Looking for reasons for why kids go bad

Bird Droppings March 21, 20022

Looking for reasons why kids go bad

“Come; let us put our minds together to see what kind of life we can create for our children.” Sitting Bull, Lakota Sioux

Nearly twenty years have passed since I did a research paper on the causes of various emotional issues with children. When I first started back to teaching, it was not all that much different from the early seventies when I last taught. When I wrote the paper, I looked for commonalities among children who had more serious school and life issues. I listed drug use, alcohol use, jail time, probation, age, sex, driver’s licenses, wealth, social status, childhood illnesses, and whatever else I could find measurable numbers or information. I did not question students; this was on their school and public record. As I looked deeper at my students, and most were still children, I concluded that most problems were made; they did not just happen. Indirectly we created each of the issues that manifested it. I found an article in Divorce Magazine entitled Help for Generation. They listed statistics that in 1970 seventy-two percent of the adult population is married and in 1999 only fifty-nine percent. This was an interesting statistic, and the number of divorces granted is down per one thousand people but up per number of new marriages.

As I researched years ago, in that group of students that I was using for my data, only two out of twenty-eight lived with their biological parents, I should say both biological parents.

“It seems that the divorce culture feeds on itself, creating a one-way downward spiral of unhappiness and failure.” David Brenner, New York, July 14, 1999, Associate Director of the Institute for American Values

“There are no illegitimate children, only illegitimate parents.” Leon R. Yankwich

Before Netflix and other streaming services, I was hooked on reruns of Law and Order, SUV, the hit TV show that now runs all day long in one form or another. I am captivated by the errors and flaws within our society. As I watched old reruns, similarities to former students’ families came out.

“Having children makes one no more a parent than having a piano makes you a pianist.” Michael Levine

As I researched deeper reasons children have issues, I found issues were learned, and the examples were set at home. It could be drugs, abuse, alcohol, and literally, any issues presented had been directly related to home situations. “Children learn what they live,” both positively and negatively, as Dr. Laura Nolte, a favorite of mine, a leading psychologist, writes extensively about and which is featured in her Children Learn what they live poster of the seventies and programs for children. I Shared her poster from 1972 yesterday.

Yesterday, the news was filled with stories of teenagers, young people who had gotten into trouble, and teenagers trying to make a difference—thinking back over eighteen years to an event in Minnesota where a young man killed nine people in a shooting spree at his school. For whatever reason, this incident seldom is mentioned in schools shootings. Elsewhere drug arrests and gangs make the news, several young black men unarmed have been killed in shootings by police.

I recall several years back when I was walking outside my room, and a student came up sheepishly, hugged me, and apologized. I am so sorry for what happened; only a few weeks prior, this student was in a fight with another student in the cafeteria, and I was pulling them apart. She is now a teacher with three kids. It was a strange feeling being thanked for breaking up a fight by one involved. At that same time, I was at a basketball game, and parents were yelling at each other over and about their kids in front of the audience to a point a resource officer was involved. It is no different from forty-plus years ago when I coached basketball in Macon Georgia and the kids liked this old crude gym better than the new one. I finally asked why and all the kids said parents could not fit inside and kids could play basketball with no parents yelling at them.

“Life affords no greater responsibility, no greater privilege, than the raising of the next generation.” Dr. C. Everett Koop

I never met the man, but my father always spoke highly of him as he was my brother’s physician in Philadelphia back in the mid-1960s when my brother John was at the Philadelphia Children’s Hospital. In later years Dr. Koop was Surgeon General of the United States and one who was always looking for answers midst all the questions.

“Children are curious and are risk-takers. They have lots of courage. They venture out into a world that is immense and dangerous. A child initially trusts life and the processes of life.” John Bradshaw

Perhaps it is the breaking of trust that causes issues to arise. Years ago, I did a graph on the development of trust—stages in how trust evolves with a child and then into an adult. We are born with a universal trust as an infant sort of you instinctually trust we then learn not to trust and eventually come full circle learning to trust again.

“Trust evolves. We start off as babies with perfect trust. Inevitably, trust is damaged by our parents or other family members. Depending on the severity, we may experience devastated trust, in which the trust is completely broken. In order to heal, we must learn when and how trust can be restored. As part of this final step, if we cannot fully trust someone. then we establish guarded, conditional, or selective trust.” Dr. Riki Robbins, Ph.D., The Four Stages of Trust

I have over the years read a book by Dr. Temple Grantin, Animals in Translation. Dr. Grantin’s unique view is that she is autistic and provides insights as she looks at animals differently than we usually do. She can understand and operate on that instinctual level. She still functions in a world of trust and maintains trust. In a family setting, what more so than parents leaving could display trust in a child, let alone destroy trust and then want them to lead everyday lives.

“When a parent is consistent and dependable, the baby develops sense of basic trust. The baby builds this trust when they are cold, wet or hungry, and they can count on others to relieve their pain. The alternative is a sense of mistrust, the feeling that the parent is undependable and may not be there when they are needed.” Eric Erikson, Eric Erikson’s Eight Stages of Life

Sitting in my writing area in our grandkid’s room, I look at pictures of my three sons who are all adults now, it is so easy to say no problem, but that would be lying. Then I clicked to Yahoo News, and as I described the event in Minnesota those years ago, the Red Lake shootings and headlines of this or why a 15-year-old would kill nine people and himself.

“Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing and always come back again to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves.” Black Elk, Oglala Sioux, Holy man

In 1973 or so, I met a young man in Macon, Georgia at that time; he was a year older than me and still is from last I heard from his brother a few weeks back. His tribal name translates to Red Clay; he was an artist. My family has many of his pieces of sculpture, drawings, and paintings. In 1975 or so, he divorced right after his wife miscarried their first baby. Every day that I have known him, he has been drinking. Once, he was the most requested teacher in Bibb County, now retired, he has been an itinerant carpenter and professional feather dancer. Although I have been told he recently retired from dancing and is now a lead drummer in Pow Wow circles. But a comment stuck with me and an image he had painted a miniature acrylic painting that my mother has hanging in her office area. It is of three burial platforms in the prairie. The platform in the foreground is one of a chief or man of importance, the second his wife, and the third a small infant burial platform, his unborn baby from so many years ago. He told me nearly forty years ago he would not live past forty. He is now almost seventy-five as I look back and think of how we respond and set that example for our children.

I started reading Kent Nerburn’s books several years ago. He taught at the Red Lake High School in Minnesota, and you can find his editorial and blog about this event on his website. As I wandered in my thoughts, please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and your hearts and remember always giving thanks namaste. 

My family and friends, I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)

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