As everyone reels from the shock of the recent innocent deaths of 20 young children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, many across the nation are already calling for stricter gun control. But is that the answer?
After all, gunman Adam Lanza apparently used his mother’s legally registered weapons. And the school was locked down at 9:30 that morning. Schools are spending millions on metal detectors, hidden cameras, and security measures, but these shootings are still happening. A friend of mine said he believed something truly catastrophic would have to happen before we get a wake-up call. Let’s all hope he is wrong. This is a huge issue and growing issue.
Does change start with family and positive messages?
Darrell Scott, the father of Rachel Scott who was gunned down in the Columbine shooting, says many teens don’t have positive role models in their lives. There are so many broken families in America–homes where kids experience violence every day. And that’s not to say that broken homes are the cause; Darrell says kids need positive messages and to know they matter.
After Rachel’s death he started Rachel’s Challenge, an organization in her memory. The focus is on teaching kindness and respect and how those simple acts can create a chain reaction. Should there be mandatory programs like Rachel’s taught at every level in school? So far Rachel’s Challenge has reached over 18 million kids, helped prevent over 500 suicides, and stopped eight school shootings.
Do we need to teach our children it’s okay to speak up?
There was a girl last May who posted a video about committing suicide and had done so every year for four years. She was finally successful. Over 60,000 people saw that final video and did absolutely nothing. We teach our children not to tattle, but there’s a difference between tattling and alerting a friend/adult that someone might be in trouble.
For tons of great information on teaching children how to speak up and how to deal with bullying check out Bullied to Silence, a documentary and movement dedicated to giving a voice to bullied children.
How much of this violence stems from bullying?
According to Rachel’s Challenge over 160,000 students skip school every day because of bullying. My own daughter was a victim of bullying and I saw firsthand the impact on her. She has uttered the words, “I’m going to commit suicide.” I went as far as changing her school and immediately sought professional help to give her the tools she needed to deal with it.
According to a nationwide study by the National Education Association, only half of our educators have received training on how to handle bullying situations. It seems to me like mandatory training for all educators is also something to consider.
How much of of the violence is a result of television and video games?
You have to ask yourself, where are children learning it’s okay to be mean? Does it start with the many teen shows on TV or movies that are about being mean to other teens? So many video games are about shooting and killing. Even cartoons are violent. Don’t these kinds of images send messages to our children that being mean is okay?
What can we do as parents?
We all hugged our kids a little tighter after last week’s news. And hugs are a good start, but we need stronger measures. We can all talk to our schools about instituting procedures for helping kids report incidents and potential issues. We can all join parent associations to start initiatives at a grassroots level and lobby for training programs for our teachers. Schools should hold drills with teachers and administrators on what to do in case of a shooting if they aren’t already doing so, and we can and should talk to our kids. I believe we can all do a better job of being our children’s role models.
What do you think we should do?