Monthly Archives: November 2015

When Violence Moves Quietly Through The Lives Of Our Children

By Rachel Brehm

Please listen: I need to tell you a story. ID-100239271

The story of a 5-year-old boy who was attacked at his own school. A story where violence, aggression, and viciousness lurked through the halls of a place that is supposed to be safe. A place where we usher our children off to every morning with the promise that they will be sheltered and protected.

What if it was your child?

There were four boys that held him down on that kindergarten playground. They threw punches and kicks to his face and body. The fight was over something silly — they were arguing about a fence. Somehow — within these small children — irritation mutated into rage, anger melted into violence, and words became fists.

What if it was your child?

He was small for his age. They held him down and hurt him — over and over. These children were so occupied by their own rage that they did not hear a teacher trying to stop them. A “gang mentality,” the staff called it. Their little ears and bodies buzzed with fury.

What if it was your child?

As an outsider to this incident, I remain more objective than the parents who sit at home overcome with anger, distraught with fear, and paralyzed with that sinking feeling of being out of control.

But as a mother myself, I place myself in their shoes. It is their child, but it could’ve been my child. He belongs to all of us.

Were these children provoked? Maybe. Is their behavior justified? Absolutely not. “The rules are that we only play nicely with each other, and we use our words if we need something,” explained the Principal.

This is a good school. I know that this is a good school because I have been there before. I know that they challenge their students academically, they engage their students creatively, and they enrich their students culturally. They teach them the value of respect, kindness, generosity, character, and community. They help shape these children in to moral and respectable human beings. They teach them to be good people, with kind hearts and ever-growing souls.

The question here begs, if this is a good school, filled with good kids, how could something so terrible happen? How did we get to place where our children are hurting each other, seemingly without remorse?

This story does not have an ending — but we can make one. 

Let’s change the way this story ends by creating a conversation about mental health — without stigma, without shaID-100288795me, and without fear. Let’s treat our children’s minds with the same concern we would treat their bodies — checking for ailments (both physical and mental) and finding solutions. Let’s give our children the tools they need to understand their emotions, the same way we give them tools to understand math. Let’s give our children the ability to work through life without violence, the ability to receive support without shame, and the ability to regard their mind and body as one cohesive unit.

Let’s help our children to better understand empathy, so that they do not grow into cruel and heartless adults. Let’s embrace the significance of mental health in this story, and in all similar stories. Let’s instill a sense of urgency in our schools, and each other, in our dire need to incorporate mental health awareness and mental health resources into our curriculum.

Let’s not let violence move quietly through the halls of our schools, or through the lives of our children.

Let’s give this story a happy, healthy ending, because what if it was your child?

Want to teach Jewish values to children? Mussar for Children: Jewish Values for Everyday Living Curriculum is the only Jewish program of its kind geared specifically for young children.  Jewish values for children

 The Mussar Institute
© 2015 Michelle Princenthal

Photo by Stuart Miles