PARENTING ARTICLES : Violence And Tweens
By Dr.Maryann Rosenthal
We are becoming more and more violent today and there is no simple answer. There is no gene for violence and aggression is a learned behavior. I think it is in a large part due to the following factors:
1. We are a country that is simmering in anger; we are a world on guard and that fear is transmitted to our children and causes in them a physiology of fear. The pace of the world we live in does not allow us to truly nurture our children.
2. Each child is born with a unique temperament and personality and the biology of the brain tells us that there are enormous changes and growth during adolescence. These changes contribute to the progression of aggression that we see in kids today. They are growing up too fast and being robbed of their childhoods.
3. The availability of weapons and the effects of alcohol and drugs all contribute to violent and homicidal behavior by children.
4. Young teens who watch more than an hour of television a day are nearly four times as likely to commit aggressive acts in later years.
Times have changed and young girls today are persuaded that the more outrageous their behavior, the greater their rewards will be. The media sells the concept of being “tough” to young women who are fooled into believing that this is the meaning of true empowerment. Like boys, the increased pressures—from the breakdowns of family, church, community, and school— have increased their propensity for violence. And violence by girls is pervasive in much of the entertainment world and promoted as “girl power”. Gender role expectations are important in helping our children form their identities before they become violent.
Boys and girls are different, but with violence and acting out, a crisis happens in the family that must be dealt with regardless of gender.
And it all begins in the home. Home is the place where our children learn what they live and live what they learn. 33% of nearly 200,000 students surveyed said that their parents often do not set clear rules. And half said they are not disciplined routinely when they break the rules. Once the cycle of violence has begun parent must get the help that they need to:
Reduce family’s tolerance for violent behavior
Reduce child’s tolerance for violent behavior
Improve verbal communication skills
Build impulse control through delayed gratification
Educate children and parents how to remain calm during conflict
Get help and support from available resources
These warning signs of violence were developed by the U.S. Department of Education
• Social withdrawal
• Excessive feelings of isolation or rejection
• Being a victim of violence
• Feelings of being picked on and persecuted
• Uncontrolled anger
• Low school interest and poor academic performance
• Impulsive and chronic hitting, intimidating, bullying
• Expression of violence in writings and drawings
• History of discipline problems
• Past history of violent and aggressive behavior
• Drug use and alcohol use
• Affiliation with gangs
• Inappropriate access to, possession of, and use of firearms
• Intolerance for differences, prejudicial attitudes
• Serious threats of violence
Dr. Maryann Rosenthal is a highly respected clinical psychologist on family dynamics and best selling author of Be A Parent, Not A Pushover, recently selected as a book of the year on effective parenting. She is a featured authority on regional and national television and a global keynote speaker. She co-authored with Denis Waitley, the new family leadership program, The Seeds of Greatness System taught worldwide. Maryann lives in southern California with her husband and their blended family of seven children and six grandchildren (and counting).
© 2004 by Dr. Maryann Rosenthal. Permission to reprint if left intact.