The Benefits of Teaching Violence Prevention Strategies in Early Childhood Education

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Given the violence our youth are seeing, or have become victims of, it has become necessary for the entire community to be a part of teaching them strategies to prevent violence. This article offers strategies that we all can use to accomplish this feat.

Submitted: May 28, 2010

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Submitted: May 28, 2010

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The Benefits of Teaching Violence Prevention Strategies
 In Early Childhood Education
by
 Dr. Rosalyn Hunter Berry
 
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6
 
As a Christian Counselor, Educator, and Preschool Director I have come in contact with many children that lack proper training. They have not been dedicated or inaugurated into the course of life they have been appointed by God. So as they grow up without this knowledge, they are not equipped to handle the pressures of life. Oftentimes this lack of knowledge leads to the handling of the pressures through violence.
 
Youth violence is a complex spiritual and health problem with many risk factors, including individual beliefs and behavior; family characteristics; peer and school influences; and environmental factors. Parents’ interactions with each other, their behavior toward their children, and their emotional state have been shown to be important predictors of children’s violent behavior. Research shows that poor interactions between a mother and a child at age 1 year predict behavioral problems and aggression at age 6. Having an emotionally distressed parent at age 4 years has been found to contribute to a child’s developing conduct disorders and antisocial behaviors. Marital conflict and a lack of communication between parents have also been identified as risk factors for youth violence. Children who witness violence can display an array of emotional and behavioral disturbances, including low self-esteem, withdrawal, nightmares, self-blame, and aggression against peers, family members, and property.
 
Violence is a learned behavior. The values, attitudes, and interpersonal skills acquired early in life play a key role in the development of violent behavior. Because a person’s violent or nonviolent tendencies may be set in early childhood, preschool - and elementary school-age children are often thought to be ideal participants in interventions that promote nonviolent values and enhance conflict-resolution skills. The way our children are treated within their important environments will largely determine the shape they will be in and how they will behave. To assist in the prevention of violence among our youth, parents, educators, caregivers, the community, and church must model appropriate behaviors in the way they manage problems, conflict, anger, and stress. They can help children learn to deal with emotions without using violence. They can practice specific steps to prevent violent behavior.
 
The following are some principles to include in assisting parents, educators, caregivers, and the community in training up children in violence prevention:
 
  • Give children consistent love and attention – every child needs a strong, loving relationship with a caring adult to feel safe and secure, and develop a sense of trust.
  • Ensure that children are supervised and guided – they learn important social skills by interacting with others in well supervised activities. Unsupervised children often have behavioral problems that can lead to violence.
  • Model appropriate behaviors – children learn by example. Discuss problems with them, and help them learn nonviolent solutions to conflict and problems.
  • Be consistent with rules and discipline – children need structure for their behavior, including clearly stated, logical consequences for not following the rules.
  • Make sure children do not have access to firearms – never store firearms (even if unloaded) in places where children have access to them. Teach children about the dangers of firearms and steps to take if they find a gun.
  • Try to keep children from seeing too much violence in the media – limit television viewing time, and talk with children about the violence they see in movies, on TV, and in video games. Help them understand how painful violence is in real life and discuss its serious consequences.
  • Teach children ways to avoid being victims of violent acts – stress personal safety, including what to do if anyone tries to hurt them and how to call 911.
  • Take care of yourself and be connected with your community – stay involved with family, friends, and neighbors. Take pride in your community, and be proactive in helping to keep it safe.
 
The following are violence prevention methods and ideas that directors of preschool and child care centers, and the churches can use to make a difference in the lives of parents and young children:
 
  • Offer parenting classes that deal with effective parenting and child development.
  • Conduct training for parents, expectant parents, and those who work directly with young children. Life skills that can be addressed include specific violence prevention skills (e.g. empathy, gentle touch, anger management, impulse control, and learning how to set and enforce limits); stress management and positive coping techniques; problem solving; and communication.
  • Provide educational opportunities showing parents and caregivers how to recognize their emotional “triggers” (when they feel they are about to lose control), and teach them anger management and coping techniques for self-control.
  • Teach children at an early age that feelings are normal – even feelings of anger or hurt; however, violence is not an acceptable method for expressing anger, frustration, and other negative feelings.
  • Be a vigilant, positive role model.
  • Fast and Pray.
  • Teach parents that children are an heritage of the Lord and the fruit of the womb is His reward.
  • Teach children that they are fearfully and wonderfully made by God.
  • Train them up in the way they should go, so when they are old they will not depart from it.
 
We are all stakeholders in the quest to prevent violence in the critical early years. All children deserve the opportunity to “fly” and reach their highest potential – we must not allow them to become “hidden casualties.”
 
 
 


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