Building Moral Intelligence
Kids don’t become homicidal maniacs overnight—violence is learned behavior. Here are nine critical tips to protect kids from violence and boost their peacefulness.
- Model coolness: kids are watching! Calmness is learned and starts at home, so parents must show kids they can keep cool even in crisis. A telling question parents should often ask is: “If my kid watched only my behavior, what did he see today?”
- Mandate home calmness. Set a family rule: “Talk only when calm.” then refuse to talk until the person is. Exit (or walk away) until calmness is restored. Stress your beliefs for peacefulness to your kids over and over–then walk your talk.
- Monitor media consumption. By age 11 kids witness over 8000 TV murders. 1000 studies show that TV violence does increase aggression—especially vulnerable kids. Monitor what your kid watches—then pull the plug when you see too much violence.
- Teach anger management. Kids need to learn to control anger appropriately so them how. One way is “1 + 3 + 10.” When you feel you’re getting angry do 3 things: Tell yourself: ‘Be calm’ (that’s 1). Take 3 deep, slow breaths (that’s 3). Then count slowly to 10 (that’s 10). Practice it until it becomes a habit in your family.
- Boost empathy and highlight the victim. The best answer for preventing violence is to boost empathy in our kids. It makes violence an unthinkable option! So nurture empathy and stress the impact violence has on victims. Ask often: “How would you feel if that happened to you? How would the victim feel? What about his family?”
- Learn peaceful problem solving. Our kids are bombarded with violent ways to solve problems. So teach them how to do so peacefully! This simple way uses the acronym STAND: (1) S: Stop get calm; (2) T: Tell the problem; (3) A: Name Alternatives; (4) N: Narrow to safe options; (5) D: Decide on the best option. Do it. Practice it often!
- Discern “tattling” vs. “telling.” In the wave of school shootings we’ve learned kids are always the best metal detectors: 75% school shooters report intentions So teach your kids to “tell” whenever they don’t feel safe and who to tell. It. will save lives.
- Teach survival rules. In today’s world kids could face potentially violent situations. So teach critical survival rules: 1. Use your gut instinct. If you feel you’re in danger, leave. 2. Teach: Be wary of certain situations or actions instead of telling kids to fear strangers. It alerts them, so they can act right. 3. Teach gun safety; set clear rules.
- Instill that violence is unacceptable. Talking about violence gives parents a chance to see into their kids’ world—to get to know their everyday fears and concerns. So talk often. Turn violence in the news into teachable moments to instill that violence is never right. The only way kids know violence is not right is by learning it, so teach it!
Michele Borba is the author of Building Moral Intelligence: The Seven Essential Virtues that Teach Kids to Do the Right Thing and No More Misbehavin’ (Jossey Bass). Refer to www.moralintelligence.com for more practical parenting tips and teacher resources to keep violence out of our children’s lives.
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