and also show them how kindness feels. Do you think you can do that?
It's critical that we teach future generations how to become more compassionate by treating one another with kindness, even if they do not treat us the same. Having such a perspective can be difficult. But one thing everyone can agree on is the world needs less violence and more peace. We need to stop answering threats of war with bombs and instead with peace talks. By teaching our kids to respond with kindness, we will decrease violence, one person, one situation at a time. By starting in our homes, with our children, we have the control to give them the tools to build a better future with less violence and more compassion.
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