From Violence to Virtues

May 24, 2015

When my husband, Dr. Dan Popov, my brother John Kavelin and I started The Virtues Project more than twenty five years ago, the leading cause of death of youth age 15 to 24 was murder, car accidents and suicide. We were inspired to do something about this rising violence, keeping our children at risk at their own hands and those of others.

Years before, as a therapist in an urban mental health clinic, I was seeing teens who had attempted suicide. One day I went to the head psychiatrist, and said, "Why am I seeing all these kids after a suicide attempt? Shouldn't we do something for prevention?" He smiled and said, "Do it!" "What do you mean, do it?" "Come up with a program," he said. This was years before our family founded The Virtues Project and I didn't yet have the tools it offers. So, I went off to pray and think, and decided to ask the teens themselves what would have been helpful before they became desperate enough to attempt suicide. Although in many cases it had more to do with peer bullying or a failed romance than their relationship with their parents, many did say, "Fix my parents!" Often I heard, "I just can't talk to them".

In those days, in the U.S., there were parenting programs such as PET, Parent Effectiveness Training, which taught parents how to talk and more importantly how to listen to their children. Using some of that information and other ideas which came from my therapeutic practice, I set up a program that included individual and family therapy as well as a course for parents on something simple yet rarely practiced – how to be present to their children -- how to talk so their children would listen and how to listen so their children would talk. One of the main ingredients of the six week course was anger management, because people who feel helpless become angry. The goal was to give parents some skills to empower them, relieving the vulnerability to helpless rage. Even though the course was just a shadow of what became The Virtues Project years later, it worked. The suicide rate went down, and families became happier and more unified. At the end of the six weeks, I had a private session with Katy, a bright, pretty teen who had survived attempted suicide. I asked her, "Of all the things we did – your individual sessions, the family sessions, the parenting course, what was the most helpful?" She said, "I don't know what you did to fix my parents, but it worked. It was that course. My mom doesn't beat me anymore, she asks questions. It's a miracle."

What is the miracle, you may wonder? Here are a few simple tips to move from violence to virtues:

  1. Appreciate the good in children. Catch them in the act of committing a virtue. Replace shaming with naming virtues. Replace words that put them down like "lazy", "stupid", "good for nothing" with words that lift them up. Whether praising or correcting, use virtues such as "helpful", "peaceful", "honest", "loving." "Please be helpful" or "Thanks for being helpful!"
  2. Appreciate the good in yourself. Don't blame yourself and sink into guilt when your children make mistakes or do bad things. Be grateful for your own love and loyalty to them.  Focus on simple changes you can make to improve the relationship.
  3. The three most important things to do are: Listen, listen, and listen. Ask what and how questions rather than giving quick advice. "What was it like for you when you were bullied?" "What's the hardest thing about John breaking up with you?" rather than "There are plenty of fish in the sea".

When I was on the Oprah show with The Family Virtues Guide, she said, "Parenting is the hardest job on earth. Kids don't come with a guidebook. This is one." She referred to our book as the best guide for raising kids to do the right thing. Okay I admit that was name dropping. I hope it got your attention.

Empathy


Author photo
Linda Kavelin-Popov

More Posts:
  • Banking on Virtues
    (May 18, 2015)

  • A Mother’s Virtues
    (May 9, 2015)

  • Virtues Shine
    – in a South Pacific College

    (April 28, 2015)

  • Being a Good Spiritual Accountant
    (April 23, 2015)

  • Bullying in the Workplace
    (April 13, 2015)

  • Easter
    (April 2, 2015)

  • The Best Present
    (March 13, 2015)

  • A Virtues Valentine
    (February 14, 2015)

  • Cleaning Up Our Act
    (February 10, 2015)

  • A Pace of Grace for 2015
    (January 18, 2015)

  • Choosing Your Best Life in 2015
    (January 2, 2015)

  • Gifts from the Heart
    (December 22, 2014)

  • Transform Holiday Stressing to Holy Day Blessing
    (December 6, 2014)

  • An Attitude of Gratitude
    (November 27, 2014)

  • Simple Ways to Bring Joy to Children
    (October 25, 2014)

  • A Perfect Day
    (October 8, 2014)

  • Let Peace Begin with Me
    (September 18, 2014)

  • Islands of Love
    (September 4, 2014)

  • Keeping Love Alive
    (August 16, 2014)

  • Integrity: Taking the High Road
    (July 27, 2014)

  • Parenting in Paradise
    (July 18, 2014)

  • GIVE YOURSELF A DAY OF GRACE
    (July 6, 2014)

  • Help Strikes Again
    (June 24, 2014)

  • Help for Troubled Souls
    (June 13, 2014)

  • Tapping the Power of Wisdom
    (June 1, 2014)

  • Path Finder
    (May 9, 2014)

  • Discover Your Joy Quotient
    (April 17, 2014)

  • Trustworthiness: Lemon with a Twist
    (April 3, 2014)

  • Spring Forward
    (March 20, 2014)

  • Appreciation
    (March 7, 2014)

  • HOLY GROUND
    (January 22, 2014)

  • Virtues Path for a New Year
    (December 31, 2013)

  • HOLIDAY BURNOUT OR BLESSING?
    (December 17, 2013)

  • Thanksgiving is Conducive to Bounty
    (November 28, 2013)

  • Flow
    (November 11, 2013)

  • SUCCESS-ion Planning
    (October 23, 2013)

  • In the Moment
    (September 22, 2013)

  • Be Here Now
    (September 17, 2013)

  • Grace in Our Tests
    (August 19, 2013)

  • A Pace of Grace Revisited
    (August 5, 2013)

  • Only Us
    (May 29, 2013)

  • Barbecues and Blessings
    (May 8, 2013)

  • Decisions in Paradise
    (April 23, 2013)

  • Daffodil Memorial
    (April 14, 2013)

  • How Full is Your Fruit Bowl?
    (March 20, 2013)

  • Rediscovering Joy
    (March 12, 2013)

  • Planning Your One Wild and Precious Life
    (January 30, 2013)

  • The Power of Intention
    (January 4, 2013)

  • From Violence to Virtues
    (December 21, 2012)

  • What can we do – before and after a tragedy?
    (December 15, 2012)

  • The Presence of Light
    (November 30, 2012)

  • Circles of Compassion
    (November 21, 2012)

  • Dare to Stop Postponing Joy
    (November 5, 2012)

  • The Rain of Grief
    (October 27, 2012)

  • Opening to Gratitude
    (October 18, 2012)

  • The Power of Gratitude
    (October 8, 2012)

  • Time to Celebrate
    (September 22, 2012)

  • The Gifts of Waiting
    (September 13, 2012)

  • Linda’s First Post
    (September 1, 2012)