I hope everyone had a lovely holiday with their loved ones. We spent time with our son and his girlfriend, and our daughter. We had lots of fun and laughs but, as happens on the rare occasion when we all get together, we also discussed serious topics. This year we inevitably turned to the Newtown, Connecticut shooting.
The discussion was mainly focused on the NRA, schools, and generally what could be done to prevent this from happening. I think the answer is not to look at how to prevent such horrors, but to ask what causes someone to do such an unthinkable thing? What is it in our society that promotes this kind of thinking?
I grew up in the 60’s. That’s not so terribly long ago and yet it’s an eternity when you look at the giant differences. We would never think of talking back to an adult unless you were looking to get a slap in the mouth for your trouble; we behaved in public or could look forward to a whack on the butt; we knew that an A on our report card meant we earned it and an F meant we were in trouble; we might play “cowboys and Indians” with toy guns but we also knew that when our beloved pet died, it was forever. In short: we learned there were consequences to our actions, for good or ill.
We raised our children the same way, teaching them that their actions would have consequences for them. In the late 80’s when they were about about 4 and 8 we took them to Mt. Rushmore with another couple who had four small children. While we were sitting in the cafeteria someone came up to us and complimented us on how well-behaved our children were. What a feeling, to hear that the little people that will someday be the ones in charge of the world are worthy of praise from a complete stranger.
Somewhere along the line we’ve become so concerned about child abuse that we’ve taken it to an extreme, disallowing parents to show these impressionable creatures that being bad is not allowed. We had a man and his wife over one time, the man to help my husband put up walls in our unfinished basement, the woman and their son to socialize. The boy was about 2-3 years old and whenever he would misbehave, his mother would say, “I’m going to tell your father”, “I’m going to get your father up here”. Not my style of parenting at all but I let it pass. Until. The boy mouthed off to his mother and pointed his tiny index finger at her. I reached out and took that hand and calmly told him that we didn’t do that here; that he should show his mother respect. He was shocked, I think, that someone would actually show him there was a limit to his bad behavior and he was a good boy for the rest of their stay (which was their last, thank goodness). Was I wrong? My house, my rules.
I’m not saying everyone should beat their misbehaving children–I never used a belt or switch on my kids, maybe because that’s what I grew up with–and a “time out” works for many kids. But we need to set boundaries and make sure they’re followed or there will be consequences.
Children should once again know that they earned good grades rather than being given a gold star for everything so they don’t feel inferior to some of their peers. Children should have specific chores to do around the house so they learn responsibility. Even at 3 years old, my kids had to pick up their toys; that’s not too much to ask, is it? We love our children and want them to love us back, but we must also be aware that what they learn as children will carry over into adulthood.
Is this the answer? I don’t know. Maybe we’ll never know what goes through the mind of someone who takes a weapon into a public place and shoots everyone in their sight. Maybe the answer is something as basic to human nature as having a pet as a child, something to love and who shows you its love everyday no matter what. Wouldn’t that be nice?