In my previous article: How do we end school shootings Part I we delved into one of the forces that may be playing a part in creating a society where shootings seem to be ubiquitous—Media Violence. We discussed how humans are not born with a killer instinct, but are being influenced by forces which are eroding, re-writing, or sometimes erasing the moral values that had been previously considered a norm.
So other than the influence of media violence, what else could be at play?
The Entitlement Mentality
In her book “How To Raise An Adult”, Jullie Lythcott-Haims tells us that in the 80’s, a wave of new parenting ideas started to creep-in and take over.
- The helicopter parent movement was born from an increased awareness of child abductions originally set off by the Adam Walsh abduction story.
- An increase in schoolwork stemming from a report titled A Nation at Risk which posited that the US children weren’t at par with peers globally, started a movement that would end up giving children levels of stress never before experienced, and encouraged parents to be on top of their children’s education so they wouldn’t fail; even to the point of doing the project themselves.
- The onset of the “self-esteem movement” which proposed that doling out praise to children even when they failed, rather than for their effort, hard work, and end results, would help kids succeed in life, started what we now know as the “participation trophy” era. Every kid gets a trophy and gets praised whether they tried their best or not.
- And last but not least, the 80’s saw the creation of the organized “playdate”. Children were no longer encouraged to find friends out in the playground or street, but the parents were now in charge of setting dates for children to play together.
Although well intended, all these movements which were supposed to contribute to the children’s future and success, had the unintended consequence of creating entitled children.
Accustomed to getting praised simply for existing or participating in an activity, children have been robbed of the ability to accept loss, disappointment, or failure, and in turn they’ve been robbed of the ability to dig deep and try harder. There is no incentive to work hard if you get the same praise even when you do no work at all. And if at any point they don’t get the undeserved praise they expect, they are overcome with a feeling of confusion, anger and unfairness.
These children grow up to be adults who are not able to cope with rejection, defeat, failure, or loss. They therefore reject the rules, laws and moral tenets upon which society had previously been operating, and are unable to use logic to process the challenges. Their only option is to turn to their emotions which causes them to become violent or depressed when things seem unfair.
Not only did these new practices create entitled kids, but the mere fact that parents were finding themselves present at almost 100% of their child’s daily activities (playdates, school work, social activities) and making decisions for them, has resulted in children who have not been allowed to develop the ability to solve their own problems.
In the past, when a child had a problem with a friend because they didn’t want to share a toy or play with them, they would have to figure out how to deal with the situation. Now, parents are prone to interceding, either forcing the child to share, or setting the child’s next playdate whether the child wants it or not. Before parents became so involved, when a child failed a test they would have to make a choice on whether they would study harder for the next one or face the possibility of failing the subject and taking a remedial summer class. Now many parents are willing to go as far as actually doing the work for the kids so they can get an “A”, not realizing that they are robbing the child of the ability to learn, and develop their own inner drive. But what happens when those children grow up and go to college or to work? Will the parent be there to continue to hold them up? Many have tried, but it’s hasn’t proven to be sustainable in the long run.
Now let’s zoom out on this picture: We see children that have been influenced and desensitized by violence through the media, who are used to getting their way and getting praised, and who haven’t learned how to cope with loss, disappointment, or what they feel is an unfair or undesirable outcome.
The whole Millennial generation grew with these beliefs, and the results are starting to show. Many are prone to reacting with emotions, and find themselves unable to process defeat, or disappointment. We must retake our children’s future. We must teach our children that life is not fair. We must teach them that loosing hurts, but that it’s also valuable and it helps us want to try harder next time. We must give them the freedom to fail so they know what it feels like and can dig deep for the motivation needed to succeed.
Lack of Cohesiveness
Lastly, in a country that takes pride in being a melting pot, cultural differences create a lot of friction and moral instability as differing sets of moral values are exchanged or shared, not to mention the lack of village-style support that propagates and reinforces common moral values. Mutual respect and tolerance need to make a comeback. Respect of the American law needs to be emphasized and enforced.
Mental Health and Stigma
Mental health problems have been around for as long as people have been alive, however, society has yet to figure out a way to care for these patients in a compassionate and effective way. Over the years we’ve gone from in-home care for those who could afford it, to hospital care, to asylum care, to psychopathic hospitals for severe cases, to mostly ambulatory self-controlled treatment as we now know it. The University Of Pennsylvania Nursing School has a very insightful article that documents the History of Psychiatric Hospitals. We saw the demise of mental health institutions starting with The Great Depression of the 1930’s when many were forced to close due to a shortage of funding and the lack of practitioners (many were inclined to move to more general medical practices in order to secure a more steady income). By the 1950’s the advent of new psychotropic medications and the community mental health system allowed those patients to get treatment at home instead. The problem with the current solution is that it leaves many people untreated, some are given treatment but it becomes self-regulated, and some patients may not always follow the treatment or may stop it all together without consultation with a doctor. Not only are people not being treated but they are now faced with all of societal stigmas and pressures that may drive to have thoughts and do things beyond their control.
To make matters worse, there is a trend to legalize marijuana in the US with only 15 states that still consider its use fully illegal. Although there’s plenty of material on this for one whole post (I promise to write about it), the bottom line is that research has shown that chronic use of marijuana can lead to psychosis, and not only in predisposed individuals as previously thought.
Our health system is not optimal, but works for most medical needs. Mental health needs to be incorporated into it by bringing back hospitals to care for those with the most severe cases, and outpatient cases should be more closely supervised.
These are not all the issues but I think they are a big part. If we want to help society we need to start working on fixing these issues. Stop insulting others, kids learn from your behavior. Show grace when you lose or don’t get want you wanted. Kids look up to you to learn from your example. Parenting is not easy, be involved in their daily lives, don’t use electronics to keep your kids out of your hair. Let kids be bored, out of boredom comes innovation… constant screen time dampens their creativity. Send them out to play and shake the wiggles instead of medicating them. Kids are full of energy (much of the hyperactivity is normal) and they need to go out and burn that energy…