Tipping the Odds Towards Peace… A Reflection on Mass Shootings.

What if:
Parents took time off from their busy schedules and played every day for a while with their kids things like card games, ball games ,strategy games, they danced, listened to music, read rhymes, turned off electronic devices, cared for a live plant or a pet, laughed, talked, shared with family and friends, enjoyed nature, discovered a passion in their child and shared in said passion…
Wouldn’t there be more happy confident children with higher self-esteem?

Would the odds change?

How can we start to make sense of massacres like the one in Newtown? In the past few weeks I’ve heard  heated remarks about the role parents and educators play in violence, pros and cons to gun restriction laws,  people advocating schools safety by arming teachers  and putting security checks  (like airport security) , communities demanding  government involvement, professionals weighing on mental health laws and child psychiatric medication regulations. There’s full blown controversy regarding “freedom of speech” vs the need to hold the entertainment industry accountable with tighter controls on violence in movies, on TV, in music and in video games as well as news sensationalism that can induce copycats. I applaud the fact that it has become a National priority and hasn’t been swept under the carpet like so many times in the past.

People’s reactions cover a spectrum of emotions making us aware of the many pixels that build this reality and we should use this momentum to work in every front to achieve a comprehensive, responsible approach. There is a consensus that quick answers and “fixers  have  fallen short like bandages on a bullet hole, the fact being, an exponential increase  in pace of senseless mass killings  since 2006.

Last week I read a news article about a woman who fears her adolescent, sometimes “violent” son called “I am Adam Lanza’s mother” and brings mental health also into the equation. She feels her only hope is that mental health laws change so she can institutionalize her son and prevent a future tragedy (I understand her feelings but do not share her views although I agree that in her case her son needs qualified professionals to help him work through his needs and issues).

FEAR  and PAIN is said to be at the core of aggressive behavior and flight responses. Although they trigger our conservation instincts, survival, self-defense, alertness, they can also generate stress, uneasiness, escapism or even violence. We should be willing to discover and weigh what aspects of social life,  school life, family life or health issues are affecting us negatively/ positively and if they are conducive to creating balance  or not. As adults we need to be especially sensitive to what can be hurting or troubling our children and help them.  When a child is un-well physically or mentally, feels abandoned, is bullied, attacked, hurt,  is surrounded by a menacing environment or  is abused, he might succumb to a state of perpetual terror that if  pushed to the ledge might make him  lose control, develop phobias, suffer anxiety attacks, depression or  even incur in suicidal thoughts, resort to self- injury and  in very few cases become lethally violent ruining his life and those of his victims.  Unfortunately with Newtown we are witnessing this terror.

Traditional parenting tools for dealing with the early stages of FEAR ( a.k.a. tantrums, anxiety, frustration etc)  are usually  focused on damage control, discipline and restrictions. “Time outs”, scolding, and punishment are the preferred methods as are instilling values by means of religion and morality (Which can sometimes backlash in oppressive feelings of guilt). This system has been functioning for centuries but frequently has induced rebelliousness, unhappiness, mode swings, despair and isolation. Escapism is also part of this retro-feeding system. Entire industries ( that initially served the purpose of entertaining and educating) feed on the need of many to run away from the rigors of life .(video games, music etc.)

So how can we begin to make a change? How can we uproot terror and frustration and replace it with a sense of security, high self-esteem and accomplishment?

What if:
Parents took time off from their busy schedules and played every day for a while with their kids things like card games, ball games ,strategy games, they danced, listened to music, read rhymes, turned off electronic devices, cared for a live plant or a pet, laughed, talked, shared with family and friends, enjoyed nature, discovered a passion in their child and shared in said passion…
Wouldn’t there be more happy confident children with higher self-esteem?

Would the odds change?

 

Different strategies, fields, levels of depth will need to be addressed. We must lead by example and get involved. It isn’t ok to turn a blind eye to “red flags” or to procrastinate.  Everyone from lawmakers to parents should way in and act. Let’s get the message home and by home I mean, ask yourself what  you can do differently that might help. Let’s engage children in this discussion. We can learn an awful lot just by listening to them.

*Here are some statistics about mass shootings and perpetrator traits. It is thought-provoking to note that only one of them is a female which has raised some gender questions on the socialization of boys and violent masculinity. At the end you will find a list of questions used in behavioral sciences and by investigators to discover potential threats. There are also some prevention tips. Both questions and statistics have been obtained from numerous sources.

STATISTICS

“151 victims of mass shootings in the United States in 2012.

62 mass shootings in the past 30 years ( 25 since 2006!)

142 guns possessed by the killers. Three quarters were obtained legally

Half of the cases involved school or workplace shootings, the other 31 cases took place in locations including shopping malls, restaurants, and religious and government buildings.

44 of the killers were white males. The rest were males of other ethnic background.

1 of them was a woman.

 The average age of the killers was 35, though the youngest among them was 11 years old.

The majority of killers displayed signs before setting out to kill…                                                                        

Researchers have found that killers do not ‘snap’. They plan.

Princeton’s Katherine Newman has found that, far from being “loners”, the perpetrators are “joiners” whose attempts at social integration fail, and that they let their thinking and even their plans be known, sometimes frequently over long periods of time…  Bullying   and rejection from peers is a common trait]. Once humiliated they follow through by restoring justice in what they see as an unjust situation. Their plan for restoration many times results in violence as shown by the school shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, Nathan Ferris, Edmar Aparecido Freitas, Brian Head, Seung-Hui Cho.

They ­also share in common a severe lapse or more pervasive deficit in their capacity for empathy coupled with their inability to contain  aggression, loss of a sense of reality, dissociative states of mind (i.e. disavowal of reality, derealization, depersonalization).

Most shooters have committed suicide or have been shot.

Columbia’s Daniel Schechter has written, for a baby to develop into a troubled adolescent who then turns lethally violent, a convergence of multiple interacting factors must occur … “

                                                                                  This information has been abridged from various articles including Mother Jones  a nonprofit news organization that specializes in investigative, political, and social justice reporting and Wiki

 

 

(Some of these questions or a variation of them are designed to detect trouble before it becomes lethal violence. You can use these and other questions to create group discussions within your family and community)

Prevention tips, discussion topics within your family and Red Flag Alert Quiz 

Can you detect when your child is about to break, what stimuli trigger these outbursts and can you prevent them?

Have you agreed in a safe place they can go to when they feel they are loosing control to calm down or some kind of cathartic activity  like running, swimming or playing an instrument to deal with the adrenaline rush ?(  learning to “control” or “manipulate” something other than human beings or the rigors of life has shown to help and  can spare them becoming constantly frustrated )

Is your child in pain or scared of something?

Does your child  have grievances?

Are they manipulative and controlling?

How do they deal with frustration and anger?

How do YOU deal with their anger?

Does your child  seem depressed?

Is your child stressed?

Does your child have anxiety attacks?

Does your child spend too much time alone or unsupervised?

Does your child obsess with anything in particular?

What movies, animals, cartoons, books does he or she watch?

What do their toys look like?( guns, war)

Do they surround themselves with superheroes or toys that protect them and might suggest they feel insecure?

What are your kids playing? ( ado they go outside to play or are they passive)

How do they interact with others in games?

What do they paint? Do their drawings show sadness, anger, fear, happiness?

How or do they communicate and do you really listen?(body language is vital and sometimes speaks volumes)

How does media, video games, movies, education and example at home affect your family’s and your child’s conflict resolution skills?

Do you play with your child and engage in activities you both enjoy that strengthen their self- esteem, nurturing qualities , and emotional  empathy?

What do they like, what are they passionate about?

Do mental health laws, government aid and children psychiatric medication issues need to be addressed in your community and school?

Does your child  have access to weapons or does he  fantasies with obtaining them?

Are gun laws and background checks in your community to your satisfaction?

Has your child been bullied and talked about injustice and setting things strait?

I encourage Xapientia readers to give me your thoughts so this can become a joint adventure.

Best wishes and may we tip the odds towards peace together!

For more reads go to these very interesting articles.

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/16/opinion/16herbert.html?_r=1&

http://powerreporting.com/files/shoot.pdf

http://www.upworthy.com/how-the-media-coverage-of-mass-shootings-makes-everything-worse

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-alan-heisterkamp/guns-mental-illness-masculinity_b_2319795.html

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