It is difficult to accept that our tweens and teens suddenly seem to be so involved in violent incidents. In the past two weeks alone a high school student in Massachusetts stabbed a well-respected teacher while a middle school student in Nevada killed a teacher and wounded two students before taking his own life at a middle school.
The news preaches to us about the state of our nation but why isn’t anyone addressing the state of our children?
Is it simply irony that our children are growing up at a time when the adult leaders of the greatest nation in the world simply shut down when they cannot reach compromises? What kind of message are we sending our tweens and teens? They are at an age when they begin to look toward the world outside for guidance and direction. How can we expect our children to appropriately negotiate the world when the leaders of their country cannot seem to accomplish this task?
Where has all the empathy gone? Why have some of our children turned to violence and rage?
Research clearly indicates that prolonged exposure to violence raises an individual’s response threshold. Put plainly, when exposure to violence becomes so habitual we become more tolerant and less responsive when it occurs. Couple this with easy access to weaponry and you have a recipe for destruction.
Previous well-publicized teen perpetrators such as Columbine’s Klebold and Harris have unfortunately paved the way for tweens and teens to commit violent acts. Although Klebold and Harris were not the first school shooters, the evolution of media reach especially via the Internet and satellite broadcasts, prompted worldwide publicity for this event.
As a clinician, when assessing a client for suicide risk, a key factor is whether anyone in the client’s immediate family had a completed suicide. This is identified as a risk factor in part because it suggests that a specific taboo-the taking of one’s life-has been broken. When a taboo is broken it increases the possibility that an act is possible. Using the same logic, one could argue that. Incidents of school violence have increased in part because, they have become more plausible.
So then, where do we go from here? How do we address the fact that schools are no longer sanctums of safety?
Perhaps the answer lies in going back to the basics. If we want our children to step up then it is time we took more notice. Parents hold the power to teach and remediate their children. While a child can turn on the television, it is a parent who has the power to change the channel or turn it off. While our children’s forays on the Internet may seem complicated and overwhelming to tech compromised parents, it only takes a set of eyes and ears to monitor access.
In addition, it is up to parents to model the behaviors they expect from their children. Our children are watching and listening far more closely than we sometimes imagine. Parents need to be involved in their tweens and teens lives.
Popular television shows have taught our kids it is okay to be snide and sassy toward their parents. Upon redirection, kids can be tough. In an effort to ensure that their children like them, many parents back off at the very moment when they should be standing up. In reality your kids don’t need to like you, they need to know they are loved by you. Sometimes tough love aka setting clear boundaries, is not only needed it is necessary.
Finally, we need to encourage our tweens and teens to consistently pay kindness, caring, and support forward. Nothing defuses anger and rage better than an act of unadulterated support and kindness. Few emotions can surpass the joy of joining together in pursuit of a common cause.
We all remember life right after 911. For a few days maybe even weeks, people seemed kinder and gentler toward each other. It should not take a tragedy of epic proportions to create such an environment.
We could continue to contemplate why our tweens and teens seem so much more prone to violence for forever. Our time is better spent however, focusing on addressing the real issue. It is time to teach our children well.