The Next Shooter?

Monday, January 9, 2017
It can start with seemingly small behaviors. It can start with something as small as a temper tantrum or a name-calling episode. It can grow to the use of violent threats when angry. It can then grow to becoming a murderer at the age of 12.

Does every child who has a temper tantrum or a name-calling episode grow to be a mass murderer? No. Will every child who sulks in his room turn to weapons and the shooting of classmates? No.

How do you begin to judge a child's potential for violence?

As you look at the list below - look to see if your child fits into two or more of the listed items. If you find this to be the case - talk to your child at once. How is your child feeling? How is school going? Any problems with teachers? Any problems with other students? Listen carefully and attentively to what your child has to say. Take your child to a mental health professional for a complete evaluation as soon as possible. You owe it to your child, yourself and your community.

The last thing we need to do is to get into a blaming war about who did or did not do what to whom or when. That is the easiest way to ignore the problem and get caught up in chains of fear while only doing more to bind the chains more tightly. Instead, let's look at expanding our understanding and thus doing our own problem solving. The one right answer that will solve it all and make the pain go away never to be seen again does not exist. However, several solutions will work in varying degrees and help to create the world we really want. We can create a world in which children do not feel compelled to take their pain to school and solve it with a gun.

The numbered items below are taken from a list provided by The National School Safety Center - the commentary provided with each numbered item is offered as a way to guide you and challenge you ito think about your own children and the children you know.

1.HAS A HISTORY OF UNCONTROLLABLE ANGRY OUTBURSTS.
Don't dismiss your child's anger by telling yourself all children/adolescents have temper tantrums. You want to pay particular attention when the anger appears to be above and beyond.

2.ROUTINELY RESORTS TO VIOLENT THREATS OR ABUSIVE LANGUAGE.
This behavior is neither funny nor acceptable. Be clear with your child that this is not acceptable behavior. Do all that you can to ensure that you are not modeling threatening or abusive behavior in your home.

3.EXHIBITS A PATTERN OF SUBSTANCE USE
The notion that you tried it when you were a kid, or that "all kids try drugs" can no longer be the comfort zone you use. Pay attention to the potential for drug use. Have your child tested if you believe there is an issue. Talk with your child's school counselors. Take your child to the doctor for regular physicals.

4.HAS FRIENDS WHO ARE "ON THE FRINGE".
This can often feel like a fine line to cross as you struggle to know the difference been "on the fringe?" and "kids being kids". Take the time to talk to your child and your child's friends you will begin to get a sense of the difference. Talk with their parents. Know whom your child spends time with and is influenced by.

5.DOES NOT HAVE FRIENDS.
This is an important and disturbing sign that your child may be in trouble. Children who feel isolated often experience depression. Do not assume that your child's sadness is "just a phase". Pay very careful attention to your isolated child. Try to engage her/him to talk. Learn your child and how he/she feels. If the child's depressed mood persists more than a two weeks or if the quality of the depression seems to far out way the identified precipitant during a shorter period of time or you are unable to identify a precipitant - Get help for your child now.

6.HAS SHOWN A PREOCCUPATION WITH WEAPONS.
A true trouble spot. It is important to explore this carefully and continually with your child. If your routinely keep guns in your home do everything you know to do and then just a little more to KEEP YOUR WEAPONS AWAY FROM YOUR CHILD. Consider removing your weapons from the house. Weapons and children just don't mix. Period.

7.IS CRUEL TO ANIMALS.
These children are in trouble. Get him/her help. Today.

8.HAS LITTLE/NO SUPERVISION.
Today's world is often very complicated and many parents are unable to provide the one on one interaction with a child that they would like. If you are one of these parents, think about your options. Is there an after school program, a relative, a mentor? Is there someone who can provide your child the contact he/she needs and deserves? Think about the times when you have been lonely and multiply that by a million - that is what unsupervised children experience. Children need and benefit from supervision and attention.

9.HAS WITNESSED VIOLENCE IN THE HOME.
This is a critical indicator that your child is more likely to become a victim of his/her own rage. Talk to your child constantly and ELIMINATE THE VIOLENCE. Violence does not make a child stronger. It makes a child more vulnerable.

10.HAS EXPERIENCED NEGLECT IN THE HOME.
There are many ways to neglect a child. You can be in the home and neglect your children. Don't do this. Many parents learn to listen to their child with one ear while focusing on something else. Bad decision. Try to have a family meeting at least weekly. Know what is happening in your child's life. In addition to the fact that child neglect is a crime you may be creating a child filled with pain and confusion about her/his own worth. Be sure you do not unknowingly do to your child what well may have been done to you.

11.ROUTINELY BLAMES OTHERS FOR HIS/HER BEHAVIOR.
Be careful not to help your child look for ways to skirt responsibility. Children must be taught to accept responsibility for their own behavior. Be very careful that you are not the chronic rescuer. If your child learns that he/she WILL experience the fruits of his behavior both good and bad - your child will learn to be thoughtful and responsible. If your child learns that no matter what he/she does, you will swoop in to rescue, your child will learn to disregard rules, scoff at society and push the limits of societal norms in ways that can be harming to all.

12.PREFERS VIOLENT GAMES, SHOWS AND PLAY.
Unfortunately you may have to work hard to protect your child from the violence in the media it is critical that you continually talk to your child about the violence and the uselessness of it all.

13.HAS ATTEMPTED OR THREATENED SUICIDE.
Yes. This is a cry for help. And a whole lot more. This is a demand for clinical attention and YOUR attention. The depression that leads to suicide or suicide attempts is laced with anger turned inward. Can you be sure that the anger your child feels won't turn to the killing of others?

14.HAS MOOD SWINGS.
Your child could be depressed. Many teens struggle with depression. Do not ignore this. The mood swings could also be associated with stress or drug use. Without a complete medical health and mental health evaluation you can only guess. Stop guessing. Take your child in for an evaluation now.

15.USES VIOLENCE OR DEATH AS THE THEME FOR SCHOOL PROJECTS.
Too many time parents find children's behavior upsetting and get into arguments. There is nothing to argue about. Using violence or death in likely to be an unacceptable theme for a school project. If your child is doing this, talk to your child. Work to understand your child's thinking in this. Meet with school counselors. Keep an eye on his/her behavior.

16.COMPLAINS OF BEING THE SUBJECT OF BULLYING OR THREATS AT SCHOOL.
Pay attention to what your child has to say. Careful attention. This is not a feeling to be dismissed. It is hurtful and unfair for your child to have to fend for him/herself. Bullies can be dismissive and quite cruel. While you understand that bullies are also children struggling with their own self-esteem issues don't help the bully to harm your child by attempting to diminish the hurtfulness of the bullying behavior when talking to your child. Don't try to handle this on your own. Meet with the principal. Meet with whomever you believe appropriate at the school. Recognize that your child needs a feeling of safety while at the same time helping your child to see that bullying behavior does not get rewarded with silence from his/her victims.

POST SCRIPT:
A society can create violent children. It will take a society to heal the children who have violent thoughts and behaviors. It will take the efforts of us all working very hard to teach children and each other that violence is neither funny or powerful or useful.

Violence kills.
Death is permanent.
Remember that you MUST take your child in to see a mental health professional if you have any concerns. DO NOT DOWNPLAY your child's behavior as being "childhood pranks".