West Virginia University Extension Service
"Extension News"
Geraldine Kessel, Extension Specialist--Communications

Teach Gentleness by Being Gentle

In today's "shoot 'em up culture," violence has become an acceptable way to resolve conflict. We read about it in the paper, hear it on the radio, and watch it on television--both in the news and on fictional series. What's more, we applaud the measured violence in hockey and football and flock to theaters to see violent heroes.

In view of all this, it comes as no surprise that many children grow up learning how to be aggressive rather than gentle. But parents and other care givers can make a difference in children's lives. It is possible to teach them gentleness.

One of the best ways to teach gentleness is to be gentle. Resolve conflicts in the family with words, not physical contact or force. If you catch your children physically fighting, talk with them about how else they could have taken care of their differences without hitting each other.

Refrain from spanking children. Spanking only teaches children that when adults get angered or feel pressured, it's okay to resort to physical force. Instead, take disciplinary tactics that do not involve spanking such as restricting privileges, a "time out," or making the "wrong" right, for example, having the child pay for a broken window.

Another way to model gentleness is to speak softly and use gentle words such as "use soft hands" instead of "don't touch" when talking to a young child. Encourage older children to listen to others, respect their differences, and not judge or criticize their words or actions. Involve them in doing little acts of kindness, perhaps by sharing a meal with a lonely neighbor or bringing a get-well gift to a sick friend.

Children also will learn gentleness through storybooks with kind, caring characters, especially ones who solve their problems without violence or aggressive actions. Or teach them to nurture and to care by providing them with a pet or plant. Encourage them to treat their siblings as well as adults with love.

In this violent world, you may think you won't make a difference. But your actions are like a pebble thrown in a pond. The circle will keep getting bigger and bigger, reaching more and more people as it grows.

(Reviewed by Lucy Jackson Bayles.)

Robert W. Knight, Extension Specialist - Communications
714 Knapp Hall, Morgantown, WV 26506-6031
West Virginia University Extension Service
West Virginia University
Phone: (304) 293-4221  ex 3411
Fax:      (304) 293-6611
Email: rknight@wvu.edubr>

May 23, 1995
Document Number: 80011547