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What's a Parent to Do?
From the Fall 2002 Newsletter
Jim Vogt, administrator of the Parenting for Peace
and Justice Network. Network members Anne Marie Witchger Hansen and Mary
Joan Park also contributed ideas for this article.
The Family Pledge of Nonviolence
was created as a tool to help both adults and children develop a less violent
and more peaceable way of life. It's a little more challenging, however,
to go beyond the interpersonal dimensions of violence with children, since
institutional or systemic violence is a much more complicated form of violence.
Nonetheless, there are a number of strategies or
approaches that families in our network have found to be helpful and effective.
See if any of them would work in your family.
Post the Pledge on your refrigerator or a wall in your
kitchen, dining room, etc. Cut out newspaper articles -- pictures might
be better -- about current events or issues. Tape them next to the
Pledge and put a brightly colored question mark on the Pledge principle if you
wonder whether that principle is being adhered to. After awhile,
encourage your children to be the ones who post the articles or pictures.
Play "Imagine If...." Make up a story in which
public policy makers (you could use "king" and "queen" language if your kids
are into fairy tales or medieval games) are confronted with a potentially
violent situation. Ask everyone to make up an ending for the story that
they think would be consistent with the Pledge. You could even start by
making up endings that are not consistent with the Pledge.
At dinner or bedtime, ask your children to think about
people they met or interacted with that day who were acting respectfully and
why they thought so. You could also consciously plan to watch the TV
news and challenge everyone to pick out the people they think are acting
Invite people to your home who have experienced life
differently than your family. International students, for example, are
often looking for places to go during the holidays. Engage them in
conversation about how people in their country see the U.S.
Get copies of Kids Creating Circles of Peace
[no longer available]
and use the activities in that book as a starting point for discussing
with your children the broader implications of the Pledge.
Choose another country, religious tradition, or ethnic
group and have a family night or dinner with that as the focus.
Encourage your children to find information on the internet. Consider
inviting someone from the country or group to come to your house. Attend
a religious service of another faith.
Pick a peacemaker -- contemporary or historical.
Ask each person in the family to find one thing about the person that reflects
at least one of the Pledge principles.
Choose a social or political issue that your family
feels passionate about. Write a letter to the editor, your
congressperson or senator to let them know how you feel. Find out if
there are people in your area who are trying to do something about the issue.
Can your family join with them or support them in some way?
Contact other parents who might also be interested in
the Family Pledge of Nonviolence. Get together and brainstorm how you
could use the Pledge to help your families connect with larger peacemaking
issues. You might consider sending the Pledge to your members of
Congress or candidates for Congress and challenge them to use the Pledge as a
framework when they consider national and international issues that include
the potential for violence.
In general, be vigilant for opportunities to raise
questions with your children and to become better informed yourself. Pass
on this gift to your children in whatever ways you can fit it into the rhythm of
your family life. Be willing to:
Act! Work together! Serve! Empower! Transform!
We can make this world a less violent place -- and the
children can lead us.