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Just a thought...

After Millard South's tragic shooting, who is to blame?

The better question: How can we help?
After Millard South's tragic shooting, who is to blame?
Published on January 6, 2011 : 46 comments

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When tragedy strikes, we want an explanation and reassurance that something can be done to prevent it from happening again.  We’re scared, angry, shocked, and a range of other emotions, and most of all, we feel helpless.  If only we could take some kind of action, create some new policy, punish some wrongdoer, increase law enforcement measures — whatever it would take to put us back in control, to help us feel safe, and to allow us to believe that the incident was either a random, unpredictable act, or someone else’s fault.

We all had the opportunity to witness the evolving coverage of the terrifying shooting that occurred at lunchtime at Millard South.  We gasped in horror, we saw scenes of Columbine and other similar tragedies flash through our memories, and we immediately started thinking of anyone we knew that might be connected to Millard South.  People that would make it REAL to us.  And many of us began praying, for the shooting victims and their families, for the students who endured hours in the dark not knowing what was next, for the staff who were brave and reassuring, and for the parents and families of all of those students.  My guess is that quite a few of us also prayed for the troubled young man who wielded the gun and for his family and friends.

As news stations struggled to fill air time with live coverage, the same old scripts were being dusted off, scripts written when the first school shootings occurred and barely edited since then.

It’s the same discussion.  It starts and ends with "Who’s to blame?"  If only the school had better security.  If only someone had noticed the boy was in trouble.  If only guns weren’t so easily accessible.  If only music and television and video games didn’t promote violence.  If only the boy’s Facebook friends would have reported his post.  If only we could bring prayer back into the schools.  If only parents would do their jobs.  If only…

We want a solution, a remedy for "whatever" causes this type of behavior.  We’re desperately seeking solutions to help youth caught up in gang violence.  We’re looking for ways to reduce the rate of sexually transmitted diseases.  We need to increase graduation rates, decrease date rape, increase test scores, decrease alcohol and drug addiction.  Who is going to solve all of these problems?

You might say that parents need to step up and do a better job parenting.

Any good parent knows there’s always room for improvement, no matter how the job you’re doing looks on paper.  No one can argue that parents don’t hold a major stake in the kind of citizens their kids turn out to be.  But this isn’t Leave it to Beaver.  Parenting is complicated, and challenging, and lots of times not very fun.  You’re a good parent or a not-so-good parent on a minute-by-minute basis, and the better parent you are, the more you understand that to be true.

So let’s put it on the schools.

They’re easy to blame. We’re paying good tax dollars to public schools to educate our students and to keep them safe.  The truth is, schools see our kids more than we do, so they have to pay attention.  They’re the ones with the professional training, after all.  It’s their job to ensure a positive, nurturing environment that shows our kids how to succeed, and if some of the kids don’t fit the mold, then they just need to work harder.  It’s all about discipline, and high standards, right?

Or we could hold the media responsible, because it glorifies violence. 

The lead story on every news station in town virtually every night is about a shooting or a robbery or an assault.  Look how much attention those folks are getting!  And let’s not even talk about how music has rotted our kids’ brains and video games have taught them that killing is fun and movies and television make murder look sexy.

This is how the tired, cliched script begins.  Same complaints, same villains.  You know what else is the same?  Same lack of solutions.

Good News Bears tutoring program in North OmahaGood News Bears tutoring program in North OmahaWell, no longer.  The solution has finally appeared. 

How do we help troubled kids?  By each one of us (all ages, races, socio-economic levels, faiths, ethnicities) pitching in however we can to exert whatever positive influence we can. 

Let’s not just write a check.  Let’s mentor someone.  Let’s not avoid certain parts of town.  Let’s start a basketball program or an after-school arts program and get to know the neighborhood kids. 

Let’s teach kids the difference between sex and love, and find real, tangible ways to help them feel good about who they are so that they don’t need a boyfriend or a baby to make them feel worthwhile.

Snow Stomping!: (after snow painting with Girls Inc.)Snow Stomping!: (after snow painting with Girls Inc.)Let’s make up for the times we didn’t come through for our own kids and do a better job with someone else’s kids.  Let’s remove the stigma that surrounds mental illness, teach kids the signs of depression, and invest our resources in more mental health solutions for kids.

Let’s hire teens and teach them the value of a hard day’s work.  Let’s involve them in volunteering that helps them feel the satisfaction of doing for others with no expectation of a return. Let’s acknowledge that the cycle of poverty is difficult to break, and then let’s inspire kids to do it anyway.

Student volunteers build homes with Habitat for HumanityStudent volunteers build homes with Habitat for HumanityLet’s show up to study hall and pull kids out who need extra help with math or English, or just need a rational adult they can talk with that isn’t there to punish them.  Let’s do outreach from our church and meet kids where they are, and give them somewhere they can belong without fear of judgment. 

Let’s give them coping skills when they feel pressured about sex or drugs or alcohol or criminal behavior — giving them a way out that allows them to save face.  And let’s hold kids accountable for their behavior and their errors in judgment by delivering a reasonable, realistic consequence that is less about preserving their self-esteem and more about helping them become responsible adults.

Most of all, let’s be honest with kids and talk about the tough stuff, and let’s really, really, really listen, even when we don’t want to hear what they’re saying. 

Chances are that you found yourself saying, "Yep, we’re doing that.  And I’ve helped with that.  And I know of a group who is doing that…"  That’s great — keep it up!  Get more people involved

You might also be saying, "Yeah, in an ideal world… all that is great, but who’s going to pay for it?  And who’s going to organize it?  And what about all that red tape?"  And we’re back on script.

The solution?  It’s easy.  And it’s incredibly difficult.  It’s US.  Together.  The whole village (you know the cliche). 

Time to stop shaking our heads and waiting for someone else to make it all go away.  Our kids (society’s kids) need all of us to pitch in.

SNBairdSusan Nellson Baird Communication Evangelist http://www.snbaird.com @snbaird

Comments

AnnDbugz says:

January 6, 2011 : 5 years 37 weeks ago

AnnDbugz's picture

Bravo Susan!
Let’ all get motivated to get more involved. Thanks for writing this article.

SNBaird says:

January 6, 2011 : 5 years 37 weeks ago

SNBaird's picture

Ann, it’s always been something I’ve been passionate about, and I hope to get even more involved one-on-one helping kids. I really hate the blame game. I’d much rather collaborate and take action! Thanks for inspiring me to write thie!!

ExtraMom (not verified) says:

January 6, 2011 : 5 years 37 weeks ago

ExtraMom's picture

Susan, this is such a powerful & timely article. My heart has been broken for all involved, but especially for Robert & his family. I have a son very close to his age - a kid who so closely matches the World Herald’s description of Robert, it gave me chills. He has friends who also match that description. Good kids who somehow, for whatever reason, are lost and hurting. The ONLY way to help these kids is to reach out to them one on one. I’m not a perfect parent, I would never pretend to be. I’ve made some bad choices that have left my kids (and me) in a tailspin - who hasn’t? That said though, I have also always been the one to reach out to kids in need. My son is forever bringing home “strays” of one sort or another… the kid with the black eye because dad thought he needed punched… the kid who was alone at 16 watching 6 year old twin brothers while mom was out smoking crack… and now, a kid who is an incredible, sweet kid with a rocky family situation. When he turned 18, it was “there’s the door, good luck”. So… after a stint at another friend’s house, I got the call “can **** move in? He doesn’t have anywhere else to go.” Is it weird bringing a relative stranger into my house? Sure it is! Did I think long & hard about it? Yes (especially when they told me a snake is part of the deal…) But would I have said no? Not a chance. This kid needs to see what love & acceptance are, regardless of life choices. He lives in my basement now, with my son & the snake. He does his share of chores (without arguing I might add) and treats my daughters like sisters (without the fights). Is it easy? Not always. But would I do it again? In a heartbeat.

I’m not saying that someone taking on Robert would have made a difference. We may never know the full story - and probably don’t really need to. But really, folks - what can YOU do to touch one kid? To show them that someone loves them? To show them that life IS worth living?

SNBaird says:

January 6, 2011 : 5 years 37 weeks ago

SNBaird's picture

ExtraMom, your story gives me chills. It’s a HUGE commitment to bring a new person into the family, especially one who has had his share of ups and downs. But imagine the difference you’ve made for him, and for all of your son’s friends merely by the example you set.

We all can’t bring kids into our homes, but that’s the beauty of the solution. Each of us can do whatever works for us — we can each exert some measure of positive influence or discipline or expect a level of accountability, and we can get our kids through the tough times.

I’m not sure Robert needed a different family — who knows what that situation was — and I know you’re not suggesting that he did. But somewhere along the line, someone missed a chance to make a difference, and that’s the saddest part of all.

Anonymous (not verified) says:

January 6, 2011 : 5 years 37 weeks ago

Anonymous's picture

that ho gave him a 19 day suspension…whadaya expect?

SNBaird says:

January 6, 2011 : 5 years 37 weeks ago

SNBaird's picture

Are we to the point that getting shot should be the expected response for making an unpopular decision? I don’t think we’re there.

SNBaird says:

January 6, 2011 : 5 years 37 weeks ago

SNBaird's picture

And, before this discussion gets ugly, let’s not allow it to go there. I want this forum to be dedicated to promoting positive, productive solutions, not sniping at each other about comments that we don’t like. Is it a deal? :)

TLYoung (not verified) says:

January 6, 2011 : 5 years 37 weeks ago

TLYoung's picture

Anonymous - may your life be the fairy tale/video game you believe in, that killing someone is an appropriate response to anything that happens in life. This blog is about giving a helping hand and realizing that we all have an impact on each other. Perhaps you should re-read this and rather than posting anonymously you could make a posting that makes a commitment to helping others.

SNBaird says:

January 6, 2011 : 5 years 37 weeks ago

SNBaird's picture

Thanks, TLYoung. There’s a portion of our society (all races, socio-economic levels, etc.) that sees schools, teachers, administrators, etc. as the enemy. Something in their experience has legitimized that perspective for them, and that’s part of the challenge we face. Traditional school doesn’t work for everyone, and different kids need different approaches, both within the school environment and outside of it. If school personnel can’t reach a kid, then that’s when the rest of us have to give it a try in our own ways. I appreciate the comment!

Anonymous (not verified) says:

January 6, 2011 : 5 years 37 weeks ago

Anonymous's picture

It’s a very real and very scary situation. Being a principals daughter, I wish kids would understand that their principals aren’t there to make their lives miserable. Their principals really do care about each and everyone of their students and they want to see them succeed. They also are not the ones who made up the rules. They are just the lucky ones who have to enforce them. I get very scared hearing some of the reaction kids have after getting in trouble. They never take a minute to see that they are not getting bullied by the principal, but the principal is just holding them accountable for their actions.
Your article was very well written, but I do believe you are missing out on another key point (which may not directly relate to this situation, but it does relate to many similar situations), kids these days are mean. They have no respect for their peers. They bully kids and do not see the problem with it. Some of the comments I hear being made in the hallway and in the classroom throughout the school day make me sick to my stomach. In fact, earlier in the year there was a week set aside to raise awareness about bullying. One story explained how a kid killed himself because of bullying. At the wake, the kids who bullied him walked up to the casket and started laughing. How can kids be so incredibly cruel to others?

SNBaird says:

January 6, 2011 : 5 years 37 weeks ago

SNBaird's picture

Thank you so much for your comment. I can’t imagine the fear and frustration you must feel as the daughter of a principal. He or she is definitely on the front lines, and are often the unsung heroes of any school.

I agree that bullying is a huge problem. Why do you think it’s gotten so bad? Why is it that some kids lack empathy for those different from them, and appear to gain pleasure from the misery of others?

I have my own thoughts, but I’d love to hear yours, because we can’t successfully address it until we understand it, right?

Thanks again for weighing in!

Kathy Arends (not verified) says:

January 6, 2011 : 5 years 37 weeks ago

Kathy Arends's picture

Solid, well written article. Thank you.

SNBaird says:

January 6, 2011 : 5 years 37 weeks ago

SNBaird's picture

Thank you, Kathy! Hoping to contribute something positive to the discussion, and really hoping discussion turns to action!

Anonymous (not verified) says:

January 6, 2011 : 5 years 37 weeks ago

Anonymous's picture

There are many reason I believe bullying is taking place. First of all, they can get away with it. They are not being held responsible for their action. They scare their victim to a point where the victims are afraid to go get help, therefore the bully is not being punished. If they can make someone else’s life more miserable than their own, they no longer feel like they are alone. They like knowing that someone else’s life is just as miserable as their own. It also gives them a way to feel like they are in control of a situation, where many of the other things they face in their life are out of their control. One of the reason, like many of the other reasons, you hit right on the head, parents don’t ask their kids the tough stuff because they do not want to know.

SNBaird says:

January 6, 2011 : 5 years 37 weeks ago

SNBaird's picture

I’d say there’s truth in everything you say. I’d also say that kids who bully need consistent consequences, but more than that, they need help finding a path that gives them the control they desire, helps them feel like valuable, contributing members of their peer group, and shows them that someone is going to stick with them no matter what. It takes specific, directed and consistent interaction from all of us (including peers) to help them find a different approach that will improve their self-esteem and their outlook.

Anonymous (not verified) says:

January 6, 2011 : 5 years 37 weeks ago

Anonymous's picture

I totally agree! Like you said earlier, being involved in school/community/church activities is a great way to let kids get to know others and give them responsibility.

Anonymous (not verified) says:

January 6, 2011 : 5 years 37 weeks ago

Anonymous's picture

Good article overall but when it comes down to it the person who pulled the trigger is responsible. He knew what he was doing was wrong (based on his facebook post)and the blame should end with his actions.

SNBaird says:

January 6, 2011 : 5 years 37 weeks ago

SNBaird's picture

No doubt that the shooter bears the responsibility for the horrible acts. I would never suggest that he’s a victim and he couldn’t help it. I think there’s a movement — in education especially — that takes too much accountability from students and reassigns it to teachers and staff to get the student to succeed. I totally agree that the student has to be on board, too.

My point is that because this isn’t an isolated incident (unfortunately), there’s a much bigger undercurrent that demands all of our attention to do more to catch kids before they are allowed, or feel it necessary, to take such extreme action.

Thanks for reminding us that the kids we’re trying to help bear the majority of the responsibility. You’re absolutely right.

Carol Hill (not verified) says:

January 6, 2011 : 5 years 37 weeks ago

Carol Hill's picture

I LOVE your article. Very well said!! Rather than trying to find someone or something to blame, let’s spend our time helping kids learn empathy and compassion by genuinely showing it to them and letting them know we believe in them and their ability to do the right thing. Let’s focus on what we can control and to me that is teaching our youth how to be resilient when things don’t go their way; teaching them how to accept the consequences that come with making poor choices and that the reason for those consequences is to help them learn, not hurt them. As you so eloquently said, “a reasonable, realistic consequence that is less about preserving their self-esteem and more about helping them become responsible adults.”

Jesse (not verified) says:

January 6, 2011 : 5 years 37 weeks ago

Jesse's picture

I’m not critiquing this case specifically, but in general when your a teenager and major decisions are being made for you that you have no control over, it’s difficult to talk about it, especially if you feel that you can’t trust anybody.

I think kids and especially parents need to learn when to reach out for assitance. There are resources available such as the Boys Town National Hotline that people can call to, if anything, talk to someone on the outside and get advice. I think we humans in our stubborn pride try to go it alone in life too much and you can’t do that 100% of the time.

My thoughts and prayers are go out to the victims, their families and shooter’s family.

mamashepp says:

January 6, 2011 : 5 years 37 weeks ago

mamashepp's picture

I can’t speak for all schools but I know that at the schools my children have attended, bullying is absolutely not ignored…if it is reported, if it is seen. But bullies are very clever. They know how to scare a kid so badly that they won’t report if for fear of making it worse.

As to what happened at Millard South, and in any other of these kinds of situations, there is not one easy answer. Clearly this young man was very unhappy about having to transfer. But other children make that kind of change and don’t snap. And having been suspended is not the sole reason this young man did what he did—there is no doubt that he had to have known what would happen if he were caught. Might his parents have made some decisions that affected what happened? Probably but that couldn’t have been the sole reason or this young man would have snapped sooner.

There is no pat answer. There is no “one size fits all” solution. But you are right, Susan, we all need to be there for all children.

Val (not verified) says:

January 6, 2011 : 5 years 37 weeks ago

Val's picture

Great article. Unfortunately every time something like this happens the schools tend to respond with even more rules, more restrictions and more consequences…sort of a knee jerk reaction from someone who is scared maybe? And the kids left behind find even more reasons for anxiety and stress than what they already have to deal with on a day-to-day basis. It’s hard being a teenager - doesn’t anyone remember that? I honestly don’t believe that the young man’s facebook post was ‘angry’, but rather he sounded scared and very sad, almost desperate. Having worked with those people in Millard Schools closely in the past and being a parent myself with a teenager who just wants to be liked, accepted and not put down or bullied by the ‘popular’ kids, I see both sides. How would a suspension of 19 days affect him? Would he maybe not be able to graduate? Denying a child an education is not an acceptable punishment - for any reason. The schools need to figure this out and quick! You are so right with the taking time to listen and learn from one another. I only hope that school officials will see your article and be the ones to do more listening and learning from ALL of their students. Not just the outspoken ones, but especially the shy and outcast ones as well. It’s their voices that are so desperatley needing to be heard. If they are not afraid to speak up. It’s they that so desperately need to be given attention - positive attention - so that actions like this do not need to be repeated.

SNBaird says:

January 6, 2011 : 5 years 37 weeks ago

SNBaird's picture

@Carol: Hi, my friend!! You have had the challenge of teaching the at-risk kids for a long time, so you speak with the voice of wisdom that is too often ignored. Your culinary arts program is a perfect example of a way to help at-risk kids feel successful and valued. Thank you so much for all you do for kids, and for sharing your experience and that wisdom here!!

@Jesse: I totally agree, and it sounds like you may not be too far away from that time in your life. We all hate when others make our decisions and don’t listen to our input — it’s one of the toughest part about being a teenager. Your suggestion to let go of your pride and ask for help is terrific, and I so appreciate your input!

@Lisa: Great to hear that your kids’ school is taking such a pro-active approach, as are most schools, but you’re right. Lots of bullying never gets reported. That’s why we all need to pay very close attention and not assume everything is fine. I also love your analysis that this whole thing is not black and white, and not one-size-fits-all. Each kid needs specialized attention.

Anonymous (not verified) says:

January 6, 2011 : 5 years 37 weeks ago

Anonymous's picture

What a great article. I would like to go one step further and stop these children from being born in the first place. We have children having children. We, as a society, support their decision by giving them financial payments as well as provide other government services. And when the money starts running out, they have another child. The cycle has to stop. Doing what you suggest is great but then we are enabling this behavior. I don’t know how to stop it (besides forced birth control), but it has to be clear that bringing a child into the world comes with responsibility. Parents can’t expect someone else to raise them and support them. I know it isn’t the child’s fault. But there HAS to be personal responsibility or the cycle will never end.

SNBaird says:

January 6, 2011 : 5 years 37 weeks ago

SNBaird's picture

Val, what great insight you have! You ask such good questions and you obviously understand the complexities of the situation. I hope lots of people — definitely school personnel everywhere, but even more importantly, all of the rest of us — remember to touch base every day with every kid, shy, loud, angry, happy, whatever. Thank you so much for your thoughtful and articulate response!

SNBaird says:

January 6, 2011 : 5 years 37 weeks ago

SNBaird's picture

Anonymous, that’s a whole other can of worms. Probably beyond the scope of my experience or expertise! :)

I’ve often imagined what it would be like for parents to have to earn the right to have kids (take training, do an “internship” with other kids, etc.) first, and while the benefits of that could be wonderful, so many other complications would arise.

Right now I’m focused on what very little we can control, and that’s only our actions and reactions to those around us, and finding productive ways to interact with the beautiful souls we have to work with, damaged, broken, or not.

I admire your courage, though, for bringing this up, because I know lots of people have had this discussion.

Anonymous (not verified) says:

January 6, 2011 : 5 years 37 weeks ago

Anonymous's picture

Those of us who choose not to have kids don’t have to take care of the “village.” The village is a mess because of bratty, poorly behaved children, and those of us child-less adults didn’t create it.

How about you add one more suggestion to this article - “Let’s stop the widespread belief that everybody has to have children.” Fewer children are easier to manage.

Anonymous (not verified) says:

January 6, 2011 : 5 years 37 weeks ago

Anonymous's picture

You are absolutely right. I often have the issue of trying to solve the problem instead of just trying to deal with the here and now. When I step back and refocus, I realize part of solving the problem IS to have these kids interact and work with positive role models and experience what being part of a “family” can be. Then when they go out and have children, maybe they will remember what it felt like and incorporate this knowledge and experience in their own child rearing.

SNBaird says:

January 6, 2011 : 5 years 37 weeks ago

SNBaird's picture

I’m sorry to be confusing the Anonymous posters (anonymi? ha ha), but I want to respond to each of you.

For the anonymous poster who has chosen not to have children, I admire your decision and your willingness to step back and analyze whether you wanted the responsibilities that go with raising children. That takes maturity and a strong sense of self, and you obviously made the right choice for you.

Unfortunately, though you didn’t create the problem by bringing problem children into the village, you’ll still feel the effects of the consequences of their actions. Hopefully a dedicated group of people will be able to make a difference, and if you choose not to participate, that’s also a reasonable choice.

Also, remember that there are far more well-behaved, caring, intelligent, creative, responsible, compassionate and talented kids out there struggling to set a good example and be a good influence in their world, so it’s important not to narrow our focus on the few kids who struggle.

SNBaird says:

January 6, 2011 : 5 years 37 weeks ago

SNBaird's picture

For the anonymous poster who thinks I’m absolutely right, I’ll need your address in order to send you the $50 I promised! :)

Seriously, though, you’ve boiled down what I’ve been trying to say in a far more concise and direct way. Bravo!!

Anonymous (not verified) says:

January 9, 2011 : 5 years 37 weeks ago

Anonymous's picture

I think we need to take a serious look at the breakdown of the family and its impact on kids. For far too long, we have said divorce is better for adults, and better for kids. That’s just not true, and so many people, adults and kids alike, suffer deep wounds as a result.

SNBaird says:

January 9, 2011 : 5 years 37 weeks ago

SNBaird's picture

Anonymous, I completely agree that it all starts with family, but it doesn’t end there. Evaluating the family dynamic is complicated, and divorce can definitely be devastating. Of course, living in an abusive, dysfunctional family has its effects, too.

I think you’re absolutely right, though. It’s not enough for all of us to help each kid. We need to reach out to entire families to help them be successful. Thank you so much for your insight!

six (not verified) says:

January 9, 2011 : 5 years 37 weeks ago

six's picture

It cannot be solved easily.This society glorifies violence. As was said, it is on TV,”games’, toys ,camo clothes and in our speech.There are memorials to it in every town. It is a “war” on drugs,illiteracy and teen pregnancy. We are constantly bombarded by commercials that tell us we NEED more and it is horrible to tell your child that he can’t have the new $200 pair of sneakers. We Must give our kids MORE!To this we must say no to the corporate hijacking of our parenting.
Here in the south the public school can ‘paddle’ your kid but CPS will take your child if you so much as mention to the wrong person that you might not make rent! Children are removed rather than the primary family given the money and support, that only would go to the foster family.

We need to get back to basics.The birth of children is a blessing and a test, for all of society.How will we care for the smallest? Mom and Dad should not have to both work to make ends meet. Sometimes less is more and when you race for the “must haves” of a commercial society you lose out. In this case, we are losing our children. They are aggressive, temperamental and selfish.They have short attention spans. So instead of turning off the TV and getting them out of the class to run,play and be,we call it ADD or ADHD and drug them into obedience. It is no wonder they strike back.
Our society needs to take a step back. We all deserve a roof,safety,food, clean water and clothing. NOT the newest,biggest,hottest.The essentials. Then and only then can we say we are humane. How we care for others says everything about us.

SNBaird says:

January 10, 2011 : 5 years 37 weeks ago

SNBaird's picture

Six, you’ve touched on so many of the problems facing our society. It’s hard to slow the roller coaster of greed and immediate gratification, and the constant drive to be more outrageous than the last guy. As we saw another tragedy unfold in Arizona, I think it’s also about how divisive our rhetoric has become, and all the while we’re not teaching our kids the critical thinking skills necessary to evaluate the messages they’re hearing. Since there is rarely common ground among the loudest voices on opposing sides, kids may see that anger and blaming appear to be the way we’re tackling problems these days.

None of this is easy to fix. The scope of the problem is beyond comprehension. So, the best we can do is one day at a time, one kid at a time, one family at a time, we offer support, guidance and accountability. We have to start somewhere, right?

Thank you so much for your passionate words!

Matthew John (not verified) says:

January 11, 2011 : 5 years 37 weeks ago

Matthew John's picture

My brother committed suicide in Omaha over 25 years ago so I could on and on about the subtle signs of a troubled person… but I’d rather point parents to a resource: Youtube: The Bomb in the Brain – An Introduction. In only 13 minutes the video walks you through how Adverse Childhood Experiences (based on scientific evidence) relate to future physical/mental health issues in adults. Stefan Molyneux has a 5 part series while this is just the introduction. Adverse Childhood Experiences covers everything from abuse/neglect, sex/alcohol initiation, being bullied at school, etc. The Bomb in the Brain represents the fight/flight sequence (brainstem) which shuts down the rational thinking functions in the developing cortex, leading to future decisions/actions like raging/hurting other and self, ie shooting/suicide. Please check it out. My prayers to everyone in Omaha.

SNBaird says:

January 11, 2011 : 5 years 37 weeks ago

SNBaird's picture

Matthew, I’m so sorry to hear that you lost your brother, and can’t imagine the effect that has had on your life. Yours is one of the many voices that needs to be heard, and I so appreciate you taking the time to comment.

I just began reviewing the Bomb in the Brain video that you reference (http://youtu.be/yT4tzwH_K8M) and find it very thought-provoking. At first glance, it could be seen as fueling the argument that everything comes back to the parents, but a broader perspective could be interpreted that when children are abused (to what degree is unclear, as is exactly what can be termed “abuse”) they are permanently affected, and that negative impact can be generated by anyone in the child’s life with more power and control than he or she has.

I look forward to learning more about this perspective, and I am so glad that you’ve provided one resource that may help us better understand the nature of the beast we’re dealing with.

Matthew John (not verified) says:

January 11, 2011 : 5 years 37 weeks ago

Matthew John's picture

Dear Susan,
Exactly correct; the shooter/suicide tragedy is a “beast” whose nature we really don’t understand, so we all suffer. The rush to judgement/blame is a type of “fight” ie, redirect the poison dart into the other; doing so actually belies a “flight” from our own sense of feeling bad or innate guilt because truly understanding anything so horrific requires we walk miles (or retrace years) in the shoes of those involved. That will not be a pretty experience, but to do so requires lowering our defenses, increasing our emotional vulnerabiliilty, and feeling things we’d rather not feel. (This is NOT a cop out on responsibility for one’s actions; it’s an attempt to understand deeply; thus feeling is required.)

With the YOUTUBE “Bomb in the Brain” material appreciated, follow me now as I copy/paste from this website: Institute for Orgonomic Science (therapy tag): “Fight or Flight: Encountering frustration, rejection, lack of love, and verbal abuse, the child can become hurt and enraged. But it learns, verbally and more important non-verbally, to suppress its anger, sadness, and frustration. To express it means inviting an even more disproportionate response from the parent, with all the rejection and fear that is implied.”

When experiencing these feelings, the child’s autonomic nervous system goes into a flight-or-flight response. An analogy would be that to an animal cornered in the wild. Obviously, it is not realistic for the child to take flight and run away from home although, as we shall see below, that is what the child does internally when it shuts down. While reacting with rage and aggression to fight might be an initial response, the child soon learns doing this just brings him more punishment.”

There are countless experiences that people can attest to that when they were children and being physically punished, they learned that as long as they kept crying they would continue to be hit until finally they learned to push down the tears, hurt, and rage and be perfectly still. Only in this way would the parent quit their corporal punishment. Also, by doing this the child was able to exert some type of control over the situation and feel they had gained some type of mastery. The child can only successfully stop the expression of these feelings by tightening up and contracting those muscle groups involved in that particular emotional expression.”

Before you start to think this does not describe the vast majority of our society, let’s look at one of the most common exercises taught to parents to control their children and to keep them from expressing emotions that the parents don’t like: the time out.”

More, Not Less, Contact Needed: When the child becomes angry, or once the neurotic process has already begun and the child no longer expresses himself directly but rather does so by some type of behavior that is trying to communicate indirectly what the child feels or wants, we tell the child to go to the corner or go to their room until they can come out and behave like a well-behaved child should.”

So the child goes to his room, sucks it in and stuffs the feelings down, and when he has exerted control over himself then he is allowed to return to the company of his family. The message given the child here and in all of these examples is hopefully clear by now: there are certain feelings you can have and there are other feelings which we just don’t want to see, and if you are going to have them you better go be by yourself. Just at that time when the child may be the most distraught and overwhelmed with what they are feeling and could benefit from being held and helped through it, they are banished from contact with the people they love the most. And so we accomplish the socialization of the child.”

Sorry for the lengthy post. I might add, in this day and age of habituated gun violence (readily seen on TV, readily available in father’s/brother’s closet) society’s old disciplinary strategies of youth punishment, threat, and social/peer humilation now carry greater risks because of the explosive backlash capability now in the hands of youth/the rebellious. Californians overflowing prisons attest to how “power over” strategies never really worked anyway. Hide all the guns? Good luck, even the AZ Sheriff of Pima County says no way. What we’re seeing are wider and wider swings in the vicious cycle of authority vs. rebel. Please go to Lecture #14, Authority, at Pathwork.org for a deeper understanding and a solution that concurrs with “MORE CONTACT, NOT LESS”.

Matthew John (not verified) says:

January 11, 2011 : 5 years 37 weeks ago

Matthew John's picture

OOOPS…Lecture #46 Authority, Pathwork.org

SNBaird says:

January 11, 2011 : 5 years 37 weeks ago

SNBaird's picture

How sad that we have so many reference points for this discussion, including such recent events. With what may be an ultra-naive perspective, I haven’t quite accepted that we’re on a path, like getting on the moving sidewalk at the airport. It seems to me more like when the cat goes crazy and zooms around the house in unpredictable zig zags, and just as quickly as it starts, it ends. If you’re able to scoop up the cat as it races through the house and hold it close but not too tight, you can contain some of its frenzy. (confession: I don’t have a cat, but I’ve seen one buzz around a friend’s house once).

We can’t eliminate dysfunctional homes nor can we protect kids from all abuse, so the best we can do is scoop them up when and where we can and give them a dose of love and balance and hope it sustains them until the next person reaches out. The more of us that reach out more often, the better chance we have — maybe not to break the cycle — but to interrupt it long enough to require a reboot.

I plan to read and reread your last comment because there is so much information there. Matthew John, thank you again for sharing your wisdom and your passion!

Anonymous (not verified) says:

January 18, 2011 : 5 years 36 weeks ago

Anonymous's picture

I’m sick and tired of this BS. We go round and round, trying to figure out WHAT the problem is, and WHO is the blame for this type of stuff. The answer is simple. The problem 100% of the time is the PARENTS.

I never see the Associated Press ever putting the spotlight on the parents? Why? Because there are no ratings in stories about parents. The ratings are in the stories about politics, social issues, and even curruption in the school system.

People, the problem here is with PARENTS. Nobody else is to blame. The parents are responsible for unleashing these horrid people into the world, and forming their idiology. Parents are responsible for addressing the problems with their children. If the parents see no problems to address, you’ve got a problem right there.

The parents of these kids need to be held responbile for their upbring, and should be punished like any criminal.

Anonymous (not verified) says:

January 18, 2011 : 5 years 36 weeks ago

Anonymous's picture

I strongly believe that this young man was troubled before this incident happened. I think our schools have gotton way to big for our teachers and administrators to be able to notice and help someone before it gets out of control. Having two teenagers in high school I understand how mean kids are to each other and that teachers do not treat everyone fairly.

Our children are our future and its sad when we have to talk to our children that life is not fair at an young age.

I just hope that this opens the eyes of many educators and parents that we need to be setting a good example to all children. I pray that the school (or any adult) will step up and help a child that is struggling. The responsbility for this young man falls on the adults who should have noticed that he was struggling.

Emily2011 (not verified) says:

January 31, 2011 : 5 years 34 weeks ago

Emily2011's picture

GREAT article— really good source for my argument paper. Was this published in a newspaper? If so, which one?? Thanks!

SNBaird says:

January 31, 2011 : 5 years 34 weeks ago

SNBaird's picture

Thanks, Emily! Nope, it wasn’t published in any print source, but you could cite Omaha.net as an online newspaper. (former English teacher — can you tell? LOL) What’s the topic for your argument paper?

Emily2011 (not verified) says:

January 31, 2011 : 5 years 34 weeks ago

Emily2011's picture

Thanks! My paper’s about how violent video games don’t cause violence. I’m using this incident as a source for why people would blame it on violent video games.

SNBaird says:

January 31, 2011 : 5 years 34 weeks ago

SNBaird's picture

That’s great! Good luck! Remember… I was being sarcastic… :)

I’m sure you’ve found lots of great sources. Thanks for taking time to read through this one!

Six (not verified) says:

February 3, 2011 : 5 years 33 weeks ago

Six's picture

@Emily
You might want to look at this
http://www.projectcensored.org/top-stories/articles/the-pentagons-child-recruiting-strategy/
“From the Committee on Public Education of the American Academy of Pediatrics:

“The American Academy of Pediatrics recognizes exposure to violence in media, including television, movies, music, and video games as a significant risk to the health of children and adolescents. Extensive research evidence indicates that media violence can contribute to aggressive behavior, desensitization to violence, nightmares, and fear of being harmed. Pediatricians should assess their patients’ level of media exposure and intervene on media-related health risks. Pediatricians and other child health care providers can advocate for a safer media environment for children by encouraging media literacy, more thoughtful and proactive use of media by children and their parents, more responsible portrayal of violence by media producers, and more useful and effective media ratings.”61”

And read how the Pentagon does indeed use video games to recruit and develop “skills” necessary for the military establishment.
Project Censored is not a blog but an ongoing project that watches censored stories.
Good Luck with your paper

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