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A good slapping: An exploration of teenage violence

Explains the importance of addressing violence at all levels (SEAL theme: Managing feelings).

by Brian Radcliffe

Suitable for Key Stage 4/5


To explain the importance of addressing violence at all levels (SEAL theme: Managing feelings).

Preparation and materials

  • Choose four readers: readers 1 and 3 to be female; readers 2 and 4 male.
  • The words of Jesus are from Matthew 5.39 (see ‘Time for reflection’).


  1.  Leader  What is violence?

    Reader 1  If someone’s been talking about you behind your back, saying things that aren’t true, it’s only right to confront them. If they won’t apologize, then they deserve a good slapping. That’s not violence.

    Reader 2  If someone makes a threat against your mate, it’s only right to stick by them, whatever it takes. You can’t let someone off for bullying. That’s not violence.

    Reader 3  Computer games aren’t real. They’re just fantasy. You can kill as many enemies as you want and it has no effect. That’s not violence.

    Reader 4  Sometimes your girlfriend may need a little persuasion to take things a bit further. I may be bigger than her but that’s how it goes. That’s not violence.
  2. Leader  Research by the NSPCC over the past few years has revealed a worrying confusion in teenage perceptions of violence. I wonder, for instance, what your reactions were to the comments we’ve just listened to.

    Do you simply ignore the slander or give a slap back?

    What about dealing with the bully? Surely he deserves to get as good as he’s given?

    Do computer games affect the way we act in real life?

    Is an unwanted sexual act really of any consequence as long as it’s not full-blown rape?

    My guess is that most of you will see some of those actions as legitimate.
  3. I used the word ‘worrying’ to describe this variety of perceptions about violence. That’s because some experts suggest that pervasive acceptance of violence, however minor, among teenagers not only has a shattering effect on lives now but has an impact that lasts for generations.

    Teenage years are the years when personal values are established, when you choose the ways in which you’re going to behave for the rest of your lives. You create habits of behaviour now that will be the ways you behave towards your friends, your work colleagues, your team mates and, most of all, your own children. If a good slapping is acceptable now, then your children will carry it on into the future.
  4. What is even more worrying is the way that violence is so pervasive in the media. Violent action has always been a part of film and TV but it seems that these days the violence is more graphic, more regular and more available in our society than it used to be. The effect is like that of a drug: at first it creates a strong reaction in viewers but later more and more is needed to get that same sense of shock.

    Just think of the effect eight hours of Grand Theft Auto might have on the system.

Time for reflection

So where do we go with the issue of violence? I’d like to suggest a four-point plan.

Point one  Use physical force only in self-defence. It’s not wrong to prevent others from taking advantage of you – but know when to stop.

Point two  Always regret having used force, even when it appeared necessary. Treat it like the lesser of two evils.

Point three  Be very careful when drinking alcohol. Booze encourages violence among teenagers but hinders full control. You’re very vulnerable when you’ve had a drink or two.

Point four  Remember Jesus’ words: ‘If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also.’ It’s much braver to turn the other cheek and walk away than to strike back.

Dear Lord,
thank you that I can make choices about how I act.
In conflict and tension –
may I think about how to act,
be brave enough to face my own and others’ aggressive instincts
and then begin to repair the damage done,
whoever may be the source.


‘Teach your children’ by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young

Publication date: November 2012   (Vol.14 No.11)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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