CULTIVATING VIOLENCE

Several years ago, Governor Cuomo stated that violence in America is at an all-time high.  He cited the incident in which a young man, angered by the government's removal of family property, was alleged to have started a fire that destroyed hundreds of homes and valuable resources in California. What choice did he have? After all, he wanted something...now...and it was not happening. 
 
 The Hudson Valley has not been spared: In the past several years there have been multiple incidents of violent crimes among high school children, including, beatings, stabbings, the detonation of an explosive device, concealing weapons on school property, fire-setting; and the mobilization of police to protect against a possible "drive-by" shooting (what is this, The Untouchables?)

"Children learn what they live. If a child lives with criticism, he learns to condemn, if he lives with hostility, he learns to fight...." Violent children become violent adults. Those currently in the Dutchess County Jail are fortunate. They can tell you why it was necessary to shoot others. Those “others”, found face down in the city streets, were less fortunate.
 
 Then there is the well-known story of a woman in Manassas, Virginia who gave new meaning to the term, "castration anxiety."
 
 Anyone raising children in this complex world will often need help at some point. Good parents are generally good people. But good people do not necessarily become good parents. Good parents are not born; they are cultivated, like the fertile soil that eventually yields a bountiful harvest. Good parents understand the relationship between behavior and its consequences: You water the behavior you want to grow. Ignoring leads to extinction. Neglect is a form of ignoring. Parental neglect is not a function of poverty or education. Well-intended parents, active in school sports and the PTA, may still neglect their children...and these children could be headed for a fall! Neglect here refers to a failure to teach children adequate social skills which will enable them to survive in today's world. Does this mean that all people who act violently were neglected? That they all have had bad parents? Definitely not! But the frequency of violent behaviors among those lacking survival skills makes teaching them compelling. Some common examples include:
 
·        1- Communication. Effective communication consists of a statement, an acknowledgment, and a statement that acknowledges the first acknowledgment. To acknowledge, it is necessary to listen, in addition to expressing an opinion. Teaching this takes time and patience. Parents who believe they are too preoccupied with daily routines to teach effective communication may encounter more non-verbal exchanges, leading to a far greater likelihood of misunderstandings.
·        2- Discipline. Learning to respond appropriately to others is a function of structure or routine in one's life. Many children lack even the most basic routines of a bedtime, chores or a nourishing breakfast before school. In some cases, they are not asked to respond this way because their parents are too stressed or busy to monitor these behaviors. This may seem surprising considering the importance of providing a fundamental social and academic education at home. But when children can do what they want at home, it generalizes to school behavior, such as their failure to complete assignments on time. Then it generalized to adulthood.
·        3- Delaying Gratification. Strong behaviors are best acquired when each occurrence is followed by a positive consequence. However, once acquired, behavior is best maintained on an intermittent reinforcement schedule. In short, children need to be taught that you don't necessarily get what you want when you want it; that you often have to work toward that goal. If a parent establishes the pattern: When you ask, I give. That's how I show I love you, and you should show appreciation by behaving well, the conditioned expectation may become: I am going to get "X" now, one way or another, because I am entitled to it.
 
“… If a child lives with security, he learns to have faith. If a child lives with approval he learns to like himself. And if a child lives with acceptance and friendship, he learns to find love in the world."