Violence Prevention Program May Halt Aggression in Its Tracks
Eddy tells WebMD that follow-up studies are underway to explore LIFT's
impact on future crime and delinquency. "But even if there aren't any
long-term effects, we've already demonstrated an effective strategy to provide
children with a safer environment during the school day."
Parents say the LIFT program also improved home life. "All my kids are
behaving better, but only my first grader got the LIFT training," says
Maria Quinones, a 33-year-old single mother of three. "My son learned to
listen better, and I learned how to use rewards."
The LIFT program has teachers give colored armbands as rewards for good
playground behavior, and the class with the most armbands gets a pizza party.
Quinones says she offers all her children ice cream on the days her first
grader comes home with a reward, which may account for the better behavior
among the ones not in the program, she says.
A similar program began in Boston last October. The Program for Social
Literacy (PSL) uses techniques similar to the LIFT program to teach 10
"life skills" -- such as self-control, responsibility, conflict
resolution, and community service -- to all children from kindergarten to sixth
grade, according to program director Deborah Prothrow-Stith, MD, a professor of
public health at Harvard University.
Although the program involves parents, PSL focuses primarily on students and
teachers. For example, the program instructors teach the children PSL terms
such as "pantomime," which means that the children should withdraw into
their "own space," and quietly line up, without the teachers having to
blow whistles or yell.
"Everybody, from 'lunch mothers' to custodians, uses program terms to
help reinforce the message," says pilot school principal Jean Dorcus.
"I've overheard kids using PSL terms with other kids, and already, the
school seems to be more welcoming."
Next year, the PSL program will be implemented in seven Boston schools. But
until violence prevention programs like LIFT and PSL become core curriculum,
doctors say there are ways to reduce aggression at home.
"Aggressive behavior often stems from a sense of helplessness in solving
problems and meeting needs," says Robert Hunt, MD, director of the Center
for Attention and associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Vanderbilt
Hunt, who specializes in child psychiatry, tells WebMD that parents can
teach children to resolve differences by rewarding cooperation. "Rather
than settling disputes, parents should encourage kids to reach their own
solutions and praise them for it," says Hunt. "This creates competence
and a gives children a sense of mastery."
But first, it may be necessary to take some time out. "Sometimes kids
have to calm down and get focused before they can handle instruction," Hunt
adds. "So it's often a good idea to take some deep breaths or a short break
before revisiting the problem."
Parents also need to be good role models. "Kids mimic the tones and
attitudes expressed by their parents," says Hunt. "So caring,
affectionate behavior between mother and dad is an excellent
For more information about LIFT, please visit www.oslc.org.For more information about PSL, please call
Marci Feldman at (617) 496-0507. For more information about the Center for
Attention, go towww.centerforattention.com.