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Question of the Week: 113

Pagan Problem Children: What Can We Do About Them?

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 Author:    Posted: Sep. 8, 2002   This Page Viewed: 19,989,221  

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Question of the Week: 32 - 3/12/2001

Why Are Kids Killing Kids?

And what can be done about it? Is violence so prevalent in societies today that it is inevitable that it will trickle down to our kids? What do you think are the causes of violence, uncivilly and alienation in today's world? What roles-if any-do you think the availability of guns, the 'cult of individuality,' the changing family structure or the fast pace of life play in these situations? Should schools keep the same hours as the workplace so those children are not alone for hours until the parents return from work? Are parents responsible? Should the right of all children to personal privacy be breached in order to curb the violence of some? Do Pagan philosophies offer any suggestions on how to help mitigate the problems facing a society in which violence is an almost daily occurrence?

 Reponses:   There are 60 responses posted to this question. Reverse Sort 

I Believe - As The Mother Of Two Teenagers - That Biggest Contributer To... Mar 13th. at 1:01:52 pm EST

arielle (Seattle, Washington US) Age: 43 - Email

I believe - as the mother of two teenagers - that biggest contributer to any kind of violence in the schools is what it has ALWAYS been. Lack of true parenting. Most of the children I see have parents who are worried about the most obvious outward signs a child displays, but not about their self esteem or happiness. They want these things for thier children, but they assume they will magically happen if the child follows the path the parents set out for them. Most parents won't go to the school and force the administrators into action. I did once. In elementary school a boy tried to kiss my daughter - who promptly keed him in the groin. His response was to beat up on her younger brother daily at lunch. The lunch duty attendants did nothing. I went to the principle and thwarted his efforts to avoid the issue by threatning to go to the school board if it happened one more time. I also talked to the bully's teacher and made her aware of the problem. Most parents will not do this. They don't want to make a fuss. If a child knows their parent will stand up for them, then they are more likely to tell of such problems. Mine do. I've taught both my children how to thwart bullies by not reacting as they wish, and with the promise to raise a fuss in the office if it doesn't work. I think the principle of the middle school really dislikes me because I made him deal with several problems (not bullying) that he tried to explain with psycho-babble. Unfortunately for him, I just made it clear i wanted a solution not a warm fuzzy answer. The same goes for bullying situations. If the parent gets involved and won't back down, the problem will be handled. It has always worked for me.

My Son Was Going Through A Lot Of Bullying And Harassment At... Mar 13th. at 7:11:25 pm EST

medusa (seattle, Washington US) Age: 50

my son was going through a lot of bullying and harassment at school and i talked to teachers and the principal and other parents. nothing had any effect. In fact both my sons had this problem. It seemed as if the crux of the problem was that i had taught them to be non violent and to follow the rules.. Then one day it dawned on me. Every day that we send our kids to school we offer them up on the altar of conformity to society. that is especially true today when diversity is a dirty word. of course it always has been, but even more so today. as long as that is true teenagers will find ways to scream out their outrage at being fit into such a small narrow definition.

As A Teacher I See What Happens In School Everyday. I Know... Mar 13th. at 8:16:44 pm EST

Skyler Lashley (Whitehall, Montana US) Age: 26 - Email

As a teacher I see what happens in school everyday. I know from experience that in my classroom I don't allow any bullying or teasing of that nature because it is not condusive to a proper learning environment. However, I can only be in one place at one time and I have to say that teachers are not always to blame for a student being teased by another student. As teachers and schools we are only able to do what the community and parents allow us to do. Parents voicing opinions at school board meetings would give the school the expectations the parents want.
Yes it is true that kids can be cruel to each other and yes sometimes teachers and schools don't see what all happens. But I do have to admit I have seen teachers that have allowed things to happen while they're standing in the vicinity. If I'm around I usually step in because of the high standards of conduct I have for myself and what I expect from students.
I have to honestly say that I feel that in todays society we have forgotten the individual and have become to focused on the group mind. Slowing down in our lives helps us focus and to put things into perspective. Its no wonder our children act the way they do they learn from their parents. I see it everyday in my work and I always wonder what will happen as this kid matures and leaves high school. Will they continue the same behavior and pass it on to their children because thats all they know? Will their behavior or intolerance and hatred continue? Probably, but you never know.
Parents are responsible for their children and they need to step in and let their voice be heard. How am I as a teacher to know what happens when I'm not there. Its not fair to blame schools entirely.

Children Today Have Alot More Stress Than We Did A Couple Of... Mar 13th. at 8:38:40 pm EST

John Schreiber (Sparrowbush, New York US) Age: 42 - Email

Children today have alot more stress than we did a couple of years ago. They have more homework than I ever had in school. Children also have more important tests which figure out if they pass or not. Children also are not educated about differences. The only way you fit in is if you are good at sports, can afford expensive clothes, and are like most of the other kids.

Kids Today - Myself Included - Are Pressured Way Too Much. I'm A Teen... Mar 13th. at 9:18:57 pm EST

Leilani Tempest (PSL, Florida US) Age: 17 - Email

Kids today - myself included - are pressured way too much. I'm a teen Pagan, and to the other teenagers in my school this comes as a shock. I'm called all things: Devil worshipper, immoral, and more. I even attempted to committ(sp?) suicide once because of all the teasing going on.
I'm a high school teen - a senior who will soon be graduating. Just being a teen is stressful. I've had anxiety atttacks from college worries, high school worries, and more. I hold down a job just to pay the bills that come from being a teen. College isn't cheap, and with the financial problems in my family, it won't be easy to pay for it. I worry about it so much that I start going senile.
Kids kill kids who torment them. The smallest torment may mean life or death to kids. I've seen kids in my school get "written up" for saying anything about killing someone, even when that kid is the top student and not like that. Sometimes we do stuff like that for attention, sometimes not.
My opinion is that kids do what they think is right, but not what is right. Take Tempest, the kid who committed suicide because of the tormenting. The kid who has my magickal name, the kid who I now think of when someone calls on me. Now I think of her and the problems of the world when I hear things like that. The kids who tormented her may not have meant for it to cause her death, but in a strange way it did kill her. Lack of friends and love cause a person to do bad things - things they wouldn't do if they had the love and friendship that they wanted.
Kids rights shouldn't be taken away, just because of a few bad seeds. What really needs to happen is for every kid to be counseled when a problem is seen or suspected. Maybe things like the shootings and killings would stop. Maybe not.
The world is going through a crisis - when morals are low and family values don't matter anymore. This isn't the way we need it to be if we are to survive as a population. Kids think that since they don't get punished for doing small things, they won't get punished for doing bigger things. Goddess help me, for this is not true. Karma has a way of coming up on us, and serving to us what we served to them.

I Bet Everyone Thinks Stuff Like That Only Happens In Public School... Mar 13th. at 10:35:54 pm EST

Amanda (Providence, Rhode Island US) Age: 21 - Email

I bet everyone thinks stuff like that only happens in public school.

One of my best friends, my boyfriend, and a few other people went to a private Quaker school system. While there, they were different, or geeky, and each of them earned daily beatings from the school bullies from it. Teachers were told, they talked to thier parents, nothing got done. My boyfriend's mom works for the local school system as a child psychologist, and told him that it wasn't really that bad, that he was probably just imagining that it was that horrible.

Once they got older, they found each other and banded together for support. After that, they didn't get beat up anymore, they just got taunted and teased mercilessly. Now, four years after graduating high school, one of them carries no less than 2 knives on him at all times (we're glad he downgraded from 4), and my boyfriend doesn't sleep well. Every time he wakes up crying from a nightmare he can't remember, I curse everyone who didn't do anything for him.

The other guys seem to be getting along better than those two, but it's obvious to anyone who listens to any of them for even 10 minutes that they all have serious self-esteem issues. All this was at a PRIVATE school. A Quaker school for pete's sake. You would think that a non-violent group of people like them would have less tolerence for bullies. Were they all born even five years later maybe the one that carries all the knives might have gunned down half the school. Maybe if they hadn't banded together, I would be denied the love of my life right now.

So for everyone who thinks it's someone else's problem, that it can't happen where they live, that thier kids go to a good school and things like that don't happen there, it can. I don't have a solution for all this, and I wish I did. No one should have to go through all of that.

PS. Those kids who teased Tempest *should* feel damn guilty. They killed her sure as if they tied the knot around her neck themselves.

This Latest Incident Really Has One Main Root: A Kid Was Teased... Mar 13th. at 10:46:43 pm EST

Annie (Williamsburg, Virginia US) Age: 22 - Email

This latest incident really has one main root: a kid was teased so much and so badly that he was pushed past the breaking point. Unlike many others in the same predicament, he decided to turn the anger, despair and pain OUTWARDS rather than inwards. He hurt other people instead of hurting himself- which is the more usual reaction. Isn't it interesting that he wouldn't have made national news if he'd just killed himself instead of other people?

First, I Should Say That I'm Not A Parent. This Is By... Mar 14th. at 3:14:26 am EST

Big John (South Amboy, New Jersey US) Age: 40

First, I should say that I'm not a parent. This is by choice, I think that I'd do a terrible job of raising anyone. But, I once was a kid and even though it's been 23 years or so since I graduated high school, I don't think the world has changed all that much. Kids are often cruel to other kids. It's not right, but school violence is nothing new.

Kids often reflect the attitude of their parents, if their parents are intolerant, aggressive, and/or violent the kids will follow these examples. The situation is amplified by small/broken families, parents with long working hours, the loss of open space for kids to play in, and the pressures both schools and parents put on the kids.

What has changed recently is the way the media focuses on school violence. I see news reports where a kid yells "I'll shoot you!" at another student and the next thing he knows he is suspended, the cops are called, the kid's home is searched and the story hits the evening news on all the major networks. This is insane! Half the people I grew up with would have never made it to high school under these conditions. These crazy "zero tolerance" laws aren't protecting kids, they are fanning the fires under the pressure cooker the kids are already placed in. With more stress more kids will snap, just like adults would under similar circumstances.

I was told many times that your childhood is the best part of your life. Yes, it should be, but it frequently isn't. All of us, kids and adults are caught in an evil cycle of corporate greed and government controls. We spend our childhood under fluorescent lights learning to be workers for the corporate machine, our souls and individuality washed away to fit some corporate ideal. Then we graduate to become good workers - trapped in that same machine. Our lives still withering under those fluorescent lights. Too tied up in the rat race to spend time with our kids. So how can their futures be any brighter? As adults we pass our anger and frustration on to our kids. This is where the violence truely comes from.

The solution, as I see it, is to give the kids more freedom to grow. The question to ask is why are the kids in school in the first place? Yes, an education is generally a good thing, but why does it have to be for 6 hours a day, 5 days a week for 13 years or more? The real purpose to school is to train kids to be of value to the corporate working world. I think they spend so much time in school because their parents are forced to work long hours in that same world, so school becomes a baby sitting service. Also, it is very much a brain washing service.

While I don't see anything changing for the better in the near future I do have one suggestion: Once there are enough pagans who are interested in a local area why not start a pagan school? Not to force the kids into following our beliefs, that should always be an individual choice, but rather to provide an education with a sane structure. I believe, based on my years as a student, that the formal part of what kids need to learn (math, reading, writing, and basic science)can be taught in 3 hours a day for three days a week. Use the rest of the time for them to learn the things that are important for living - how to grow a garden, sing, play an instrument, dance, fish, swim, fly a kite, etc. Classes can be kept small - perhaps 12 to 15 students per teacher.

Perhaps this approach could help the general public to question the way education is handled in the USA and inspire some real changes that don't involve giving the kids less freedom, more homework, and a twelve month school year.


The Root Issues Are Respect And Personal Empowerment. Instead Of Being Socialized... Mar 14th. at 3:55:16 am EST

Secular Pagan (Minneapolis, Minnesota US) Age: 37 - Email

The root issues are respect and personal empowerment. Instead of being socialized by the community to respect people regardless of differences and "weirdness, " often kids are having their prejudices reinforced and even encouraged by the significant adults in their lives. They are taught to look down on those who are different, odd, geeky, or otherwise don't fit in or fit the "right" image -- which might be something as pathetically insignificant as wearing the "wrong" brand or style of clothing. I will never forget when I was in junior high, and being subjected to the typical taunting and harassing that kids that age are so good at dishing out, and the school's guidance counselor suggested that I should try wearing a different brand of jeans, the popular brand, because if I dressed like the other kids then maybe they would like me better. HONESTLY! And sad to say, this kind of idiot, shallow thinking is alive and well, even today; not universal, thanks be, but certainly present.

When kids feel beaten down by continued harassment, they feel powerless, helpless. Some withdraw into books, music, fantasy, studies, art; some withdraw ultimately, via suicide. Others lash out, rebel; those with access to guns may even end up doing damage, to others, to themselves. And how are the schools dealing with this? By taking away what little power is left to these vulnerable-feeling students: the power to freely discuss these shootings. A lot of teens (and not a few adults) "process" traumatic events by joking about them, or by detaching from them emotionally and discussing them analytically. Such talk has gotten at least one teenager into trouble, as paranoia flares.

So the schools are cracking down on normal teenage attempts to deal with their fears, all the while doing NOTHING to address the root problems of social stratification, materialism, shallow values, disrespect, cliqueishness, and feelings of helplessness and disempowerment. To quote an old protest song: "When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?" Teach and model respect, care, acceptance of diversity. Help students to discover their own, positive, constructive, inner power over themselves and their lives, and I'll warrant that the desire to exert destructive power over others will diminish accordingly.

Kids Have Taken To Destroying The Lives Of Other Children Because Of... Mar 14th. at 10:08:10 am EST

Taryn Wagner (Hampton Bays, New York US) Age: 19 - Email

Kids have taken to destroying the lives of other children because of the tremendous degree of suffering imposed upon them by their peers. If you look at these kids that were driven to ending the lives of others, their family backgrounds were at least a little shaky, they were mostly alienated kids, ridiculed by their peers and were basically forced into mental and emotional breakdowns. Kids need to be taught at home, from an early age not to judge based on wealth, physical attributes, religion, race, or any other reason kids are so cruel to one another. Had these kids been accepted into these cliquey high school groups this, more than likely, would not have happened. On the question of Pagan philosophies posing any answer--it is right there in the rede--"and ye harm none do what ye will." Emotional torment is a form of harm placed upon especially an elementary or high school aged child. Had the children who taunted them for years been taught that--under no circumstances should they hurt emotionally or physically any person, animal, etc in any way, this would not have happened. In no way am I condoning the shootings of children simply because the gunmen had been haunted by them for years. However, I think that children should understand the consequences of what they do--even when joking with a friend. It's the little jokes taken literally or one to many derogatory comments that layer until the animosity can no longer be controlled.

I Think That A Serious Look Needs To Be Taken At How... Mar 14th. at 10:25:50 am EST

Silver (Calgary, Alberta CA) Age: 20

I think that a serious look needs to be taken at how kids are treating other kids. Also, how are the parents of those kids who are bullies treating their children? What are they teaching them? I was a victim of bullies all through school, and I did not often get much reprieve. I was very different from others, and I didn't often like to participate in games with the other children because I was quite shy. But, I only remember one or two instances where a teacher stepped in and stopped the bullying from happening. Those teachers will forever stick out in my mind as ones who cared. I have read that teachers often do not know what is happening, and that they cannot do anything about bullying unless it happens right in front of them (from articles in the Calgary Herald about the shooting in San Diego). Though I realize that teachers can't be everywhere, it isn't hard to notice a child who is being bullied. They are often quieter, hang around by themselves, and just generally skittish.
I don't think that workplaces should have the same hours as school (or vice versa), but I do think that corporations need to have more flexible hours so that parents can be home with their children more often.
I think that all children have a right to personal privacy, and I don't think that privacy should be violated. In the case of Brandi Blackbear, the school administration took her writing notebooks and she got in trouble because of a story that had a boy with a gun on a schoolbus in it, which she was trying to write like Stephen King. I think that administrators often overreact to things, and read threats where there are none, where there is just imagination.
I think that Pagan philosophies offer a great number of suggestions for violence. They promote respect for all, and responsibility for one's actions. They do not support any kind of bullying, or one-up-manship that seems to be so prevalent. They show that every person is valuable, and none more valuable than others.

Brightest blessings!

Youthful Imaginations Are Wonderful Things, Often Fruitful And Bearing Fantastic Ideas. Children... Mar 14th. at 12:57:31 pm EST

Meara Skye (Worcester, Massachusetts US) Age: 17 - Email

Youthful imaginations are wonderful things, often fruitful and bearing fantastic ideas. Children imagine all sorts of scenarios; those of happiness, of fun, and of joy. I do not remember in my childhood having violent fantasies of watching my peers writhing around in exruciating pain. I do not remember feeling the need to extract revenge on those who hated me.

I was always the oddball. People feared me because I was very mature and reasonably intelligent from day one. I refused to be like my peers, so caught up in their own superficial and insignificant lives that the world began to revolve around their circle of friends. I was therefore shut out, cut off, ostracized, harrassed, teased, and dare I say it - hated.

Indeed, I dreamt of revenge. I dreamt of writing novels with my persecutors as the villains, receiving their due reward - but by being exposed as the self-centered frauds that they are. I dreamt of my own successes which I could throw in their faces and say, "Look at where I am now." Never once did I wish death upon any of them, nor did I ever wish to inflict bodily harm on them personally. (I admit, I may have requested acts of the divine periodically to sew their mouths shut, but nothing worse than that.)

Now we read statistics that the average eight year old has seen several hundred deaths in their short lifetime. Children's games have moved beyond the old standard "Cops and Robbers" or "Cowboys and Indians." Now children construct complicated scenarios involving machine guns and Matrix-esque martial arts. Children are robbed of their innocence at a terribly young age by the single largest malignment-factory in the world: the mass media.

I cannot blame the media for pushing what sells. Unfortunately, the things we as a society buy now are sex, violence, and gore. The media knows how to make anything sell, and when the adult themes in adult movies, shows, and songs are often embodied by young adults, children see them as accessible. Children want to be adults. They look up to adults. And it is adults who are pushing terrible things upon them - things that are far beyond the average child's ability to grasp.

Violence in the schools is primarily caused by the insensitivity of children. Insensitivity is another thing taught by the media. Collapsing family lives do not combat it; they intensify it. When compounded with the ideas of violent, gory revenge suggested by any R-rated movie or "TV-MA" television program, the young, immature mind reacts explosively. Children lash out, not realizing the dire consequences of their actions. And worse, they often believe that those wounded or dead "deserved it, " for their actions toward the perpetrator were somehow worse or more devastating than their payment.

The adults of this country need a good swift kick in the ass. Children need examples of how to live as human beings, not human animals. Perhaps they are a viable market, but at what cost? How many more children need to die before somebody realizes that we, as a society, need to move away from this obsession with destruction and violence?

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