If we all were to be truthful about the matter, we might agree that it is hard to face the truth about ourselves and our actions. It just might be part of human nature’s defense mechanism for us to first blame someone else and instill fear and not even attribute any bit of involvement on our part or even on a host of contributing factors that come together to impact a complex situation.
And so one week after the terrible tragedy in Connecticut, many people are now looking for answers. To the NRA the answer is simple – use fear and tell Americans just need to demand armed guards in our schools to protect our children from the hordes of “monsters and predators” roaming the American countryside.
But to the parents in the Sandy Hook School community in Newtown, Connecticut, who experienced an unthinkable tragedy last week, and to most parents in general, the real answer to gun violence in our schools is not more guns or the creation of armed camps. It is facing the truth of what really works. While placing armed guards in our schools is an expensive endeavor, estimated at over 50 billion dollars for armed protection, a more effective and emotionally safe approach can be implemented by our willingness to look at the truth about each of ourselves, our children, our schools and our society.
First, as parents and educators, we must look at the truth at how we view ourselves and whether or not we have an attitude of empathy and understanding of ourselves and others. To do this we ask ourselves a few questions:
1. Are we accepting of our strengths and our growth areas, those of our own children and the ones we teach and do we model this acceptance and understanding of every uniquely designed person?
2. Do we believe that we all can grow and change through experience, practice and education?
3. Are we willing to work hard to develop our strengths and address our growth areas and model and teach that to our children?
If our answers are “no” to any of these questions, it is possible that without a sense of empathy, we will have a harder time moving through life. Even more significantly, we will approach our children and our students in a manner that will put obstacles in their quest to reach their own true potential and create an environment that will promote bullying in our homes and schools and create a lack of emotional safety.
Second, as parents and educators, we must learn to stand up and speak up with respect and clarity and become assertive. That’s what is happening all across America as parents begin to band together to “Demand a Plan,” http://www.demandaplan.org/, to address gun violence in our schools. We can also ask ourselves some questions:
1. Do we listen first without judgment and then speak respectfully to ourselves, especially when mistakes are made, and do the same to our children and follow-up by problem solving and seeking solutions and not simply by labeling and blaming?
2. Are we willing to be persistent and seek help for ourselves or our children when we realize a developmental, emotional or learning challenge is limiting our own or our child’s success?
3. Are we able to set reasonable and appropriate boundaries on our own or our child’s behavior to ensure emotional and physical safety for everyone?
Again, if our answers are “no” to any of these questions, we risk the possibility of being passive in situations that call us to stand up and speak up on behalf of ourselves or our children or aggressive in the face of frustration or disappointment.
Third, as parents and teachers, we need to monitor our own sense of self-control and that of our children. We can choose what we think and how we act in almost every situation without blaming anyone. To monitor our behavior, we need to ask these questions:
1. Do we model self-control over the major areas of our lives in terms of how we manage our emotions – especially anger – our time, our physical health and our finances?
2. Do we make sure that no matter what, especially if divorce is a factor, that we are actively and consistently present in our children’s lives and that they know, by both what we say and what we do, that we are there for them, that we love them and that we believe in them?
3. Do we actively teach and re-enforce in our children – at home and at school – strategies to maintain a sense of self-control?
Any question where the answer is “no” deserves to be followed up with assertiveness on our part. We need to stand up and speak up because so much is at stake.
None of us will deny that facing the truth about ourselves or the violence in our schools is an easy process. But if each of us is willing to do what we can in each of our homes and our schools to model and teach empathy, assertiveness and self-control – along with uniting with other parents and educators who are seeking commonsense gun-control – then we will realize that we can all make a difference in reducing gun violence in America.
And we will come to know that the “monsters” out there revolve around the fear that is being spread to protect the interests of a powerful lobby, the NRA. Once we acknowledge this truth, we will have “disarmed” the NRA for good.