J.4.             CHILDREN & VIOLENCE


Violence starts naturally with the child, and children have to be domesticated, but violent cultures fail in important respects.
Children push, shove and hit as part of normal activity, even without malice, and fight when angry with intent at the time to hurt the other person.

Parents normally try to limit both, and need to teach children to control anger and not to hurt others. They often have to adjudicate family quarrels. This is a level at which resort to violence can be reduced by those so inclined. It needs to be reduced here so that people do not grow up accustomed to resorting to personal violence against others.

Violence among children increases wherever parents come to blows themselves, discipline their children violently, and perhaps commonly when parents encourage children to win their fights with neighborhood children. Some children emerge from tough neighborhoods and learn to be considerate of other persons, but generally violent environments breed violent characters. How much more could be done by schools, churches, and neighborhood organizations to improve this situation? Society is not very good at supplementing life experiences prior to parenthood with the various kinds of training for parenthood that could improve family life by reducing family violence and neighborhood violence.

Children are moulded by and generally fit into cultural patterns, so a culture of violence in effect condones, perpetuates and even increases human violence. Preadolescents and adolescents are particularly prone to follow role models that are violent.

As children become adults, they need ways to establish their independence from family authority, and normally are rebellious to degree; they need satisfactory non-violent ways to meet these needs so that they are less likely to resort to related or seemingly unrelated violence.

My mother taught me as a very young child not to hurt other children. She explained that I donŐt want to be hurt, so I should not hurt anyone else. Wrestle if you want, but do not fight. My father gave me toy soldiers to play with. Mother allowed me to play with them, but told me she disapproved. When all children got toy pistols, she told me not to point them at anyone else even in fun, as that is pretending to hurt someone, and that should never be regarded as fun. I did not always obey, but the teaching stayed with me. A regular church-going family, our Lutheran preacher in my childhood and adolescent years said that JesusŐ message was for all people to treat each other in a loving spirit. He did not need to say that no one can hurt someone else in a loving spirit.