KIDS tend to fight; often for fun of a game and sometimes out of anger and frustration. Wanting the best for oneself or sharing the best with others, wanting to win every game or losing a game with a smile, wanting to get ahead of others or helping others to get ahead are all part of exploring and learning what is the right thing to do. It is parents’ supreme duty to help kids learn the lessons of life as they continue to explore various avenues that life offers. Importantly, it is the responsibility of all the family members, the neighbors, the school, the community, and the society at large to ensure that the right paths are clearly laid out while dangers of the dark alleys are clearly signaled.
What is troubling, however, is when conflicting signs are posted. For example, when a kid comes home crying because someone hit him or pushed him, families sometimes want their kids to fight back and not come home crying. When a neighbor notifies parents that their kid was fighting and hurting other kids, parents have a tendency to defend their kid: “They are only kids, they fight.
They will grow up soon.” Unfortunately, many kids learn a wrong lesson. As they grow, so do the acts of their fighting.
However, not all kids go that road. Most kids explore the path of fights and violent acts but most turn around and stay away from it. For few kids, however, their fighting only keeps escalating and they come to believe that fighting is the only way to resolve problems and difficulties of life.
What separates these two streams of kids – those who stay away from the dangerous life of fights and those who actively pursue this path?
Interestingly, the difference is not always linked to problems in families or poverty. There are kids who come from apparently “normal” families, often from middle income homes, who take to the path of violence and crimes. Well-meaning families who remain committed to raising good kids are sometimes taken by surprise to find out that their kid has been exploring dark alleys and hanging out with suspicious characters involved in the dark world of violence, crimes, and even gangs.
What can parents do to ensure that their kids stay away from wandering too deep into the dangerous life? What can schools do to ensure that their students are not lured into the negative lifestyle? What can neighborhoods do to ensure that kids are safe from the influences of criminal gangs? What can the police do to ensure the safety of our neighborhoods and public places?
What can elected government officials do to ensure that laws and policies protect our kids from recruitment into a criminal life?
Addressing these issues, a unique project was undertaken by the Kwantlen Polytechnic University aptly titled “Acting Together.” It represents a collaboration of community, police, school, researchers, policy makers, and frontline workers. The goal is to identify factors that likely keep kids away from involvement in violence and criminal gangs. Additionally it offers training workshops to various groups including youth.
To learn more about what you as a parent, as a teacher, as a concerned community member can do to keep our kids protected from negative influences, join the Acting Together team at its three-day conference this month July 23-25 at Sheraton Guildford. The program offers interesting keynote speakers including the RCMP Assistant Commissioner Dan Malo and UBC education psychologist Dr. Kimberly Schonert-Reichle.
There will be an interactive community forum, community displays, workshops, panel on policy and practice, youth presentation on digital storytelling, as well as raffles and door prizes. Registration is open to all members of the community. Special event tickets are also available. The opening reception is on Wednesday, July 23 ($30). A public forum with an inspirational speaker Katy Hutchison about her family journey through violence and healing is on Thursday, July 26, 7-8:30 p.m. ($10 / $12).
SHERATON Guildford hotel in Surrey has offered a special sponsorship for the Youth Strengths conference (July 23-25) to be hosted by Acting Together gang-prevention project of Kwantlen Polytechnic University. This will provide for a limited number of youth and their accompanying parent free two nights’ accommodation at the Sheraton Guildford Hotel to attend the conference. Additionally, individual sponsors will cover their conference registration fees, including meals. The youth must be high-school age and must be accompanied by a parent or an adult guardian both of whom must commit to participate in the conference. For more information, email [email protected] or call 604-599-3268.
BY DR. GIRA BHATT
Kwantlen Polytechnic University