Just watch the news or read the front pages of newspapers and you’ll soon realize how violence, even in societies that we are used to calling "evolved,” is still very prevalent in every age group and in every social stratum.
But how can we stop the phenomenon of violence? There would be a lot to do and on many levels... We at Family and Media would like to focus on what parents can do to educate their children about peace, reconciliation, and respect for others while they are still very young.
1. See, in order to intervene: recognize bullying as a tendency in human nature
Arrogance - the temptation to overpower the other - concerns human nature.
The child is "naturally" compelled (i.e. even without having first witnessed "a bad example") to steal other children's toys, to use his hands if a conflict occurs, to be aggressive or pushy in order to get something.
The first step to do a good job as educators implies being aware that within children there is not only the inclination to be good, but also to be bad.
Our first advice is to observe your children, to see what negative tendencies show in their behaviors... When and how do they "use violence"?
2. Insist on correcting every act of violence, without becoming tired
Whenever the child makes a gesture of overpowering someone, it is important to make him or her notice the other’s suffering they cause. Not because he feels like he messed up ("you’ve done wrong" not "you are wrong": this is the message that must get through), but because he learns that his actions have consequences.
The child must be reprimanded, gently and at the same time firmly, every time he commits an act of physical or verbal violence, because, as they say, Repetita juvant (repeating helps to get the message): "this is not ok," or "you have made your sister cry."
It may seem that the child does not get the message, because he will almost certainly do it again, but our corrections will be like water that wears down stone over time.
3. Educate the eye, elicit identification and empathy
Man's gaze must be educated, from the very first years of life, to see something precious in himself and in the others – to understand that all should be respected and not treated as "something to be used or bypassed" at will.
If the child wrongs someone, it may be useful to help him put himself in the shoes of the person they have treated badly: "Would you like it if someone did this to you?”
4. Teach the value others
The parents have the task of showing the child that he or she is valuable, that he or she is precious, but like him, so are others.
Valuing him and valuing others in his presence is a good way to make him realize that every person is special: "You were really nice before, while you were singing that song", "Did you see how good a drawing your sister made?”,…
Speak well, in order to teach them to speak well – teaching them to value others
5. Act as mediators in the negotiation and reconciliation process
"They are children, they will work it out amongst themselves." Since I am a mother of two children born quite close together, I have fully understood that this simply doesn’t work. If the children are left "to themselves," the most arrogant will win, the one who knows how to rip away the toy with more force from the hands of the other, the smartest, the one who knows how to hit harder. We cannot be spectators of what normally happens in the jungle. We can, indeed, we must, become mediators in the conflicts that occur between our children. "Now she was playing it, then it will be your turn," "you can hold this stuffed animal, while she holds this one, then you can trade," "if you can't play nicely together, the game will be taken away."
The process of "decentralization" must begin at early childhood and the adult has the job of showing the child that his needs and desires are not only ones that exist, but also others’ exist as well, and an agreement must be found.
You will realize that, by mediating, a miracle will happen: your children will begin to do it on their own...
6. Explain, not just "impose"
It is good not only to enforce things, but also to explain why.
Treat the child as someone who "can understand" and not exclusively as someone "who must obey." "See, if you do this your sister is happy!", "See, if you apologize then you are better off." Only in this way we will help the child's spirit to be formed, we will give him the opportunity to "choose" more and more good instead of just "executing" rules.
7. Fighting violence in ourselves to educate others about non-violence
The last and most important piece of advice: set a good example. Let us be the first in the family to look for alternative ways to discipline, so that children can imitate us, not only listen to us...
There is no better way to communicate peace than by working ourselves to find peace.
Avoid being violent toward children, denigration, and humiliation: "You don't know how to do anything," "you can't do it yet," "you are a lost cause." A child who is constantly belittled will most likely belittle others.
Avoid exercising physical strength as much as possible: constantly trying to establish a dialogue and make yourself understood by talking and looking into each other's eyes (preferably at the same eye-level).
St. John Bosco, known as one of the greatest educators in history, said that it is more important to be loved and become credible guides than to be "feared."