I woke up this morning and asked myself, how do you explain this much violence to a four year old?
We tell our kids from the moment they say their first words, to the moments they step outside the house to live by a certain mantra and to follow certain rules.
We say things to them like..."play nice," "use your words," and "share."
We closely monitor and manage their behaviors as babies and toddlers at play dates, and to prepare them for early schooling.
We tell them to "be polite" and always say "please and thank you."
This overall theory exists that we need to learn to be courteous and respectful, that we are each held accountable for our own actions, and that we each control our responses to others.
It's instilled in us as children, and in turn we instill it in our kids.
Yet, in the 'real world' there exists this constant hypocrisy that so obviously contradicts the lessons we put onto our little ones.
In timing with all of the unrest and violence happening in the U.S. and all over the world, it's important to have a plan to help our children to comprehend it.
From mass shootings to train bombings to homicides, it becomes increasingly difficult to hide all this from our children.
This is not to say we shouldn't acknowledge it or share the information and sadness of it all in some way with them.
But, at the innocent and fragile young age of 4 years old, how do you explain violence to your child?
Do you tell your little ones that despite all the lessons we instill to be good people, that there are still people in this world that want to hurt others on purpose? And, there are groups of individuals out there that don't believe the rules of being a good human being apply to them? Or that there are many people in positions of power that abuse it and do things they should never do to others?
It's a complicated answer. It's not just a yes or no.
As a parent, it's important for me to protect my child as long as I can even if that requires filtering the news they see and hear on a regular basis.
Don't get me wrong, I am not suggesting ignoring the news and world happenings altogether.
Rather, I think it's important to tell them that there are people in this world that live their lives 'differently' than we do.
Instead of "using their words" and treating others with kindness as we teach them, there are people who are taking a different path that causes hurt and pain in turn spurring more violent acts.
So although there isn't one way to manage the content that our kids see, to each his own for doing that.
It is critical that we help our kids learn to control how they react when they encounter conflict (starting at a young age), and that they understand these acts of violence they see on TV are not ok.
These people who hurt others are not role models, they are rebels in society. They are making bad choices and impacting others negatively.
In these unpredictable times, I thought it could be helpful to share ways for our kids to deal with conflict and violence:
- No matter what violence you personally see or hear, it's still not ok to hurt others.
- If a situation doesn't feel right, it's probably not right. Remove yourself from the situation if you are uncomfortable.
- If you see something bad happening, make sure you are in a safe place and then say something to someone to make it stop.
- If someone is trying to hurt you, try to leave the situation and tell an adult. If you cannot leave, then tell them to stop and use your words first. If that doesn't work, then get out as soon as you can and do what you need to defend yourself and keep yourself safe from harm.
- Most importantly, think about the impact of your actions on others when you do react in a bad way. If someone hits you, and you hit them back - does that make it right? No, and it doesn't solve anything.
This is a critical lesson for us to teach our children, and for us to instill again in ourselves as adults.