Youth Violence - tips for parents

Parents, you have the MOST power to keep your children free from violence….

  • Be a role model.
  • Be aware that everything you do, they see and do.
  • Talk to them, and most important, listen to them.
  • Let them know they can talk to you about anything. Good communication will make them more likely to ask you for advice than their peers.
  • Spend valuable time with them that includes fun activities.
  • Find out who their friends are and if they are a good influence.
  • Find out where they hang out and/or play and make sure it's safe.
  • Help them set short-term and long-term goals and help them plan to reach their dreams.
  • Be involved with their education. Review their homework, meet teachers, and participate in school activities.
  • Let them know you disapprove of fighting.
  • Keep your children drug-free.
  • Teach your children that there are consequences for inappropriate behavior.

Showing Love and Concern

Warm family relationships protect children from violence and many other risky behaviors. To show love and concern:

  • Everyday, tell your child you love him or her.
  • Show affection daily with a hug, a kiss, or a touch.
  • Make time for your family to spend playing or going out.
  • Meet your children's friends to ensure she or he has positive influences.
  • Reward your child for good behavior or a job well done.
  • Set clear rules for behavior and monitor your child.
  • Teach that there are consequences for inappropriate behavior.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Find out What It Means to Them

Many youths fight because they feel disrespected, angry, or humiliated. To stay violence free with respect means:

  • Giving respect so you may get respect.
  • Standing up for yourself without putting yourself in danger.
  • Discussing ways to solve problems without fighting.
  • Respect should be gained through quality of character, not by physical force.

Education/Personal Achievement

Children who have set goals for education and personal growth are less likely to use drugs and to fight. Household chores or employment teaches them responsibility, time management, and the value of money.

Show interest in your child's education and growth:

  • Read to your child, and encourage your child to read.
  • Meet with you child's teachers periodically to learn about expectations and your child's progress.
  • Review homework and tests.
  • Set short-term and long-term goals.
  • Have your child participate in an after school program.
  • Give your child household responsibilities or help him or her find part-time employment.

Substance Abuse

Alcohol and drugs are associated with violence. Children who aren't interested in school, who have friends who use drugs, and who are not bound by rules are at greater risk of becoming involved in violence. Keep your child drug-free by:

  • Letting your child know you disapprove of drug use, including alcohol and tobacco, and the reasons why.
  • Being a role model – either don't drink, or do it in moderation.
  • Not letting your child associate with friends who use drugs including alcohol.
  • Teaching your child the skills to resist peer pressure.
  • Providing alternative activities to keep your child drug-free.

Gangs: The Dangerous Family

Many youth join gangs, looking for affection and attention they didn't get at home. Gangs are not family:

  • Gangs look out only for their own interests and easily turn against their members if they fall out of line.
  • Gangs are violent. They intimidate, hurt, and kill people.
  • Gangs lead to self-destruction.
  • Join non-violent groups/peers for support.

Gun Safety

Youth access to guns can turn conflicts into violent confrontations resulting in serious injury and death.

Tips for gun safety:

  • If you own a gun, store it unloaded in a securely locked place.
  • Teach you children about the possible dangers of guns in their friends' homes and other places where they may visit and play.
  • Teach children not to touch or play with guns or hang out with peers who do.
  • Tell your children not to get into a conflict with someone who owns a gun.

From Bystanders to Problem Solvers

Fights often happen because there is a supportive audience. Bystanders may encourage or help prevent a fight. Tell your child:

  • Don't stand and watch a fight; discourage others from watching one.
  • Don't jump in to break up a fight because you might get hurt.
  • Notify adults immediately to break up a fight.
  • If you hear that there could be a fight, tell adults immediately so the fight can be prevented.

Dealing With Emotions

Children who don't know how to control their anger are more likely to fight. Teach children how to calm down and talk over their problems.

Tips for keeping cool and solving a problem:

  • Keep in mind that anger is a temporary emotion and that it will pass.
  • To calm down, think about or do things you enjoy.
  • Once you have calmed down, think about the problem with a clear head.
  • Take steps to solve the problem.


Many children are bullied in schools. Bullies have learned to control people by being aggressive. Preventing your child from becoming a victim:

  • Instill self-confidence in your child.
  • Assist him or her in establishing good friendship and other social skills.
  • Teach him or her to seek help from you or another trusted adult if she or he is harassed.
  • Try to meet with the bully to work things out; if the problem continues, call or meet with the parent of the bully.

Preventing your child from becoming a bully:

  • Teach you child to respect him or herself and others.
  • Clearly state that violence is not acceptable.
  • Assist your child in finding nonviolent strategies for anger management and conflict resolution.
  • Present yourself as a model of nonviolent behavior.
  • Seek help from school counselors for bullying and aggressive behavior.

Peaceful Solutions:Getting Your Way Without Fighting

Many fights lead to serious injuries and death because of weapons. Fights don't solve problems – they make things worse.

Teach you children how to solve problems without fighting or "losing face":

  • Talk clearly and calmly.
  • State the problem and your desire to solve it without fighting.


  • Make fun of the problem.


  • Both give up something and get something.


  • Sometimes it's not worth the bother.
  • Let the other person have what he or she wants.

Way out:

  • Look for a reason not to fight (e.g. "My parents will ground me.").
  • Remember, it takes more guts and self-respect to walk away from a fight than to fight, and risk your life, and hurt your family.

Witnessing Violence at Home, in the Community, in the Media

Children may see violence at home as domestic violence, child abuse, and sibling violence; in the community as gang fights, drug dealing, drive-by shootings, and fights; in the media, as cartoons, movies, and sports.

Children who have seen violence are more likely to become involved in violence as victims or perpetrators. Children who witness violence at home or in the community may suffer long-term emotional consequences. You can:

  • Minimize your child's exposure to violence in the media, on TV, video games and the internet.
  • Talk to him or her about the violence he or she has witnessed.
  • If your child's behavior changes after witnessing violence, talk to school counselors or his or her pediatrician. Some warning signs of emotional or mental disorders related to witnessing violence include sleeplessness, lack of appetite, lack of attention, anxiety, or frequent thoughts or flashbacks of the event.
  • Tell your child that media violence is not real – it is glamorized, is misleading, and fails to depict the real pain and suffering of the victims.
  • Discuss the many alternatives to solving problems nonviolently.
  • Make it clear that violence is not acceptable even if others use it; the best way to solve a problem is to think it through, talk about it, and come up with effective nonviolent solutions.


Virginia Department of Health. Protecting You and Your Environment:

Center for Injury and Violence Prevention: 804-692-0104; 1-800-732-8333

Virginia Department of Education, Safe and Drug-Free Schools Coordinator: 804-225-2871

School Safety Resource Center: 804-225-2928

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