Guest Post: “Save Our Children” Time To Step Up!
I hear it everywhere these days; this call for change to save our children; especially in the place that is supposed to be the safest spot for them; school. But, sadly, as a teacher and a mentor for hundreds of children each year, I really don’t believe gun control is the answer or the type of change that will have any meaningful impact on the safety of our children. “Why isn’t it?” You might ask. Well, let’s start by taking a look inside the lives of children that walk the halls of our Public Schools today. Let’s follow “Little Johnny” through a typical day of life, then you decide if it is a gun control problem for yourself. Because, as someone on the front lines with your kids every day, I don’t believe this is the answer. I believe we have a different problem that needs fixing.
Johnny wakes up early in the morning to get ready for school. He desperately wants to talk to mom and dad, but since both parents work in today’s world, both of them are in a mad rush to get ready for work. No one seems to have the time to stop and chat. Mom yells out to Little Johnny that if he gets dressed quickly she will take him for a special treat after school.
On the way to school, mom is busy driving while on her phone with someone from work. Johnny is left looking at his tablet in the car, looking at the fun, perfect world of others from social media. He imagines how exciting his life could be, just like the families he follows on social media. He fantasizes about how much better his life could be if his family was like “those” families.
After a quick ride in the car, mom drops him off and says, “Remember to make good choices and earn a good color for today.” Little Johnny arrives at school only to find teachers rushing through the halls to get ready for their day. They smile and say hello as they rush by, but there is no time to stop and check up on Little Johnny. As he sits in the hall silently while being forced to read, he gazes at his friends sitting close by, unable to verbally say hello, because there is no talking allowed in the halls. The rewards are handed out by teachers for those that are sitting quietly in class. The thoughts grow in his mind, all to himself, alone in this fast paced world where peer interaction for enjoyment is minimal.
As classes begin Little Johnny is quickly moved from one center to another to get through all the work of the day. Every time he completes a task correctly he is rewarded for his work. The curriculum is thrown at Little Johnny as quickly as he can learn it, sometimes so quickly he doesn’t really understand, but he just flew under the radar and no one noticed.
The enjoyment of talking with friends that should come with lunchtime is cut to a minimum. He is forced to eat quickly, sometimes not enough time to eat all his food. His class receives a point for being the most behaved in the cafeteria. He returns to class either still hungry or with a stomach ache from eating too fast.
He really tries to focus so he can learn the rest of the fast-paced material for the day, but all he can think about is how he feels at the moment. He accomplished what he was supposed to do in school for the day, so he went home on a great color in his agenda.
Finally, this day is over! Little Johnny can talk to his mom all about his day during the car ride home, or so he thought. Little Johnny climbs back into his car for the ride home only to find mom has the radio turned up because her favorite song is on, so Little Johnny resumes his imaginary life on social media. He reads how perfect everyone else’s day was, looks at all the fun-filled pictures all while wondering, why? Why didn’t I get a life like “those” people? Why can’t my family have more fun? Why can’t my friends be as cool as “their” friends? Oh, the wonders of living in the social reality life.
Then comes the after-school life filled with sports, homework, fast dinners, and bedtime. Organized sports are filled with “everyone wins”. Little Johnny is praised for trying hard, even if he cannot hit a ball. The coaches are quick to work with the ones that “show potential”, but Little Johnny doesn’t understand why he doesn’t receive extra attention. He was rewarded for trying hard, “so why not work with me?” he thinks to himself. He watches as his friends receive it all, the home run hit, the tagged baseman, the winning score, but it doesn’t matter, he still gets a trophy at the end.
Little Johnny smiles through his day, so everyone assumes he is ok. He completes his work, makes great grades, has nice friends, his parents have great jobs, everything looks to be ok on the outside.
On the inside is a different story. He struggles with not being able to talk to others because he hardly had that opportunity as a child. He doesn’t know how, or what to say when he meets new people because he was never given the chance for social skills.
Social media has given him the falsehood of what life should be like, so he constantly thinks about how much better life could be. His parents are too busy to have face to face conversations so he is forced to keep it all inside. During dinner outings everyone is attached to their phones, posting pictures of the amazing food they are eating while the family sits in silence. Everywhere he turns, there is no one to give him attention, the attention he really needs to function in this lonely world.
You see, we have not trained our children of today how to work through their problems. From the moment they wake up, they are pushed aside by busy parents rushing through their days. They are handed digital devices to help keep them occupied and busy so they will leave their parents in peace. Children are overly rewarded at school for doing what they are there to do, behave and work. They are all given trophies for after-school sports because they all tried hard.
It’s almost as if we are too afraid to hurt their feelings. “Oh poor Little Johnny cannot be told no,” or that his answers in class were not correct, or “I’m sorry you cannot hit a ball.”
Unfortunately when they are finally told “No”, our children don’t understand how to process this information. All of a sudden they feel inadequate, or worse, they lash out in unpredictable ways. When they are presented with a situation where they are expected to cope, they have no clue how to proceed. We are molding our children into these beings that are used to and crave instant gratification and are never wrong… and it’s really, I believe, at the heart of our problem today.
If the most recent shooting in Santa Fe, Texas has shown us anything, it’s that if “Little Johnny” needs attention badly enough… he will find a way to do it, guns or no guns.
We are raising our kids to strive for attention, any attention, but everyone is too busy to give them what they crave. This is what I believe feeds the decision of these kids to choose to shoot up their school – not a lack of gun control. If the most recent incident in Santa Fe, Texas, (where the shooter also used homemade bombs), has shown us anything, it’s that if “Little Johnny” needs attention badly enough to take his frustration out on other children he will find a way to do it, guns or no guns. All he really wants is the attention anyway; good or bad, it just doesn’t matter. He shoots up a school and is on the news, social media, and the public’s lips for a long time. His face is all over the television, phone, tablet, and computer monitor. SImply everyone is talking about “Little Johnny.” Finally, it is all about him, right or wrong he doesn’t care. He finally got some undivided attention. Didn’t matter who from, either.
You see, if we want to fix the problem of mass shootings or kids that perform these horrible acts on others, (regardless of the tool they use to do it), we all need to fix some things at home. Things we absolutely have control over! And it’s not “ban the guns” because that’s just a band-aid. That type of fix is basically grasping at straws because we, as a people, aren’t forcing our parents and/or mentors to raise these children differently; better.
We all need to understand that our children need us!
They need us to teach them socialization skills. They need us to teach them manners. They need us to show them that it is ok to be wrong. They need us to show them that others have different viewpoints and how to talk to one another and learn from one another despite that. They need us to show them that these “perfect” social media-type lives are a fantasy and that no one is perfect, but that’s OK.
Let’s all agree to take some personal responsibility for our youth. Let’s teach them the way of this world and how to move through it. Let’s stop shifting the burden from ourselves for these tasks to parents, teachers, and worse, electronics… because when you chose to bring a life into this world, you signed up for this. It’s time we all try to fix what’s really wrong here before it’s too late.
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