A Response to Violence: Project ENGAGE

So often I hear, “ Ahh… it is not that bad of a  movie… just has some violence but nothing sexual.” Sadly, I have said this exact statement in the past, and I have learned a little bit since!

I presented some research at the American Psychological Association (APA) annual conference a few years ago about the amount of aggression found in commercials during primetime hours on main televisions stations (i.e. Fox, CBS, ABC, NBC). The data shocked me…. Violence has flooded our media and we seem to justify it. After all, it is not sex… it’s JUST violence, right? WRONG!!!!

We are becoming a desensitized generation.  

 I am writing this at this specific time because of the recent acts of horrifying violence we have seen here in Colorado and across the United States. As a mental health professional I get several questions of “What can we do as parents to prevent this?” I want to make my response more available and clear….

Let’s take a stand now! This is what I call “Project ENGAGE!”

 1.Enlist. Defined as: To engage the support or cooperation of; To participate actively in a cause or enterprise. The key words in these definitions are ENGAGE, SUPPORT, PARTICIPATE, and ACTIVELY. There is nothing passive about responsible parenting. Our children are our responsibility. We are to support our children monetarily, but more importantly they need our support emotionally and spiritually. We need to participate in our children’s lives. This does not mean show up at little league baseball games and yell at the referee. In contrast, this means we are to know what they are learning at school, who are their friends. Talk with the parents of your child’s friends. Participate in their goals.

It is imperative that we sit down with our children on a regular basis and set goals together. Follow up on these goals and ask your child how you can help them achieve their goals. Yes, I am recommending that you set up 1:1 interviews with your children!

Becoming enlisted in our children’s lives will increase self-esteem, open up channels of communication, and move our children in a direction of positive productivity. Be actively aware of, and involved with, your child’s desires, progress, and struggles.

 2.No more justification of violence. You will never regret limiting the shows, movies, and games to which your children are exposed. We live in a time where watching each other beat the crap out of one another creates a huge market. There is a difference between learning self defense skills and beating someone down for money or entertainment.

 3. Go outside. Look at these people who have participated in violence… most seem to have isolated themselves and spent far too many hours behind doors. It is important for children to spend time outside playing and running around. You need that time outside, as well! If you feel like it is too unsafe for your child to play outside then go out with them. If you say you don’t have time for that then you might want to step back a re-prioritize your lifeJ

 4. Ask questions. Please, do not underestimate the negative power of bullying. I would encourage every parent to ask direct questions, such as, “ has anyone called you mean names” “has anyone pushed/shoved you” “do people not let you play”. Some might consider these questions as babying your child… absolutely not. It is important that we eliminate bullying in our schools and society. The best way to do this is start with individual conversations with our children. If your child is being bullied do not just pull them from school…. Keep them in school but go straight to the Principal! Teachers truly want the best for our children… any help we can give them is greatly appreciated! Also, ask your child questions if someone is touching their private areas. Ask these questions very frequently. They need to know they have someone to talk to… and it should be you!

 5. Get rid of most video games! Yes, I know I will get some heat for saying that…and I invite any feedback J I would suggest that video games are distorting the reality of our children’s views of the world. You cannot fight the research that indicates how video games desensitize us to violence. They devalue the worth of every human being on this earth. If there is any bit of violent and/or sexual behavior in a game then get rid of it. I would go as far as to suggest that getting rid of game systems in the home would do you a favor…. If not, then limit time spent on these machines. I am sorry but there is a huge difference between “playing” bowling on the wii and actually going to the bowling ally with some friends. We need to be out doing things and not virtually doing things. It is the experiences we have, whether they are virtual or real life, that influence our values, thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.

 6. Enhance your interactions! Our children need one-on-one time. They need us to get down and play with them. Watching movies together is not a bad thing… but is it the best thing to do regularly? Ask yourself if your time could be better spent doing something else. Enhancing the quality of your interactions with your children takes more energy, but don’t you think it is worth it?

 I know that parents of these people who have done very violent crimes are not necessarily the one’s at fault. However, I do believe that we, as parents, can do more to give an honest effort to prevent the ones we love from becoming full of hatred. Children must be at the center of our families and society. We have become a very self-serving and self-centered society, which involves hyperfocusing on our own career development and leaving the social, emotional, and spiritual developmental of our children left in the shadows of temporary professional success. We can not make decisions for people but we can influence how people feel and think, thus, influencing how they use their agency. If we are actively ENGAGED with our children, we can help increase our children’s self-esteem, regard for others, and positive choices. Lastly, if there is just even a bit of violence…. Turn it off and get engaged in something positive!!!









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