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How to teach your kids to respect life

Children do get exposed to violence. How many murders do you think children will observe on television by the time they complete elementary school? According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children who are daily viewers of four hours of TV (non-educational programming) will see about 8,000 murders! Video games become more realistic every year. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City’s “improvements” included new weapons, such as machetes and chainsaws, as well as a better way to target your victim in a crowd. Rockstar Games produces a game called Manhunt in which the player is the prey. These games are labeled “M” for “mature” content, but many teens under the age of 17 are familiar with the games.

Even when media violence is monitored, children watch others get into fights, hear racial slurs and are exposed to other messages of hate. In order to turn the tide against violence, Scripture invites us to be counter-cultural, living in a way that models to our children the sacredness of human life. Each person is made in God’s image and must be treated with dignity and respect, as a unique child of God. (cf. Gen 9:6)

How can we instill a respect for life in our children? How can we turn the tide in the hectic world we live in and teach our children not to hate?

Make sure that your own words and behaviors convey respect for others. If your children hear slang terms from others that aren’t appropriate, explain why the language is not used in your household. Challenge stereotypes and prejudice. Help your children understand the Gospel teachings of justice.

Monitor your child’s exposure to the media. Watch television with your children and discuss the ways that conflicts are resolved. Let them know that people can settle differences through discussions, rather than by using weapons. The television show probably won’t include the “end of the story” in terms of the consequences. Talk to your child about possible scenarios that could result from murder, even by the “good guy.”

Encourage your children to see how precious life is throughout the lifespan. Read books that show pictures of the unborn baby changing from month to month. Ask elderly relatives to share photographs of their early years in order to hear new stories and build a deeper relationship.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church notes that there are those who draw others into spiritual death as well as physical death. (2284)  In their review of Manhunt, Rockstar Games writes, “The ultimate rush is the power to grant life and take it away, for sport.” What a sad life it would be if this were true. Instead, the One who has the power to grant life chose to walk among us. The “ultimate rush” was written upon our hearts while we were being formed – the desire to be in communion with our loving God. (CCC 27)