Something disturbing is happening in our society. I could mention the issues with gun laws, mail-order ammunition, firearm security in the home, or tighter supervision with guns. But these issues are merely symptoms of a larger problem. I believe tighter gun laws are warranted. We can’t ignore Australia’s success. Since Australia(1) tightened their gun laws, there hasn’t been a mass murder in 18 years.
Until the gun law issue is resolved, I searched the internet for understanding to the mass killings. I discovered a common thread in each incident dating as far back as the Columbine massacre. Each killing was driven by anger. I asked, “What makes a young man so angry that he is driven to kill?”
The last thing I want to do is unfairly judge the parents of these young killers. But it is clear something within the family unit is broken. These young men feel isolated, unloved, angry, are prey to bullies, and are unable to communicate their fears and anxieties to someone they trust. Matter of fact, they don’t feel as if they have anyone they can trust. They have lost the support of both their family unit and their community.
But my research couldn’t give me the answers to the following questions:
- did these young men come from a bible-believing family;
- if they had fathers in the home, were they nurtured by their fathers;
- were they ever allowed to voice their emotions; and
- were they more preoccupied with technological gadgets (including video games) than being emotionally engaged with their families?
In a BBC News’(2) report dated February 14, 2000, it states that in an effort to control the elephant population in Kruger National Park, conservationists removed several young male elephants and placed them in a game park with rhinos. Soon after, park rangers discovered 36 rhinos, including a rare black one, had been slaughtered and they couldn’t, at first, determine how or why. One park ranger later reported he witnessed an elephant killing a rhino in the park. When conservationists placed the young male elephants back with adult male elephants, the aggressive behavior stopped immediately.
I do not in any way claim to be an expert in animal behavior science, but when you read an account like the BBC News report, you wonder: if male bonding is that important to elephants, how much more important can bonding be between a son and a father?
Over time, social ideas have changed the way we approach raising our children. One-parent families have become the norm. Our need to avoid confusion with a former spouse/mate has driven us to sever contact with fathers (or mothers). Some fathers don’t mind this arrangement because it gives them a way out of the drama. But what both parties fail to realize is the problem is much bigger than they are and, more importantly, their lives are secondary to that of the child. Parents must understand they blew their chance at happiness together. Now, they must look beyond themselves and work together to ensure the safety, happiness, and welfare of the child.
There is no denying the commonality of these mass killings. These young men are angry, isolated from society, and in some cases, mentally ill. If we don’t help them find an outlet for their anger, and find a way to replace that anger with love, these massacres will happen with much more frequency.
I cannot begin to understand or imagine the burden these killers’ parents must feel. I’m sure all of them are still wondering how and why these massacres occurred. Counseling is ongoing for a great number of them. The victims are suffering even more.
In order to avoid such tragedies from becoming our own, we need to heavily invest in the rearing of our children, regardless of our marital status. It means:
- Don’t just drop your child off to school. Walk inside. Greet the teacher and get to know your child’s teacher on a first-name basis;
- Don’t wait for your child’s teacher to contact you. Feel free to contact the teacher on a regular basis to make sure problems have not been overlooked;
- Sit at the kitchen table and help with homework;
- If you can’t help with homework, get a tutor. When you can’t afford a tutor, work something out where the person tutors your child, and in return you do their grocery shopping, clean out their garden, etc.
- Ask your child a host of questions. You will probably get that old familiar “I don’t know,” but if you ask a question often enough, your child will eventually dislodge what he/she thinks or knows.
- Don’t leave your child alone for long periods of time. Not even your teenagers.
- Know where your child is at all times. Make your child accountable each and every day, without fail, especially if you’re a gun owner, and your child watches violent video games.
- Don’t hesitate to reconsider your decision to allow them to watch violent video games. (Note: Don’t just take the video games away; replace them with better entertainment, i.e., group/church events with other children.)
- Cut your hours at work. Don’t just spend more time at home, engage in conversations with your child.
- Don’t forget to play. Go on field trips. Engage in life-learning experiences. For example: Ask your child to balance a page in your checkbook. They will hate this, but they will learn something. Believe it or not, kids love to say “my momma taught me that,” or “my daddy showed me how.”
- Don’t feel as if you have to come up with all the ideas for entertainment. Have your child participate in the decision. In that way, they feel a part of the team versus always feeling like they’re being told what to do.
- It is very important for parents to drop the “old school” mentality and learn to listen. The old saying, “because I said so,” doesn’t work anymore. You can learn a great deal by listening to how your child feels about what he/she is going through. When a child talks long enough, they will inevitably tell you how they feel and what they need from you.
- Be willing to drop any and everything to be there for your child. There will be times when your child will have what he/she thinks is a crisis. Stop what you are doing; leave work; and go to your child’s aid. This reinforces your child’s trust in you. They will feel loved when they know you are putting them first.
- If you notice a change in your child’s mental health, please seek professional help. Don’t try to do this alone. And don’t be ashamed to share what you are going through with family and friends.
More gun laws alone won’t keep an angry, ill-nurtured child from acting on his impulse to kill. There’s an old saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Let’s all get involved in helping parents nurture our children back to good mental and emotional health. Children are our biggest asset and our only legacy. Love them. We’ve only got one chance at this. Let’s get it right.
Donna B. Comeaux
Freelance Writer, Author, Poet
August 31, 2013