I didn’t really want to write this piece but if it weren’t this time it will be another, so I’m just going to lay it out there. A few months ago, after the Parkland, FL shooting, I wrote a piece about mental illness in our country. I firmly believe poor mental health identification and treatment is one of the MANY reasons we are experiencing so many more mass shootings. I said many in all caps because I don’t believe it’s the only reason. Much like any other complex problem, it’s a multi headed hydra. There is no one cause and no one solution. Talking heads are quick to point the finger at the weapon but personally, I believe it’s a people problem more so than any other factor. More specifically, we are raising our children without real boundaries or real consequences which produces entitled individuals that believe they are above the rules.
It could be later but it seems like since the mid to late 1980s, children started being raised on a steady diet of yes with a side of self esteem building awards for existing. Telling a child no, setting boundaries and physical punishment was deemed wrong. Those late 80s children are now raising their own children on the same diet if not to a greater extent. Children are to be kept safe in a bubble without fear or exposure to real life situations. Consequences are almost a foreign concept. Safety is the top priority – no skinned knees or goose eggs on the head allowed. And yet, children must have the opportunity to try every sport, instrument, and organized activity their little hearts desire. After all, you may have given birth to the next Einstein. You can’t stifle their creativity. One only needs to have the dream and the will forget talent and aptitude. And, don’t worry, even if you suck at whatever you try you’ll get a trophy just for showing up. While all these new safety measures and never-ending encouraging opportunities are framed as progress, is it really progress? Have we taken away the natural consequences of poor judgment? Have we erased all manner of teachable moments and real world problem solving? Have we offered our children so many possibilities and opportunities that they are drowning in choice? Are we setting them up for failure because they are stretched too thin with no coping mechanisms? It certainly feels like it.
Volunteering heavily in elementary schools for the last 6 years has been an eye opener. So many of these kids cop the “you aren’t the boss of me” attitude when you ask them to do something as simple as line up. Kids 30 years ago wouldn’t dream of acting like that to a teacher or parent for fear of getting called out (shamed) or getting a spanking. Kids 30+ years ago had a healthy fear of authority and knew there would be consequences if they didn’t abide by the rules. Granted everyone knew a bad apple but even the bad apples had a vague idea of how far they could push the envelope. But, lets not just dump on kids. Adults are just as bad. We speed in school zones. We park in handicapped spots. We jump line in amusement parks and a myriad of other seemingly inconsequential infractions. We are in a hurry. We are important. We don’t need to abide by those petty rules. The ‘Golden Rule’ has been forgotten and we know the consequences of our actions are palatable.
This latest shooting in Santa Fe, TX has thrown into sharp relief the result of a childhood without boundaries. The shooter kid seemed normal enough. He was a decent student, had friends, went to church, had been active in sports. All the standard boxes were ticked off for a well-rounded childhood. Yet, he had a crush on a girl who repeatedly told him no. She finally had a bellyful of his pestering and called him out in public. How many of us have and would do the same? In today’s world, some would call his repeated unwanted attention bullying or sexual harassment. In the past, this would have happened and the boy would have gotten pissed for being called out but would have moved on. He might have tried to spread a rumor about her or tried to date her friend as a dig. That is normal teenage vengeance. And, if it got out of hand, someone would have put him in his place – someone at the school, a parent or sibling. But today? Nope, he decided to gun down her and anyone else he didn’t like in cold blood. Who the hell does that? People who are mental and/or haven’t had enough boundaries. These kids know they are doing wrong. They just don’t care because they have never had to fear authority or consequences and they know their parents will make excuses for them. In fact, an interview just surfaced where the little punk’s dad claimed his son was actually a victim and he was just retaliating. Yep, it’s really easy to see where this kid got his logic. Instead of owning that his child screwed up he tried to spin the situation. Nice try slick but we aren’t buying your brand of crazy.
Parenting is hard. It’s the hardest, most thankless job in the world. You can try your best and still end up a menace to society. But, the foundation for that menace starts at home. I firmly believe all this blowing of sunshine up these children’s asses and being their friend instead of the enforcer is ruining them. At a minimum, this type of parenting is making kids somewhat socially dysfunctional. At worst, it’s creating killers. I’m no sociologist. I have no scientific proof about anything I’ve said here today, although, I would pay a few dollars to get some studies funded on this topic. In the meantime, we as a society have to regain our common sense. We need to put on our big picture glasses and see what we are doing to our children and correct the situation before it gets worse.