Parenting • Dec 17, 2012

Culture of Violence – Mom Pediatrician Responds to Connecticut Shootings

I just talked to my 3 and 6-year-old kids about the Newtown shooting. We’ll talk to our 8-year-old later today.

We’ve become a country where school shootings and family homicides have become so common that I’m barely surprised by the news. My husband and I continue to grieve over the growing culture of violence in America, a culture that many people refer to as “the culture of death.”

I’m a doctor. I try to help people heal. Here is what I’m doing to help heal this culture of violence. What are you doing? What do you think I am doing right or wrong? Please tell me in the comments below.

The Role of a Parent

– I teach that all life is precious—through my choices as a parent and doctor and through my words as a writer. My husband and I teach our children never to resort to violence except to protect their own life. This means that we, as parents, cannot be violent, ruthless, or hard-hearted, either. We’ve had to tame our own anger. When we focus on the intrinsic value of life, we become better parents and better people.

– I encourage parents. Parenting is perhaps the most powerful tool to help people learn the meaning of mercy. Filling hearts with mercy prevents violence.

– I realize that childhood is getting shorter and parenthood is getting longer. We’ve found we have to talk to our kids about ugly topics like war and violence much earlier than we want to.

Sharing Stories

– I tell my honest stories about teaching non-violence in a violent world. Teaching non-violence at home is hard. Even Lego sets can be violent. Parents—we need to support each other. How do you teach your children the value of human life? How do you teach that selfishness, anger, and lack of self-control lead to disrespect of life? I’ve written about why I stopped spanking my kids. I’ve written about the importance of creative play for socialization and the dangers of excessive digital playtime. I want to write about saying “no” to violent toys. I have a lot more to say, but I worry that I will burn bridges instead of building them.

Gun Control

I remain pessimistic that stronger gun legislation will reduce violent crime. I think crazy people would still have access to illegal guns, just like drug addicts still have access to illegal drugs. Perhaps I am wrong on this. I hope I am wrong.


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  2. As a fellow pediatrician, I’m often conflicted about how to advise parents on toys. When I think about it, I’m not sure what to call a violent toy. Kids have been playing cowboys and indians, cops and robbers, and even “war” for countless generations, with toy guns and all. Yet it’s only been the last couple of generations where violence has become such a pervasive part of culture (and therefore childhood). I don’t know what the right answer is, my advice is usually similar to what you describe, about simply being a good example to your children and talking with them about the bad. Thanks for the insights, I enjoy your articles.

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