This is the third article looking at how we can help our troubled youth deal with violence. If we want to encourage peaceful interactions, we must incorporate efforts into our daily lives that will teach them to accept all others, even those who look, think, feel or act differently. There is no excuse today for anyone to be guilty of discriminating behavior. Our task is to challenge ourselves each time we react to an individual based on color, race, background, gender, sexual preference or religion. An easy statement, a difficult task.
Diversity of thought, however, must be added to this discrimination list. Too often we dismiss anyone whose opinion differs from ours. We seem to have developed an extreme intolerance for opposing political views, which is an understatement for what transpires within our current political arena. Passion for one’s beliefs is an asset. Using that passion as an excuse for belittling another or for inflicting violence is intolerable. We need to exhibit a civilized acceptance of others’ conclusions. How do we hope to pass any significant legislation, come to any compromise, or be role models for our young if we are so entrenched in our positions that we are unwilling to change or listen?
Politics is just one of the more obvious examples of thought isolation. Somehow we seem to be circling the wagons around a very small group of individuals in our lives who look and think like we do. What a small, boring, stifling, untenable and tension-filled world that would be.
The solution is not complicated. We could begin by incorporating the simple advice in Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Some will remember when that book was popular in the 90s. Perhaps this is the time to revisit Covey’s ideas. He suggests that we expect a win/win solution by listening to others, understanding their opinions before reacting, then finding a solution that fits all views. What if we could teach our children such an approach. Not complicated, but effective. Beginning on a small scale might build the strength to resolve larger issues. What works in our daily lives with our kids at home and in school can be translated to a bigger picture. We just have to start somewhere, and start now.
Let’s focus on similarities, not differences. The workplace encourages competition, not cooperation. Business and politics, like sports, are too often about winning at all costs. Is this the message we want to impart to kids?
The argument has been that competition can be a motivating and positive force. While this is true, there must be balance. How often does competition force cooperation into a corner where it is ignored? Humans are cooperative creatures. We have a competitive streak, but this tendency does not have to, and should not, dominate.
We have been steeped in behavior that has turned combative over time. Turning to a more cooperative headset of teaching our kids to help their siblings, classmates and communities may have some surprising results and make us feel better than expected.
We can address the larger problem of troubled global and domestic terrorists, and all troubled young, by starting on a small scale. We can resolve conflicts within our families, our schools and our communities. We can accept others and not ridicule their ideas. We can question our role in enabling violence, remembering that:
Violence occurs whenever anyone inflicts or threatens to inflict physical or emotional injury or discomfort upon another person’s body, feelings or possessions.
(Violence in Schools: The Enabling Factor by Carole Remboldt)