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Parenting Your Teenager: Teens and Violence
I have a bit of a different response than most therapists to the often asked question:
"How can all this teen violence be happening?"
My questions are:
"How could this not be happening"
"Why doesn't it happen even more often?"
Here's what I mean by these questions - although there are many more factors involved, just consider these three:
1) kids listen to increasingly violent music, see increasingly violent movies and TV shows, and play increasingly violent video games. All of these without any focus on the real life, long term consequences of violence.
2) kids have more and more easy access to weapons that can maim and kill
3) more and more kids get no moral education, and walk around with an underdeveloped conscious at best, and at worst, no conscious at all.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist or a psychologist to get it that these three ingredients alone are a prescription for disaster.
No one really knows exactly why one kid will snap and another one won't. At the same time, here a few warning signs for parents and others to watch for:
a history and enjoyment of violent behavior
an inability to feel and/or show remorse
excessive fascination with violent video games and movies
easy access to weapons
little or no parental/adult supervision
little or no impulse control
recent rejections, disappointments or loss of hope
violent and/or suicidal thoughts, threats or other speech
the loss of someone close, either through death, a move, or a break up
a friend or someone they look up to taking a recent violent action
Again, it's important to remember that kid A could have most or all of these signs and become violent, while kid B could have the same signs and not go off. The most important question to answer, I believe, is what can we do to prevent this kind of stuff in our kids.
Here are a few suggestions:
Know your kid's world. I realize every parent thinks they know the world of their kid, but do you really? Do you know what kind of lyrics and music is going into their brains all day? Have you looked at the lyrics? Do you know what games they play, what movies they watch? Are you sure? The reason I am so adamant about this is I believe that if enough parents really knew what was going on out there, the stuff I hear every day, there would be some type of revolution.
In the words of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, "teach your children well." Teach them:
when someone is beaten up or severely hurt, it takes a long time to heal, physically and emotionally
when someone is killed, they are gone, do not come back, and people grieve their loss
if you get hit like guys get hit on TV wrestling, you don't get up, you go to the hospital
how to problem solve without violence
what to do with the anger and rage we all experience.
And last but not least, run, don't walk, to your nearest bookstore and pick up a copy of Stephen Glenn's book "Raising Self-Reliant Children in a Self-Indulgent World." In it you will find the results of Glenn's research into the problems of youth, the Significant Seven Factors that separate high risk kids from low risk kids and how to encourage them in your family.
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