If you're scratching your head in disgust about this level of violence among teens--and the online "bragging rights" that follow--good. Now is not the time to get desensitized. Or to give up hope. I work with teens around the country (guys and girls) and they are craving safe, respectful environments to thrive. And, yet, they can't help but notice the communities around them are riddled with violence. Many teens are marinating in violence and aggression and their actions reflect that.
What can we do? Creating a non-violent world is not an overnight process. But it is a process that can start on the inside. No matter your age, start now:
1. Learn the Respect Basics
The Basics are not just about mutual respect and ending violence. They are about our whole lives. From realizing you are worth something (Know You're Valuable) to doing what you love (Follow Your Passions) to reaching out for support when you need it (Get Help). Self-respect and investment is required to grow into a non-violent person who spreads respect for all. I've been there (domestic violence, teen violence). Recovery is possible.
2. Teach the Basics
Whether you are a teen advocate or teen, model the Basics now. You can even lead this free workshop to teach the Basics to others. Download the workshop.
3. Stand for Respect
Bystanders are accomplices to violence--period. And when were in groups as teens, we can freeze and watch violence vs. stepping up. Trust Your Gut and be safe, but also Set A Boundary and Speak Up! (all Basics). When you see something going down, put down the video camera (you know this doesn't feel right) and Get Help.
4. Get Help
We commit violence because we feel powerless, want power, are angry and have been hurt in the past. When violence is committed against us, we feel powerless, want power, are angry and we are hurt. Whether you are the victim or the perpetrator, you need help. To become a non-violent leader, we must heal our wounds not pound our fists. It's hard. It takes time. But we are all worth it. Help & Resources.
5. Make Changes
Parents and advocates: Check in with yourself. How are you modeling respect? When are you violent yourself (with words or actions or self-talk)? What message from you are your teens marinating in right now? Get the help you need to build the respect in your heart and around you for the sake of the teens you are shaping. And lets all be honest about the violence our teens are swimming in (media, neighborhood, school).
We need to partner with them to create change. Ask them tonight:
• What kinds of violence are seeing around you?
• What causes violence?
• How does it impact you?
• What can we do to make a change together? (fyi, see Girls For A Change's new action kit for women)
Respect is a choice we have to make together.