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How can we promote peace in our home when there is not peace around us?

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A

There are several things a family can do to make home a place of peace, even in a violent and uncertain world. The lessons children learn from family and other trusted adults in the community will have a lasting impact on them. Consider the following points.

Avoid fostering hate and prejudice. When confronted with terrible acts of aggression in our community and world, it is easy to develop fear, suspicion and hatred for a person or group of people. Teach children to separate the person from the behavior; to condemn an action without condemning or hating a person. It is especially important for parents to overcome prejudices and fears. Children who learn prejudice from parents are likely to carry those feelings throughout their lives.

Decrease the violence in your child's world. Video games, the Internet, movies and popular music all have the potential to influence youth. Parents can limit both the amount and the kind of media messages that come into their home. Extended exposure to news coverage showing violence should also be limited.

Treat children with respect and teach them to respect others. There are opportunities every day in homes, churches, neighborhoods and schools for concerned adults to teach the values of respect for the rights of others, respect for self and personal responsibility for actions. Speak respectfully to children. Show respect by taking time to listen to them and by taking their ideas seriously. Talk about how your values have guided your actions in specific personal situations. Teach kindness. Children aren't born knowing how to get along with others, but research has shown that even infants have a natural sense of empathy or concern for others. Children learn through countless experiences in the home, school, church and other settings to develop that inborn characteristic into kindness or unkindness. In general, if children are treated with kindness, they will treat others with kindness. Obviously children will encounter unkindness from other children, adults and even from people in their own home. But if adults treat youth with kindness, this will help youth treat others that way. Discipline without violence. All children sometimes misbehave and all parents get frustrated and angry at times. How we deal with these situations sends a message about dealing with anger that is far more powerful than what we say. Hitting, yelling or using other coercive methods will likely teach children to deal with problems in these ways.

Be a positive role model. As parents, grandparents, teachers and others who care about youth, we need to remember to live our lives as if someone is watching us. Someone is. Our youth are constantly watching our example, including how we deal with frustration, anger and conflict. By your example, help children learn to disagree without being disagreeable. Help them learn to express their ideas without being hostile. Help them look for things they share in common with others, not the differences. The next time you consider acting violently, think about the lesson you are teaching and respond the way you hope your children will respond when they become adults. Chances are high that they will act the way they were taught at home.

Posted on 28 May 2004

Tom Lee
Family & Consumer Science Program Leader & Department Head, Financial Management Specialist

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