(THIS IS NOT A POST TO READ WITH A CHILD HANGING OVER YOUR SHOULDER. Adult content!)
You might wonder why this post is here, on a parenting blog. I just have to speak up and say something, because these things that have been happening involve children. Children are children until the age of 21, and the crisis that is occurring in the youth of the United States affects us all.
This has been a harrowing time for the United States, with mass public shootings occurring frequently, along with a culture of rape where 6 out of 10 women are raped in their lifetimes. There was an incident in my own state recently of a graduation party at a cabin that got completely and horrifyingly out of hand and ended in a young woman being gang-raped, presumably by people she probably thought were trusted friends. My heart just has been breaking for her, and it has been breaking for all of these incidents and the people involved on all sides, and especially for the parents of these children.
What can we do, as we raise this next generation, to curb and stop societal violence? How do we do it?
I have a few ideas that I have been germinating upon. They are in no particular order. Please add your own thoughts and suggestions in the comment box!
1 – Peace begins within ourselves and within our own homes. All of the things I write continually about inner work I think apply here. Heal yourself from your past, control yourself, restrain yourself, show and model this for your children. Help your children learn to control themselves. Thinking, feeling and doing should all be in balance. All of our children’s wants are not all of their needs. Use your spiritual path to help yourself and your children, and be home and present with your children and to help bring balance.
2. If you are married, put your marriage first. Help your spouse have an opportunity to parent with you. Happy mothers, fathers, spouses, families are so necessary.
3. Women especially need to model supporting other women. A little girl I know was recently told by her “friend” that she shouldn’t go to the pool with her mother because her mother was “too fat”. I guarantee the child who made this hurtful remark overhead her own mother or another woman tearing down the little girl’s mother due to her weight. We all would like to think that we don’t have the “mean girl” in our family, but make sure first you are not that mean woman. It is not okay. Let’s teach our girls to be nice to themselves and also to think of others and also to stand up for other women.
4. Teach our boys to be men of character. Not only teach our boys and young men not to rape, but teach them how to be protectors and how to do what is right. Give them purpose for their energy and drive rather than just handing everything to them. Teach them that a wonderful calling in life is to be a trusted, patient and gentle father and husband and to stand up for what is right.
5. Model that it is okay to accept authority, and that boundaries and authority can be a friend. It can absolutely be that things need to change at a societal level or that things aren’t perfect, but I think a basis of the very low base behavior we are seeing when things turn violent is someone feeling they are above the authority of not only outside authority, but above the authority of the family, the community and oneself.
6. Be part of a community; especially a religious or spiritual community that is not dogmatic but is beautifully life-giving to you and your family.
7. Foster wonder and reverence for all life, ESPECIALLY for the very young and for teenagers. It is so important. Parents need tools to understand child development, and to understand the interplay of technology and development, and the dangers of taking things and bringing the adult and teenager content further and further down to our young children. Parents need to understand the value of reverence, wonder and protection. There is a quote circulating around Facebook at the moment by Samuel Jackson, the actor, saying “I don’t think this is about MORE gun control. I grew up in the South with guns everywhere and we never shot anyone. This [shooting]is about people who have not been taught the value of life.”
8. Support play-based preschool education for those children who must be in a school setting, especially for children coming from disadvantaged homes. The foundations for how we can interact and get along with those different than ourselves or in conflict is laid early. Put street games and games back in the lives of our school aged children and teenagers – not just adult-oriented and adult ruled structured sports, but games where children have to work things out.
9. Support integration of the arts into schools for children who have to be there, or whose families choose public or private education, along with school gardens and time for school children to be in nature. Support homeschooling – I really think this nation’s next generation of leaders will come from those who are currently being homeschooled because we have lost the balance in most of our schools, and are about skills and testing more than raising children who are ethical and moral human beings. I know families who successfully balance this whose children are in school, but I also know families who seem to use school as their home base with their family life as an afterthought. Strong leaders will come from strong families.
10. Get your children with other children and BE PRESENT. I am for children “working things out” in their play, but unfortunately, what I witness on almost a daily basis is the inability of children to play with a give and take. It almost seems that many children “play” in a mean way, a bossy way, a “I won’t play your game” kind of way with even sort of a bullying gesture present. Don’t hover, but do let them play and be nearby to help get the play unstuck. Nature is the best setting for this. Nature is the great equalizer. Until we have neighborhoods where children can roam day after day in a group and climb trees and catch minnows in a stream and learn how to play, we may have to be available to help them.
11. Teach your children about heroes and the value of stepping in to do what is right. Teach them about having integrity to do the right thing all the time, not just when someone is watching.
12. Mental health care is so important if a child is struggling, but something that was mentioned over and over again in the Santa Barbara shooting case was that the young man had a small army of therapists and mental health care professionals. I have absolutely no idea what should or could have been done differently in that situation… If you have experience in this area, please share what your experiences has been with mental care health for children. Yet, it is obvious his world so completely revolved around himself………. So how do we reduce this feeling that the world owes me, the world is for my taking with violence if something doesn’t go the way I want? Maybe we need the earliest of interventions for mental health challenges in our children, some sort of mental health screening that is done by pediatricians from the get go to help screen and refer, and to support whole families. I don’t know what that would look like….. probably, for me, it would be something for children to be in nature or a farm and in more unstructured settings.
13. Which brings me to this point: teach children life is not all about them, their wants and their needs. It is about helping others and making the world a better place. It is about having joy, being content, finding wonder in the small. It is about taking responsibility in our families and in our communities. Do your children have chores? Do you grow any of your own food? Is everything about the children’s sports and activities so that the family just revolves around that child’s schedule? I think families where the family is really together, multiple siblings are present, extended family is present can be important in reducing this feeling that the world should revolve around you. “Chosen family” made up of people in your neighborhood and place of worship can also serve this function if you are really close and can foster this in an intimate way.
14. Teach your children about being content with the small. Every time you are tempted to add another activity, another place to go, another chance to buy another thing for them to add to the pile of things they have, to plan an over the top birthday party for a small person when a cake at home with family would do, ask yourself, am I teaching my child to be content with the small? Or does each thing have to top the thing before? What will I do when my child is sixteen to top all of this? Does my child need to do this when they are eight years old or fourteen years old? This is my biggest beef about competitive sports and many other high-pressured activities for most children.
15. MEDIA. I remember traveling by plane last year at Thanksgiving. It was not a long flight, it was around dinner time, and I was horrified because the in-flight “entertainment” was sponsored by some television channel and the things they were showing were full of violence (but rated okay for all audiences because this is normal nighttime viewing??!!!) and there was no way to shield my children. It was unreal! When I go to the gym, there are twenty television screens in there playing music videos, most of whom feature beautiful women in scanty clothes. Is this really what the population of teenaged boys wandering around trying to lift weights need to see or hear? I am not for censorship, but since there aren’t really any family shows on television anymore (I don’t think there are; we don’t watch TV), I wish there were more incentives for people to make family oriented shows and movies, especially when I keep hearing statistics that 66 percent of American homes have 3 TV’s and that most homes keep a TV running on average 7 hours a day. Let’s put something worthy on there for these homes that keep televisions running.
12. And let’s give people an incentive to turn those screens off! Let’s start a public media campaign to get out and exercise as a family, and also to use the state and national park system! Again, connection to nature, the arts and each other can be such a salve.
I want to hear your ideas.
all so well said. thank you, thank you.
Thanks so much for this post Carrie! Wonderful suggestions all.
Excellent post. Thank you for your wisdom.
Thank you for stating so clearly what so many people in our culture need to hear. How can we get your message out to those who need it most?
I don’t know. I think it would take a massive coordinated campaign between the government at different levels, the educational alliances, health professionals, the National Park service, churches and places of worship, boys and girls clubs.
So true, Carrie. I really hope that some of the things I do with my kids, help in the long run for all people. I guess thats why I homeshcool.
Such a great post – thank you! I think what you are adressing is so important. Thank you Carrie, for sharing your wisdom through this blog – giving us wonderful inspiration and guidance of how to be (and become) the best parents we can.
You echo my thoughts so much here! Awesome post!
I wanted to add that one thing that is also a huge problem in our country is alcohol consumption around children. I notice so many teens that have parents allowing and encouraging them to drink. If there is a culture of social drinking in the home it will impair their ability to complete the things above.
Yes, addiction in all forms is such a major problem – alcohol, drugs, sexting, video games. How do we deal with addiction and help our children be healthy?
I think social drinking is different from parents encouraging their kids to drink. My kids see me and my husband have a glass of wine on plenty occasions and they know it’s for adults and they know why. They also know when one of us has wine the other one drives. I hope it teaches them to drink responsible when they’re older.
All so beautifully put and I agree 100% except with #12. It is only because my journey includes being a Mom to 9… Some are by birth, some are foster, and some are foster/adopt…. We have Autism, PTSD, FASD ( fetal alcohol), shaken baby, and reactive attachment disorder ( which is an extreme mental illness ) as well as some of my kiddos have bio parents with bi polar, and other mental illness dx. I dream of living in the middle of nowhere where I could send kids out to run free, to learn, and play and grow… But mental illness needs structure… A LOT of boundaries and for parents to take holding the space to a whole new level. Some kids dealing with these issues need to be on line of sight at all times. In a very loving “Waldorf home” like mine you will also find alarms on bedrooms doors, and cameras in main areas at times. Mental illness makes you feel so out of control…. Because you are most the time. The illness part takes over and they need those hard line boundaries to feel safe. I know if I were to send one of my children out into nature without me right there, there would be destruction, and harm either to self or others. Our mental health system is so very broken…. The case in Calif, that young man was given a dx dujour, and sent away med script after med script in hand. In the case of Adam Lanza ( The Sandy Hook shooter ) His mother was in the middle of fighting the court system to have him committed. She knew he was dangerous, and while I do not agree with her having all the guns in the house knowing this no matter how secure she felt they were, she paid the ultimate price for trying to get her son the help he needed…. Until we fix the mental health system, nothing will change for this part of society sadly…..
Thank you so much, Kelly. You have so much wisdom to share. I wonder how the mental health system could be more effective in our country and with our children. And, as you pointed, out the structure of strict rhythm is one of the best helps. We have seen that in anthroposophic medicine.
God bless you and the important work you are doing.
yes to so much of this! the one point i disagree with is the assumption that if a girl says something catty that she learned it from her mom. i have several WONDERFUL non-judgmental mama friends with girls who have hit some rough times in their relationships with their friends. the THINGS that have come out of their mouths — oh my goodness! i know their mothers well enough to know that they are NOT saying these things or modeling that kind of catty behavior in any way shape or form! i mean really truly not at all. i think it’s important to remember that parents (of course!) cannot 100% “control” their children’s behaviors, even through kindness or gentleness. kids pick up stuff in all sorts of places, and some times it seems that things like “catty girl behavior” is almost a developmental stage of some kind … one to grow out of, to be sure, but i don’t know that it’s necessarily a parent’s “fault” any more than it’s a parent’s fault that their 4.5 year old boy sometimes shoves other kids ……. i’ve heard more than one person say what you said here, that if an older girl is catty it is because her mom is catty, and i think that we need to drop this idea in order to move in empathy as parents. if a girl says something catty, it could be because she saw it on TV, heard another girl say it, is experimenting with boundaries and new ideas, is going through a tumultuous inner period of her own life …. lots of things besides her mom being nasty.
but otherwise, two thumbs up to all of this!
Good point, Bugorama.
also, have you ever run across the book “anatomy of an epidemic”? he makes a very strong (evidence based) argument that psychiatric drugs for youth are a Bad Idea (well, he argues that they’re not the best practice for anyone, but especially not for youth!).
I don’t usually read your blogs since we see each other often, and we have a lot in common when it comes to raising children, but I do have to react to this. I agree with most but don’t agree with 9. While there are plenty of people who are homeschooling in an acceptable or even great way, I also see people homeschooling in way that I personally would not accept for my own kids. There are schools that I won’t put my children in but both the elementary and middle school my kids attend are wonderful schools and they are taught plenty of things they couldn’t be taught at home. There’s a pro and con for both and we all do what we think is best for our kids.
Marian – yes, very true. Thank you!
This is all so true… it really does start at home, and while we cannot control what other parents do, we can start with our own families. Maybe there will one day be enough of us to bring about societal change! It is a xomplex issue for sure and certainly not as easy to address as just, “make stronger gun laws” or “start anti-bullying ad campains in schools and media.” It will take lots of small things from the smallest social unit, the family.
Great point, Erin!
I think Carrie is trying to decipher what’s causing this crisis in our youth. That’s a very complex topic. I can see where I live (I live in a city) overworked parents, low income parents, tyrannic work schedules, laughable salaries for long hours. What does a employer have in mind when they post 36,000 annually in a city in which an average rent is 1,500 per a two bedroom? I think Carrie is trying to decipher what’s causing this crisis in our youth. That’s a very complex topic. I can see where I live (I live in a city) overworked parents, low income parents, tyrannic work schedules, laughable salaries for long hours. What does a employer have in mind when they post 36,000 annually in a city in which an average rent is 1,500 per a two bedroom? If you have kids, forget about it! You have to have 2 jobs at least.
The second is that our children are exposed early and frequently to the “blessing of technology” through the gadgets some parents buy them “to quiet them down”. When a parent does that they’re setting a value.
Through these gadgets the media is the plain enemy to identify. They don’t care about the American people, they tell lies, they show unrestrained sites to our children (about violence, cynicism, war “patriotism”, women as objects, women are “too dumb to go to college”, etc). Their products are rotten, crude invitations to violence, a path to emptiness (their makeover shows, reality shows, it’s all garbage, not a piece of sanity or real entertainment).
You may not believe it, but our children see that our food is being contaminated by Monsanto, the principal evil company that poisons our crops through genetically engineering. At least my 8 yrs old know that corn syrup is a poison until Monsanto and all its crew of billionaires prove it wrong. They also see, and trust me, they’ll see it, how all of us, hard-working American people pay our taxes punctually every fiscal period, except the big bullies of the economy: Wal Mart, ConEdison, Monsanto, etc. Why the fiscal laws were designed to punish regular citizens if they make a mistake, but not to touch “the deliberate actions” of the big ultra rich families?
I think that the root of evil begins there, where it’s obvious that something unfair is going on, to say the least. I know Nature matters and we compost and teach our children to enjoy, contemplate and respect our living body of wonders: nature. But it also matters that they don’t become part of the herd (the next generation) that keeps following the rules of that insane people in the government, particularly the Republican party. I do not mean to use this as a political arena, but when a party like the Republican has been working consistently on trying to dismantle social security, to invalidate any increase to the minimum wage, or increase on unemployment benefits, or destroy our medicare system, you must start wondering how that already impacted thousands of American families.
It’s okay if my children are able to identify the insane from that people who care and are willing to help. I’ve been reading Erich Fromm for many years “Psychoanalysis of the contemporaneous society” really mirrors what’s happening in this era, in this country. Fromm lived in the US and saw this coming more than a couple of decades ago.