I’m still trying to make sense of the mass shootings in this country. America has always had a gun culture, but we have seen a sharp increase in mass shootings from the year 2007. My intuition says that this issue has its roots in changes to our belief system.
This past week, my little part of the world got severely shaken. A disaster was avoided because someone was paying attention. I was left wondering once again, why? What are we doing to raise children who believe the response to rejection or disappointment is to kill? Ironically, as so often is my experience on social media, a friend was thinking about the same thing. Why is this happening? She told me to check out some articles she had posted on “helicopter” parents. I did…
When my daughter was in school it was a constant battle to keep her on task and on top of her schoolwork. She would be struggling in one subject and we would focus on that subject only to find on the next grade report that she had fallen in another! Sure that we would find she had some kind of learning disability, we had her tested. Nope. What she DID have was a marked disinterest in all things academic.
She went to a rather large school district that included a 5th through the 8th grade middle school…yeah, I know, but that is a discussion for another day. I remember the first day of her eighth grade year. Her younger brother was starting 5th grade that day and was at the breakfast table discussing with us how he hoped his teachers were nice, his classes interesting, the building not too difficult to navigate. We were interrupted by my daughter standing in the dining room archway, arms raised, pronouncing, “I’m gonna rule the school”. Yep. There was no doubt about her priorities. She was a total and complete social butterfly. I find it extremely ironic that she is so concerned about her own children’s academic success! ( if I’m honest, I’m pretty happy about that too) I wanted her to succeed. But, at some point you have to let go.
I remember when it became crystal clear to me that my letting go was important. We were all getting ready to go to work or school, when my daughter picked up her book bag to head out the door and froze. I noticed and asked what was wrong. With tear-filled eyes she said , “I forgot I had a math test today! Please let me stay home! I promise I’ll study all day!” She was genuinely upset and I’m sure she could see some type of sympathy on my face. “Please let me stay home” she begged, ” if I take the test I’ll fail!” From somewhere in the heavens ( the upstairs bathroom), I heard a deep voice say, “You aren’t EVEN thinking about letting her stay home are you? ”
This is why having a partner when raising children helps! Two parental heads are definitely better than one. Yes, I had been considering letting her stay home! She looked pathetic and my heart hurt for her. On the surface, letting her stay home to study didn’t seem like too bad of a thing. I thank God my husband saw below the surface that day. I tearfully gave my teenage daughter a hug, told her I loved her and watched her walk out the door to face the consequences of her choices.
It was probably one of the best things I ever did for her.
Somewhere in my past, I was given some very sage advice about marriage and children. I was told two things that I believe to be invaluable. “The best thing you can do for your kids is have a good relationship with their father” and ” Fit your kids into your life. Don’t fit your life into your kids”. This advice definitely helped us make a difficult parental decision in regards to our son. At the end of my son’s Junior year of high school, my husband got a new job. It was three hours away from where we were currently living. Due to the imminent move, my son and his friends came to ask if he could live with them his Senior year. We had a tough decision to make. Our son had been voted captain of his football team and his wrestling team had a chance to place at the State that next year. He had been at this school since the 8th grade and he and his group of friends were very tight. We knew moving him would seem unfair. He was crushed, they were crushed, when we had to tell him,…no. Our family was moving. He was part of our family. Of course at that point, he became a very angry part of our family. We weren’t sure he was ever going to forgive us. But, in the end it had come down to the fact we couldn’t give over the raising of our son at such a crucial time in his development as a person. He had a serious girlfriend, would be living under someone else’s roof by someone else’s rules and as nice as the folks were who offered to foster him, we were his parents; we were responsible.
I can remember the conversation between my husband and myself when we finally decided that he had to come with us, “He hates us”, my husband concluded.
“He is devastated and disappointed, but it won’t be the last time he has to deal with a blow in his life. You and I both know you don’t always get what you want and sometimes things don’t turn out how you planned. I’d rather he be going through something difficult with us there to support him than have him face a crisis for the first time as an adult”, I reasoned.
I had no idea how prophetic my statement would be. At twenty-five my son had to face a crisis. His young bride was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma and they had a two-year old child. We stood beside a man in that hospital room and I can’t help but feel that in some part it is because we let him experience disappointment and let him work through his feelings. We didn’t rescue him from a difficult situation as a teen and as a result we didn’t need to rescue him as an adult.
Why am I writing about this today? Because I am seeing the results of parents raising children who have never known struggle, or disappointment. As a teacher, every year I am seeing more children who don’t know how to delay gratification or take responsibility for their own actions. When we over-parent we are doing more than a grave disservice to our children, who then struggle to find self-sufficiency and success, we are crippling our society by filling it with needy soon to be adults with warped self-images and a narcissistic view of the world.
The articles my friend posted confirmed my beliefs. Sociologists and psychologists are just now really beginning to research the subject of ” helicopter” parents and over-parenting in general. My guess is they think there is a correlation with mass shootings as well. Here are some links to some of the articles. http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2015/07/helicopter_parenting_is_increasingly_correlated_with_college_age_depression.html?wpsrc=sh_all_dt_tw_top
One of the most telling things I read was a description of the causes of narcisstic personality disorder. At least four of the causes could be directly linked to the over-parenting type behaviors seen in ” helicopter” parents.
- Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements).
- Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
- Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions).
- Requires excessive admiration.
- Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations.
- Is inter-personally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends.
- Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.
- Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.
- Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitude
The cause of this disorder is unknown; however, Groopman and Cooper (2006) listed the following factors identified by various researchers as possibilities:
- An oversensitive temperament (personality traits) at birth.
- Excessive admiration that is never balanced with realistic feedback.
- Excessive praise for good behaviors or excessive criticism for bad behaviors in childhood.
- Overindulgence and overvaluation by parents, other family members, or peers.
- Being praised for perceived exceptional looks or abilities by adults.
- Severe emotional abuse in childhood.
- Unpredictable or unreliable caregiving from parents.
- Learning manipulative behaviors from parents or peers.
- Valued by parents as a means to regulate their own self-esteem.
Add over-parenting to the pressure in our culture to be rich, successful, and famous and mix in easy access to gunshttp://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/08/27/american-exceptionalism-and-the-exceptionally-american-problem-of-mass-shootings/ and you just might have come up with the formula for a mass shooting.