Culture of Violence: A Mom-Pediatrician Responds to the Newton Shooting

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Editor’s note: In response to the Newtown, CT tragedy, I asked Dr. Kathleen Berchelmann, our personal physician, to share her perspective on how she is addressing this incident in her home. I would love to hear from our readers in the comments about conversations you have shared with your children in the aftermath of the shootings. We continue to pray for the families impacted by this horrific incident. LMH

Culture of Violence: A Mom- Pediatrician Responds to the Newton Shooting

I just talked to my 3 and 6 year-old kids about the Newtown shooting.  We’ll talk to our 8 year-old later today.

We’ve become a country where school shootings and family homicides have become so common that I’m barely surprised by the news.  My husband and I continue to grieve over the growing culture of violence in our country, a culture than many people refer to as “the culture of death.”

I’m a doctor.  I try to help people heal.  Here is what I’m doing to help heal this culture of violence.  What are you doing?  What do you think I am doing right or wrong?  Please tell me in the comments below.

I teach that all life is precious—through my choices as a parent and doctor and through my words as a writer.  My husband and I teach our children never to resort to violence except to protect their own life.  This means that we, as parents, cannot be violent, ruthless, or hard-hearted, either.  We’ve had to tame our own anger.  When we focus on the intrinsic value of life, we become better parents and better people.

I encourage parents.  Parenting is perhaps the most powerful tool to help people learn the meaning of mercy.  Filling hearts with mercy prevents violence.

I tell my honest stories about teaching non-violence in a violent world.  Teaching non-violence at home is hard.  Even legos are violent.  Parents—we need to support each other.  How do you teach your children the value of human life?  How do you teach that selfishness, anger, and lack of self-control lead to disrespect of life?  I’ve written about why I stopped spanking my kids.  I’ve written about the importance of creative play for socialization and the dangers of excessive digital playtime.  I want to write about saying “no” to violent toys.  I have a lot more to say, but I worry that I will burn bridges instead of building them.

I realize that childhood is getting shorter and parenthood is getting longer.  We’ve found we have to talk to our kids about ugly topics like war and abortion much earlier than we want to.  What do you say when your kids ask about the pictures of aborted babies that are displayed outside a church that their school bus drives by twice a day?  Our kids were very opinionated from an early age that abortion is wrong.  Thankfully I have the freedom to agree with them.

I remain pessimistic that stronger gun legislation will reduce violent crime.  I think crazy people would still have access to illegal guns, just like drug addicts still have access to illegal drugs.  Perhaps I am wrong on this.  I hope I am wrong.  Here are my thoughts on gun ownership: http://childrensmd.org/browse-by-topic/guns-and-kids-do-they-ever-belong-under-the-same-roof/

Copyright 2012 Kathleen Berchelmann, MD 

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1 Comment

  1. My husband is in the middle of his pediatric residency, and I am so thrilled to have found out about your Catholic Pediatrics website! It is essential that Catholic healthcare providers work together to combat the culture of death, and I am so grateful for your ministry. Thank you for being on the frontlines to build up parents and help children navigate their way into puberty or through difficult patches. Pediatricians are invaluable resources for families, and the right pediatrician can make all the difference for a family. Thank you for putting together a Catholic Pediatrician directory on your website. I pray that you and your family are having a blessed Advent!

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