Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Violence as a First Response

I currently work 4 days a week in a high school, largely with young people for whom school is just one of the major struggles in their lives...

Without breaching confidence, I've talked over the course of this year with a couple of dozen young men (13-17 years old) who don't see any other response to being provoked than violence. There are different reasons for this, but the thing I've found common in all of them is the involvement of their father in crafting this attitude.

For some, Dad has actually taught them to solve their problems with their fists, to not let anyone push them around. For others, Dad has not taught them anything...verbally. But by example, he's hit them, hit their mother, gotten into brawls himself...he's modelled violence as a first response to being bothered by anyone.

For others still, Dad hasn't been particularly violent and hasn't actively taught them to be violent. What he has done is simply stood back and let dog eat dog beneath his own roof. He has let the kids solve their own conflicts by whatever rules the kids choose, only intervening when something of his gets damaged (wall, CD, window, coffee table, etc).

I was thinking about this again today after another conversation with a wonderful young man whose intelligence, talents and emotional intelligence is undermined by the ugly spectre of a belief in the value of violence to solve his problems. Dad fits into the first and last of my categories above, at least as my young friend tells it.

Geez, guys. My boys are now 15 and 12. I haven't taught them to be pussies. But they've grown up believing that violence is a very very poor method of solving a problem, if it ever does solve anything. They see it as a lose-lose. Maybe it's easier for them than many of my students (whose lives have taught them that the world is out to harm them). But I'm proud of the times we spent in early childhood talking about these things, debriefing movies and video games and incidents at school, and I'm grateful for the adult males in my friendship group and family who've taught my boys that humour and empathy and giving a damn actually defuse a lot of conflict before it grows too large.

Dunno where I'm heading with this. Just venting, maybe.

A possible question as a conversation starter here is: How have you taught your kids to deal with provocation and conflict?

No comments:

Post a Comment