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What's a Parent to Do?

From the Fall 2002 Newsletter

by 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 respectfully.

  • 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:

Speak up!  Act!  Work together!  Serve!  Empower!  Transform!

We can make this world a less violent place -- and the children can lead us.