Last week there was a school shooting at a local high school. Two students were shot and two more injured by shrapnel. The shooter was a 14-year-old student of Madison Jr./Sr. High School. He was promptly arrested and is now being held in a juvenile detention facility. Two other students, also 14 years of age, have been charged with failure to report a crime. In response, other students began bringing weapons to school, mainly knives, although one student at another local school claims that he plans to be “ready for another shooting … and bring a gun to school”. Those are the facts.
The Sheriff says he believes he knows the motive for the shooting, but that information has yet to be released. The above facts do not address the root of the problem, nor, I am willing to wager, does the motive that Sheriff Jones claims to know. The root of the problem goes back to the environment in which today’s young people are growing up. Who provides and, at least to some extent, controls the environment in which these children are growing up? Parents. I really want to say “bad parents”, but I stop short of that, as it is often, but not always the case.
Last week, again locally, a 3-year-old boy accidentally and fatally shot himself in the chest with a .357 magnum.
Two weeks ago, a local high school student (male) allegedly kidnapped a 15-year-old girl who was out jogging, threw her in the back of his truck, drove her to a secluded area and sexually assaulted her.
Yesterday, I received breaking local news of a car that had been stolen with a 3-week-old baby in the backseat. Thankfully, it turned out that the baby was home safe and sound the whole time, the mother lied and is now cooling her heels in jail.
Does anybody see a pattern here? We tend to think of child abusers as those who strike their children (no, I am not talking about a couple of taps on the butt, but actually striking), ridicule or otherwise cause physical and/or mental harm to their children. There appears to be a new trend, however, and it may turn out to be more lethal than a smack across the face or telling them they are stupid. I am not sure what to call it, but let me paint the scenario as I see it.
The breakfast table: dad is on his cell phone, having already started his workday, mom is reading the paper or else also on her cell phone, perhaps texting her friend or playing on social media. The kids, meanwhile, fix themselves a piece of toast or a bowl of cereal, open a can of cola, meanwhile texting their friends, posting on social media, or trolling the internet on their $500 smart phones.
The dinner table: repeat of the breakfast table except either mom or dad picked up dinner at the local fast food joint or at the Kroger deli.
The rest of the evening: mom is watching the Kardashians in the family room, dad is watching reruns of the X Files in another room with yet another television. The kids are in their respective rooms, texting or trolling the internet or posting on social media, without parental oversight.
Weekends: dad is on the golf course, or working, or watching reruns of Survivor. Mom is getting her weekly spa treatment, then doing the marketing, popping into the mall for something new to cheer her up. The kids are either hanging at the mall or elsewhere with friends, or they are in their respective rooms, texting, trolling the internet or posting on social media.
This bleak and dreary picture, my friends, is the scene in entirely too many households in this nation today. I am not saying all … I know a lot of parents who are almost entirely focused on their children, who encourage them in sports and academic pursuits, who are “in the moment” for their children. But the parents of the children above, those who are already criminals before they even reach adulthood, those who are dead because nobody was paying attention, those children are being raised in a toxic environment.
Why do people have children and then fail to take the best care possible of them, to give them the best of themselves? Is it selfishness? Is it laziness? Some combination? Or are these parents simply too focused on the meaningless electronic chatter to engage with their children? I wonder when the parents of the young school shooter last played a board game with him, when his dad last shot hoops in the backyard with him? It seems that most kids these days have more money than they need … I see them coming out of upscale stores in the mall with a bag or two hooked over their arm as they chatter away on their cell phone. So, do parents believe that tossing their kid a $50 bill, buying them the latest, most expensive electronic junk, is parenting? I suppose some would argue that it is, but if so, then I will say it now, it is extremely bad parenting and it is ensuring that within the next two decades we will have a society filled with whining, sniveling “adults” who honestly believe “it’s all about me”. What’s worse, is most of these people will also procreate.
I am not a psychologist nor a sociologist, so my thoughts on this matter come from simple observation of people and noticing how the world has changed in the last 50 years, then connecting the dots. I do not think that all the parents of the shooters in the Columbine or any of a hundred other school shootings were bad parents, but I do suspect they were parents for whom their children were not ever their first priority. I have two pieces of advice for every would-be parent:
- Think long and hard about it. They aren’t cute little babies who sleep 20 hours a day for very long. If you are not willing to commit to being an active participant in your children’s lives, then don’t have any.
- If you do have children, be a parent, not a casual observer of their lives.
This world cannot afford to continue on this path, and yet, we cannot blame only the children, but we must equally blame the parents.