Like most people, when I was younger, I was taught the basics from my parents about self-defense; I was told not to go looking for trouble and not to start fights, but also not to let other kids “pick on me”, “bully me”,”beat me up”, etc.

In contrast, some of my peers were taught that if anyone “disrespected” them, they need to “put them in their place.” This frequently led to fights between kids who were trying to prove they could defeat any competitor who was “disrespectful” or presented a challenge.

Back then, these incidents were usually innocent, child-like quarrels with no intention to do any real harm. However, these days, these types of incidents that would normally be classified as “minor” or ” innocent” are increasingly ending in tragedy. One of the most recent incidents was the killing of Joanna Ramos.

Joanna Ramos was 10 years old when she got into a pre-planned fight with another little girl who was 11 years old after school. The two girls, along with several other kids walked to a nearby alley where the fight took Place.

After the fight, Ramos went home, where she later complained to her parents of a Bad headache. She was then rushed to the hospital, underwent an unsuccessful surgery, and was soon pronounced dead.  The coroner’s office determined that Ramos died from blunt force trauma to the head as a result of the fight.  One punch, which was likely not intended to kill, took the life of this little girl because of where it landed.

This story immediately caught my attention because so many children are involved fights at and/or after school, not realizing that their “innocent” quarrel can potentially change their lives forever.  Because of this fight, which only lasted approximately one minute, Joanna Ramos will never live to see the age of 11.  Her family, friends, and others around will have to live without her, enduring pain and turmoil because of an “innocent fight” between two young children.  Although officials announced that the surviving child will not be charged with murder, her life will never be the same; she will forever be known as a killer, and will have to deal with the psychological effects of the incident when she gets older, because it’s unlikely that she fully understands the consequences of her actions right now.

I cannot imagine what either of these families are going through.  The day probably started off as a normal day where the parents woke up, got the children ready for school, and sent them on their way.  Surely, neither family knew that the day would end in devastation.

I constantly deal with children and teens who have gotten into trouble at school and are facing either suspension, expulsion, or worse-criminal charges.  For some reason, there is a common misconception that incidents in schools or involving children are “not a big deal.”  Unfortunately, problems in school, especially when related to defiance and altercations with other children are a VERY BIG DEAL.

We as parents need to teach our children that violence IS NOT the answer (unless it’s absolutely necessary to DEFEND yourself from unavoidable attack).  We need to go back to teaching them a high level of self-respect and confidence that includes the notion that “sticks & stones may break my bones, but words will not hurt me:”

  • Who cares if the kids are picking on you, get away from them, talk to a teacher or some other person with authority about it.
  • If someone doesn’t like you, who cares- you have friends and family members that do and that’s all that matters.
  • If other kids are encouraging a quarrel, be a leader: show them that you can have fun without all the drama and without hurting others.
  • It takes a bigger, smarter, person to walk away from what everyone else is doing; eventually others will follow you in the right direction.
  • Surround yourself with positive people who are doing positive things, because the trouble makers will leave you out in the cold when something happens. (The 7 other children that were there during the fight between Joanna and the other girl, have no consequences that they have to deal with, they can go on with their lives as though nothing happened)

Unfortunately, what used to only be an innocent  “playground fight” (where kids relieved their frustrations, later reconciled, and in many cases returned to being friends) has now turned into deadly incidents that change the lives of families everyday.  It starts with you, the parents.

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