I once read The Culture Code by Clotaire Rapaille. The author, a consultant to industry, specialized in identifying codes of certain cultures for certain industries so those industries might understand how to sell their product to that culture. He made some interesting discoveries helping industries enter markets or remake markets for the most effective way to sell its products. But how does this information help prevent violence?
Change happens in the context of relationships over time
One company had asked Rapaille to help it sell coffee in a country that only drank tea. As he studied the issue, he found no direct marketing approach that would be successful. Instead, he learned that the culture cherished children and that children cherished their candy. His conclusion? He advised the corporation to put the flavor of coffee in a special line of candy that the children would eat and enjoy. In time, he felt that the coffee flavor would translate into an acquired taste of coffee that could be sold in this country when these children became adults.
As I thought about the implications of this culture code and Mr. Rapaille’s approach, I thought about the culture code of violence in our children’s world. Even though the violence in the lives of our children is far more complex than trying to sell coffee, I think the idea of instilling violence prevention at an early age is the best way to prepare children for a future without violence.
Many programs that deal with problems our children and teenagers face are currently available to schools and students.
These programs center on violence, drugs, bullying, guns and other significant topics that define behaviors addressed as fear-points for our children. In fact, prevention programs are frequently presented from a perspective of consequences or fear-based thinking. Some students respond well to such motivations but others do not take them seriously.
However, if we were to modify the approach to one that instructs our students in ways to build healthy relationships and identify destructive ones, and if we do so early in their lives as a part of their early educational experience, we may have stronger opportunities to give them lenses for preventing violence.
If our children could dialogue with their teachers and each other about violence, anger and destructive behaviors as a normal part of their learning process like we do with math or science we will be initiating a perspective that could well prevent them from experiencing violence at any point in their lives.
We need to engage parents and caregivers in this approach.
Since children are in school most of their day, I think it could be very effective to intentionally instill relational tools such as ways to problem-solve, make decisions, or settle arguments with a non-violent approach, especially with potentially explosive challenges. We need to have safe and honest forums where children can discuss the violent world around them and perceived issues at home. Children must feel safe and free to discuss their concerns openly as they process what they see and hear each day.
For students with conditions, circumstances, trauma or overwhelming stress that can lead to excessive fear and other negative responses, we also need to have brain-based calming techniques. These students need to learn self-calming so they can take responsibility for their emotions. They can succeed through the use of brain-based interventions that have been proven to help calm their brains and bring balance to their perspective.
It isn’t quite the same as coffee-flavored candy leading to drinking coffee.
It is far more serious. It could save lives.
It is our hope that early learning of non-violence will nurture the taste of emotional and relational health that reveals the rewards of investing this approach in the lives of friends, family and the next generation.
I believe if we are going to create a new culture that is non-violent, we need to be intentional, compelling and effective. There is far too much at stake if we do not approach this issue with purpose and passion.
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network