The murder of 12 and wounding of 58 people at a theater in Aurora, CO is another national tragedy sparking debate on gun control. Based on my experience as a crime and violence prevention consultant, over the past 35 years, I see a need to share what I have learned about violence.
The seed for violent behavior begins at home. Parents good or bad, are teachers. Disconnected families in conflict often fail to teach children how to develop healthy relationships. Mental, physical or sexual abuse can make even the most intelligent child, anti-social. If children’s needs are not met, they can be thrown off balance resulting in anger and feeling powerless. These children can become targets for abuse at school, becoming isolated and alone.
Peers and society also influence impressionable youth. The breakdown in American culture has created a “perfect storm” for violent behavior.
The breakdown of the family
Family conflict, divorce and neglect can create confusion for children. They often suffer in silence or become bullies with little compassion for others. If adults don’t listen, set boundaries and calmly discipline children, they can become frustrated and angry. Without guidance and emotional support, children may not mature emotionally and become alienated from classmates.
Lacking self-awareness, a small percentage of youth seek revenge to get back at society for the pain they suffer. Without a conscience, emotionally unstable youth can become obsessed and play “god” in other people’s lives, which can turn deadly.
The breakdown of neighborhoods
In many cities, neighbors are strangers. They don’t see their role in keeping the neighborhood safe. This attitude creates social isolation with no check and balance on youthful bad behavior. Neighbors must become role models and demonstrate an interest in neighborhood kids.
The breakdown within cities
Disconnected residents allow fear to divide and conquer. Cities deteriorate as prostitutes, drug dealers, gangs and the homeless take over the streets. Neighbors don’t report criminal behavior and may even protect criminals. Crime goes unchecked which allows gangs to fill the void. Without adult leadership, youth may turn to drugs, sex or other addictions to feel good while everyone else feels powerless!
The breakdown of values in the media
Movies and television promote sex and violence because it sells. The entertainment industry reinforces human weaknesses. Children are desensitized as immature youth engage in sex and violence without understanding the consequences as moral values disappear. We become what we promote as disconnected youth feel angry, alone and nobody cares.
The breakdown within the religious community
There are thousands of churches, temples and synagogues in America; however, they don’t work to inform the community about the power of the human spirit. During the past 40 years, the religious community lost their influence following numerous scandals. Many churches become political action groups as religious leaders did little to bring the community together, spread the need for spiritual values or demonstrate the power of, “Love thy Neighbor.”
What can we do to stop the violence?
Community support strengthens families and helps parents raise successful children. Here are two things you can do to protect your children:
1. Create a network of support around children to help them learn how to develop healthy relationships. Group participation teaches children to respect others and develop self-control. Network with friends and neighbors, and get children involved in a variety of activities.
2. Find emotional support for children at a house of worship of your choice. Help children discover their spiritual center so they don’t become bullies or victims. Children can find their identity and become responsible and self-aware. They will learn how to get along with peers and become better citizens.
Gun control is not the solution to this complex problem! Government cannot fill the void with more laws or increasing control over American lives. However, it will take citizens working together to strengthen families, organizing to make neighborhoods safe for children and getting involved to make communities peaceful places to live. Everyone will benefit as children grow up healthy, happy and able to reach their potential.
Stephanie L. Mann, Author: 4 national crime prevention books
Crime and Violence Prevention Consultant
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