When my son would start acting in a way I wasn’t happy about, I would ask myself, “What has changed in his life lately?”
So when teenagers started shooting up their schools, killing their peers, I started looking for what has changed in a teenager’s life over the last couple of decades. I discovered that the situation is way worse than we hear on the news, incidents of school violence are far more prevalent than we know because they don’t report the stabbings and suicides.
If you get a bunch of people together, say aged 40 on up; they will all say that it’s a miracle any of us survived. Our parents smoked cigarettes around us, we rode in the back of pick up trucks, rode our bikes without helmets, didn’t have car seats, we threw lawn darts at each other, ate peanut butter, (and playdoh, glue, and chewed lead pencils) and played outside (without adult supervision) until Dad whistled it was time to come home (Don’t make him whistle twice!!) Society was outraged that kids were dying so we made laws to keep our kids safe, but they are still dying and they are purposely killing themselves!! THAT should scare the crap out of every parent reading this. Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in teenagers and children aged 10-19 years old in the US and the numbers keep getting higher. It is the 9th leading cause of death of teens in Canada. In 2015 there were 1537 male suicides and 524 females. Not only are the majority of mass shooters male, they are more than twice as likely as girls to kill themselves. 43% of boys hung themselves and only 20% used a gun.
To focus on assault weapons and semi-automatic guns is avoiding the real problem, it is blaming an inanimate object when we should be trying to figure out WHY our children want to die.
I see 8 factors contributing to our teens killing themselves and each other.
ONE: The demise of the family unit. Part of the reason it has happened is women got equal rights, equal pay and were able to get out of lousy marriages, which is a good thing, but it also enabled people to give up on their marriages when the going gets a little tough. (I have 3 marriages under my belt so I am not criticizing anyone and if I was to do it over I would have worried a whole hell of a lot less about getting a man and would have gotten a dog instead). It used to be that on Sundays the neighborhood would be a bee hive of activity with lawns being mowed, kids playing, neighbors talking over the fence, Sunday picnic and drives, back yard barbecues, church, it was family day, the day of the week the family did something together. Families were larger, there were siblings around to talk to and support each other. Kids had chores to do, they learned about hard work, responsibility, sharing the workload, and there is comfort in having your family around you, blood is thicker than water. Kids need boundaries and rules growing up, it gives them security. When parents set rules it gives the kids an easy out when they want to say no. “My parents would kill me”. It is a parents job to teach children to grow into responsible productive adults not to be their friend.
Adults don’t give kids credit for being affected by stress in the household, money problems, even the news. Young people have a lot of pressures on them and then throw losing a parent in on top of it. If the parents are battling it adds to the stress, if one parent doesn’t see the kids regularly or puts the kids in the middle. Very few parents are able to put their hurt and anger aside completely and the children pay for that. The mom’s usually have the kids and they are more apt to show their emotions more than a man would. Parents don’t have the same last name as their children and step parents come and go.
If parents could always keep what is in the best interest of the child as a first priority divorces would be a whole hell of a lot cheaper and children would be healthier and happier. I like the way my son looks at things with his daughter’s momma. “What ever I do for my daughter’s momma to make her life easier, is making my daughter’s life easier.”
TWO: Technology has advanced so quickly over the last 20 years. When us kids were out riding our bikes and playing outside all day we would fight, argue, scream at each other that we hated the other person and swear we would never play with them again, then two days later be best friends again. We learned to problem solve, resolve conflict, use our imaginations and develop relationships. We were “liked” by people we knew and played with every day, not some duck-faced Kardashian-wanna-be we have never met. There was no lying about who we were, people saw us every day and if we would have taken selfies people would have laughed at us. Sure there were the jocks and cheer leaders who were the envy of everyone but there were far more of “us” than “them“.We have gone from one TV per household to everyone in the family having their own TV and the internet at their finger tips. Everyone watches their own “entertainment”, kids judge their value by how many “likes” their photo shopped selfies get. Sex is every where, 7 year old’s are trying to look sexy. Teens and preteens have their faces buried in their phones, but then so do most parents. Do parents know what their kids are looking at? Here is a site that should scare the shit out of every parent. I got this on Facebook the other day, it is so scary!!
THREE: Economy. The world economy has been volatile, jobs are never certain, house prices have gone through the roof, homelessness is rampant. The middle class has disappeared, you have the rich and the poor. Not that long ago the majority of society was in the middle class somewhere and everyone was “equal”. If parents are still together they are both working, at all hours, 7 days a week; just to make ends meet. There is a lot of pressure to achieve and attain material things. Families used to get by with one vehicle, one TV, teens got a part time job to save $500 so they could buy a junker for a first car. Now there is so much pressure to “keep up with the Jones’s”. Limo’s for grad and hundreds of dollars spent on the dress, hair, shoes, I got married for less than it costs for some of these kids to go to grad. and it is expected! Never mind the ridiculous amount people are expected to pay for their wedding.
A lot of teens wouldn’t be caught dead driving a shit box car or wearing 2nd hand clothes and the ones who do are often times bullied. A teen wants nothing more than to be “liked” and accepted, to be one of the “crowd” but the standards are unrealistically high because of “reality” shows and social media and parents play into it. Stop!!! Very few teens have the confidence or are self assured enough to not care what people think and value their uniqueness. Uniqueness is not valued or nurtured by any one, not teachers, parents, not the community. Post secondary education is a must if a person wants to get any kind of job but is so expensive students are in over their head in debt before they even start.
FOUR. Absentee Fathers: I personally know the emotional damage absentee fathers do to their kids. I raised a son as a single mom and his father was not in his life in any meaningful way, it seemed his main purpose was to undermine our son’s confidence and disappoint him. It quite literally broke my heart to watch my son be disappointed time after time. His dad did nothing but criticize, saying my son was tied to my apron strings and I babied him too much (excuse me, but mother’s mother, they don’t father. Even when they try to play both roles there is something even the best mothers can’t do and that is; be a father). My son was teased and bullied in school and by the nasty kid down the street, teachers couldn’t do anything, talking to the parents did nothing, we moved, switched schools. It was hell for my son and when I asked his dad for help he said, “You wanted him, you got him, deal with it”. When I told him his son needed a dad, he said “He’ll survive” I said, “I want my child to do more than survive childhood.” He thought if he praised our son he would stop trying. How ridiculous!
His dad used to give him shit if he cried so when he got scared or nervous he would get angry instead. I knew he was just afraid but it really turned other people off. I had him in counseling, at times I was on suicide watch when he was little; suffice to say he really suffered not having a dad or any positive male role model around. Dad’s need to step up to the plate in a big way, yes some do, and that is great but we need all dad’s to stop viewing spending time with their kids as “giving the mom a break” and just get to the business of being a parent.
FIVE: Single mom’s don’t get a lot of support from the community around them. I think my son had 3 teachers in 10 years who made an effort to work with Kris, keep him challenged and teach him the way he needed to be taught. He completed grade 10 and 1/2 of grade 11 in his 10th year and had 6 months off before school started again and he never went back. (He has gotten his GED and gone on to College since). He got in with the wrong crowd in his teens, which is typical of kids who are bullied because they want to fit in somewhere. I was going through some financial difficulties and had to sell my big house and down size from 2800 sq ft to about an 800 sq ft cabin. I was so overwhelmed with my own problems I didn’t think about the effect it had on my son at the time. It was a critical time for him and I really couldn’t deal with him pushing the limits. I was tired and had no support from anyone. Everyone, simply everyone; including my mother and brother told me to “wash my hands of him”, “forget I ever had him”, I had “ruined him by loving him too much”, he had “always been a difficult child” and they refused to give me any support if I didn’t walk away from him. In general society feels that way about teens who challenge the system and take an effort, they want to toss them aside, forget about them. I didn’t, I couldn’t! My point is proven with Nikolas Cruz, he was prescribed mood altering drugs and basically treated like a pain in the ass and ignored, otherwise thirty 911 calls would have seen him get help.
When my son was 16-19 I truly didn’t think he would live to 21, either he would kill someone or someone would kill him or he would end up in jail.
We had our struggles but long story short; he got his life back on track. He has thanked me more than once for loving him when he didn’t love himself and believing in him when he didn’t believe in himself. He STILL longs for his father’s approval and he is 34 and successful in his chosen career, leads a well rounded, productive life and is the best father I have ever seen. I could not be prouder!! It makes me wonder, what would have happened to him if I would have died when he was 18.
SIX: More Pressure and Higher Expectations than ever before. In society’s efforts to give their kids a better life than they had the pendulum has swung too far the other way.
Somewhere along the way we decided kids were “equals” and in the process stopped teaching them respect. I have news for you, kids are NOT equal, they haven’t been around long enough to be my equal, they don’t have the life experience. There are certain common signs of respect that I feel children should adhere to like calling their elders Mr and Mrs. It may not seem like a big thing or that it would have anything to do with mass shootings but it teaches respect for other people.
I tried to teach my son how to communicate effectively, in a way people would listen. You are entitled to get angry but you are not allowed to scream, punch, or throw a temper tantrum, if you must, go to your room, get it out of your system and then come back and talk to me calmly, rationally and with respect.
I don’t believe “because I told you to” is a good enough reason and a child has a right to an explanation, but that doesn’t mean everything is negotiable, children need rules, mealtimes, bedtimes, bath times and they also need cuddle time, family time and alone time.
SEVEN: Culture. Society in general has changed, our values, morals, and gender roles. More than ever before in history sex and violence are bombarding young minds, in our music, movies, on social media, video games and on TV. Teens are being told that girls must be sexy in order to get a guy (as if their value is dependent on having a man and being pretty) and boys are taught boys don’t cry, talk about their feelings, and violence makes the man. The more rejected the guy feels the more he isolates himself, the angrier he gets and the more he buries himself in violent video games and obsesses about getting revenge. We have to stop raising our boys to believe they are superior and automatically entitled because they are males. The role of hunter/gatherer is obsolete, there is no “woman’s work”, and we have to teach our boys how to fend for themselves, there is no shame in crying or asking for help. Lord knows Nikolas Cruz was crying for help the only way he knew how, by cutting himself, posting on FB he was going to shoot up a school.
EIGHT: Mind altering drugs that dull empathy and compassion, induce anger, aggression, paranoia, suicidal thoughts, and homicidal tendencies combined with a shattered family unit, a disappearing middle class and fragile economy, an absentee father, peer pressure and bullying.
And there you have the recipe for “How To Make Mass Murderer”