Guide to Protecting Your Child from Violent Kids: Part V
12 Action Steps To Protect Your Child
1. Don't give up or let go of your child too early. My experience as a child safety expert is that most parents take a "mental break" from raising their children between the ages of ten and twelve. It appears as a "breather." The child knows the safety basics and is not yet stepping into the dangers facing teens. But because of the media influence and the size of schools today, the turmoil of the teenage years is starting younger and younger. Be alert to shifts in your child's behavior, sleep pattern, friends or performance in school.
2. The teen years are a time of identity formation. Be sure you know your child's role models -- who she wants to be like and why.
3. Teens need more privacy but spending the vast majority of their time behind closed doors is NOT healthy.
4. Know where your children are: physically and mentally.
5. Teach your child from a young age not to bully other kids. Cartoons teach the opposite. When your child has the painful experience of being bullied, remind him that other children feel the same way when he bullies them. Listen to your child when he tells you about a kid who is repeatedly bullying him or if he is bragging about bullying another child. Step in and help him learn appropriate behavior. Seek professional help if the pattern keeps getting stronger.
6. If there is a child who has an "explosive temper," teach your child that responding with aggressive behavior or derogatory comments may be taken as threats and set him off. A kind, gentle but firm response helps to keep children emotionally connected and reinforces non-aggressive behavior. If your teen is encountering someone like this at school, tell her to be kind but keep away and advise the school counselor of the situation.
Parents, school counselors, and teachers must respect a student's need to be anonymous if they expect students to speak up.
7. Help your child realize that actions have consequences. Violence has a price. On an ongoing basis, share your views and understanding of the effects of the violence and aggression that he sees in video games, movies and possibly encounters in school or the neighborhood.
8. Apply discipline consistently, without anger. This will help your child learn that there are consequences for misbehavior. If anger is a key element in your family dynamics, seek professional help.
9. Encourage your child to share his or her thoughts and feelings. Your child's first sense of worth is established by how you as the parent respond. This is a life pattern. If you have a problem with your child commonly responding with anger or withdrawing from you, it is a cover for a deeper emotional problem. Seek professional help.
10. It is a misconception that your teen has to cut all connection to you. In fact the opposite is true. Teens and parents are made to believe by the media that teens need to be "on their own," and abandon their families. The opposite is actually the truth. They want and need more than ever to know there is a strong family support behind them.
11. Remember that a child is the reflection of the family, so get to know the families of your child's friends. Take time to discuss your views and concerns with them. No two families parent exactly the same. Be sure to agree on the big issues, while perhaps yielding on the small ones.
12. Always check with friends to see if they have guns and if they are securely locked up before your child plays there.
Read our review of the book, Raising Safe Kids in an Unsafe World.
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