I have answered several posts on the boards from parents whose young children were frightened or even traumatized by the news reports of what happened at Columbine High School. These posts remind us of the need to monitor and supervise what our children witness on television -- not just what we would call entertainment, but news as well. Young children exposed to these horrors on TV experience their own personal trauma.
The board posts underscore the violence of our society, where the massive use of force is seen as a solution to problems, whether in Columbine High School, our communities or Kosovo. Parents who want to raise compassionate, peace-loving children are starting at a disadvantage. We have to help our kids rise above what they are exposed to through television, films, video games, music, cartoons and the news.
Rather than focus blame on parents for the violence that occurred, I think it's important we support one another in the huge challenge of raising children to be aware of other people's feelings, care about them and settle conflict in cooperative and disciplined ways. Below is my list of building blocks for raising peace-loving children.
Build warm attachments. A child's view of the world and the people in it is formed by relating to parents and other close relations. We need to build warm, deep attachments so that children feel loved and safe. This forms the basis for trust and love of others.
Stay connected. Children need parents who listen to them and accept their thoughts and feelings. On a daily basis we need to hear about and stay involved in our children's lives. Too often, parents lose touch and then during some sort of crisis say, "We need to talk."
Give unconditional love. This means "I love you even when you make mistakes, get in trouble or disappoint me. You can always talk with me, even when things aren't going well. I will provide love, safety and acceptance. I'm on your side." Also important: "My love for you is not dependent upon your achievement."
Promote mastery and success. Our children need opportunities and support, so they can master all the many challenges of life. We have to work with our children and invest time. We also have to teach them to work hard and to endure mistakes and setbacks without quitting. Children who frequently fail have little optimism and happiness, and little to give to others.
Teach children to cope with reality. As much as we want them to feel good, we also must teach our children how to deal with frustration, sadness and disappointment. These are also part of life. People can't always have what they want. We hurt our children when we try to give them everything -- and when they start to expect it.