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School Violence: Expert Advice on What Can Be Done

What can parents do to make the situation better? continued...

Frustration and self-esteem are also big issues. Even something that seems innocuous -- like those candles on a birthday cake that you can't blow out -- a kid can feel very frustrated by that. A sensitive kid can feel like 'they're playing too many tricks on me.' It's the kind of thing parents have to watch. And teasing, again -- the hostile element of teasing is very overt -- it can especially affect sensitive kids, affect their self-esteem. Their reactions to bad situations may be to do something very grandiose. Like the Rambo movies: 'I'm going to go out and shoot all the bad people.' That's a grandiose response against feeling so weak inside.

Shaming is another issue. When something minor happens, parents need to speak to their kids, but it's another thing to make a kid very ashamed -- [to feel] that they're a terrible person for doing this minor thing. It doesn't have to do with strictness; it has to do with emotional communication that a parent has with a child. 'I may be punishing you, I may be setting limits, but I still respect you as a person.'

S. Hoffman: Parents need to be very alert to what their kids are doing. It's not easy -- being a teenager is a time when kids want to push parents away, do their own thing, live their own lives. But parents must find a way to stay involved. They need to know their kids' peers, what they're doing, that they are supervised. They need to be there for their kids and listen. They also need to talk to kids about the issue of violence. Ask their kids: "What would [you] do if a peer was thinking about it? Would you come to me, to someone at your school?" Help kids identify a plan. And talk to the schools -- what are they doing?

What can schools do?

Fink: There are 22 high schools in Philadelphia, and they all have metal detectors. It's the most humiliating thing. Can you imagine kids lining up at 8:30 am in front of metal detector every day? Yet they're not addressing the major problems related to youth violence.

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