Guide to Protecting Your Child from Violent Kids: Part I
Why Teens Are An Endangered Species They donít look like monsters; in fact, they look like normal kids.
As with any toxicity, some people are more vulnerable to violence than others. Who are the most vulnerable? The boys who have shocked us to
our core by entering our schools and killing our children and teachers. Their faces have paraded across our magazines and in our media. They
are described as "super predators," "monsters" and "crazies." We try to distance ourselves from them, but as a mother when I look into their eyes I
canít help but wonder what went wrong. They are children who have committed the most atrocious acts but they are "children." They donít
look like monsters; in fact, they look like normal kids. If I dare to look closer, they look like the boy next door and even worse, maybe my own son.
Are these unpredictable, random acts? No, they are not, if you know what to look for. At first it seems easier to alienate these boys and
their families but that will only leave us vulnerable. These boys are symptoms of an epidemic that started years ago in the inner cities, because
that was the most vulnerable segment of the population. Just as teen pregnancy and latchkey kids were once only common in the inner
cities, in the poorest communities, now urban violence by teens that seemed so far removed from middle America has entered our suburban
and rural schools. The epidemic has invaded our country (and much more deeply than many of us would like to believe).
When we send our teenagers off to school imagining that they could never encounter lethal youth violence, it leaves them dangerously vulnerable. The fact is that almost
every child now goes to school with some troubled child who could commit acts of lethal violence. While this epidemic permeated urban America
years ago, its rural and suburban mutated form is the "Classroom Avenger."
One of the most dramatic points in the profile of the Classroom Avengers is that they come from families who give the appearance of being "superficially normal,"
but underneath are often quite dysfunctional.
These other factors contribute to the development of violent kids:
"Divorce, separation and/or frequent episodes of intense friction between parents, and parents and child, is the norm.ÖExplicit or covert anger and
hostility are the prevailing emotions in the family, accompanied by parent-child power struggles and battles over control...Discipline, however, is overly harsh and applied
inconsistently. One or more of the Classroom Avengersí first-degree relatives may be mentally ill, personality disordered or a substance abuser."1
"Key to preventing violent behavior is preventing child abuse."2
"Since the late 1960ís the amount of time parents spend with their children has dropped from an average of thirty hours per week to seventeen."3
"The average child will witness at least 8,000 murders on TV by the time he or she leaves elementary school, along with more than 100,000
assorted acts of violence."4
With such a toxic social environment, the demand for parental involvement increases. But societyís economic demand that both parents work to make ends meet is making us unavailable, either by choice or unintentionally. Some studies show that mothers still do 80% of the household work and rearing of the children.
"Whatever its origins, a parent's psychological unavailability is a form of child maltreatment, and maltreatment plays a central role in the development of bad behavior and aggression in children."5
The Classroom Avenger, while superficially passive, is deeply disturbed and can easily be misunderstood. They may have the appearance of normality to adults but their behavior is a response to a hostile environment that has rejected them. Their behavior has become a form of protection. The depression, shame, rage, alienation and bloated self-centeredness is masked by a countenance of apparent normality. Neglect can continue without disturbing the status quo. A parent can appear to be parenting and the child can appear to be "normal."
How can a parent actually be parenting and miss so many signs of distress?
"Is it possible for parents to miss homicidal rage? Where were the Harrises and the Klebolds when their sons were watching Natural Born Killers over and over? Have they ever played Doom and the other blood-soaked computer games that occupied their children? Did these 'educated professionals' take a look at the hate-filled website their kids created? Were the Harrises aware of the pipe-bomb factory that was in their two-car garage? The kid down the street was aware of it, and he's 10-years old."6
When you know what to look for, there was no mistaking that these boys were in serious trouble. Dylan Klebold's and Eric Harris's families as well as the Littleton Community, the police, their teachers, the parents of their friends and the other children were given countless opportunities to recognize the difficulty these boys were in and act to prevent this tragedy. Only one family tried but no one took them seriously.
The purpose of these articles is to help you prevent the reoccurrence of these tragedies in your lives.
The following knowledge and "personal safety tools" will give you the awareness, the knowledge, and the assurance to act to protect your children. Recognizing kids who are in trouble does not take a Ph.D. All it takes is knowing the signs of trouble and taking time to listen to our children.
1. The Classroom Avenger by James P. McGee, Ph.D. & Caren R. DeBernardo, Psy.D.
2. American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.
3. Lipsky and Abrams, 1994; Galston, Dec. 2, 1991: Kinder-Culture by Shirley R. Steinberg and Joe L. Kincheloe. pg.34.
4. American Psychological Assoc.,Mayhem, Sissela Bok.
5. James Garbarino, Ph.D. author of "Lost Boys: Why Our Sons Turn Violent and How We Can Save Them."
6. Amy Dickinson, "Where Were the Parents?" Time, May 3, 1999, pg. 40.
Read our review of the book, Raising Safe Kids in an Unsafe World.
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