It seems most likely that most all of you readers heard last week’s news of the teenage student shot and killed while waiting for the school bus near downtown Louisville last week. What a sad, needless, and heartbreaking tragedy.
In so many varied arenas across our country we see far too many actions that involve anger, violence, intolerance and hate create circumstances that crush some families and neighborhoods. This must change.
It’s vitally important that we return to basics with Developmental Assets and positive youth development. Reminder: in past columns I’ve shared how these “Assets”, while not numbered and not called “assets” were actually shared in the Bible, so these critical tools have been recognized for their importance for thousands of years. Youth development begins in the home and should be reinforced in schools and in the neighborhoods – and everywhere children and youth interact. Of particular importance for today’s column are the Assets related to:
Caring | Young Person places high value on helping other people.
Equality and Social Justice | Young person places high value on promoting equality and reducing hunger and poverty.
Planning and Decision Making | Young person knows how to plan ahead and make choices.
Interpersonal Competence | Young person has empathy, sensitivity, and friendship skills.
Cultural Competence | Young person has knowledge of and comfort with people of different cultural/racial/ethnic backgrounds.
Resistance Skills | Young person can resist negative peer pressure and dangerous situations.
Peaceful Conflict Resolution | Young person seeks to resolve conflict nonviolently.
For those who appreciate practical tips for help in building these Assets, these tips from July 2019 Middle Earth Blog may help clarify:
• Fight fair. The way we approach a conflict has a significant impact on whether it will be resolved in a positive or negative way. Teach teens to fight fair with these tips:
• Remain calm. If you can’t stay calm, take a break for a few minutes.
• Be respectful. Treat the other person the way you want to be treated.
• Be specific about what is bothering you or what you need.
• Do not attack the other person. No name calling, yelling, hitting, accusing, or threatening.
• Use “I” statements rather than “you” statements, for example, “I feel hurt when…” instead of “you are so mean when you…”
• Don’t generalize. Avoid words like “never” or “always.”
• Avoid exaggerating. Stick with the facts and your honest feelings.
• Stay in the present. Don’t bring up other problems you have had in the past.
• Avoid clamming up. Positive results can only be attained with two-way communication.
Reminders: Nonverbal communication is powerful: examples include eye contact, facial expression, tone of voice, posture, and gestures, all of which and convey powerful non-spoken emotions and attitudes. Additionally, many people enter a conflict with a goal to “win.” Unfortunately, this only creates more conflict and can ruin your relationship. The first step to resolving conflict in a healthy way is to try to understand the other person’s point of view so that you can work together to develop a mutually acceptable solution. It’s really about shifting our mindset from defining the conflict as “me against you” to “you and I against the problem.”
Finally, while not couched in terms of Asset Building or Fair Play, these recent comments to local media by Louisville Councilman Jecorey Arthur, reinforce the wisdom of the approaches, including:
We will never end physical violence unless we end political, social, cultural, racial, economic violence;
(We) need to address these root causes … and to do so by getting involved with some group: neighborhood, social, advocacy, church … let’s you build power to change by uniting with others;
We each need to plug-in with work being done in our neighborhoods … then in our cities.
Our young people, our families, our communities, and our cities cannot survive by continuing on violent paths. They/We need and deserve better way and we have the power to make that happen.