Tag Archives: aggressive behavior

Is Helicopter Parenting Causing School Shootings?

angry kidLet me start by saying that we clearly have a gun problem in our society.  But running with the knee-jerk reaction of banning them and protecting people is only a Band-Aid solution.  It’s what got us here in the first place.

Has anyone else noticed that mass school shootings started with the Millennials?  No, I’m not saying that Millennials are the problem.  It’s the adults who raised them.  That’s all of us—parents, teachers, lawmakers, and so on.  We’re the ones who disempowered a whole generation of children and we’re continuing to disempower the next generation too.  The Z Generation are the victims of the Florida shooting and the shooting every three days since the year started.

Give a Man a Fish, and You Feed Him for a Day. Teach a Man to Fish, and You Feed Him for a Lifetime.  –Chinese Proverb

We live in a dangerous world with lots of dangerous things.  Shielding kids from the dangers of the world only makes them at higher risk of being hurt by them.  Eventually, they will venture—or sneak—out on their own when you’re not there to protect them and they are more likely to get hurt if they don’t know what they’re doing.  Teaching kids how to protect themselves from danger and why it is important to their well-being allows them to develop judgment which will serve them throughout life.

Sticks and stones may break my bones

But names will never harm me.  –Nursery Rhyme

By protecting and mandating good behavior we’ve set up a situation where there is no tolerance for imperfection.  Kids at school have to sit still, get good grades, and be nice to each other at all times.  Even though competition is fierce, children have to be inclusive and never express a negative sentiment.  Teachers too.  If you slip up even once, you’re out.

Think about the pressure this creates.  Imagine a steam engine with no vents.  If you keep adding pressure with no outlets, eventually you’ll have an explosion.  People are the same way.  Research shows that bottling up emotions can make people more aggressive and that diffusing them may help avoid lethal violence.

Kids need to be able to express their anger and aggression.  They need to be able to fight, to call each other names, to yell at each other, and to cry, feel pain, and get back up again.  This is how they develop a healthy constitution.  Prohibiting kids from feeling any pain and expressing all aggression is what’s leading to unhealthy eruptions.  Boys shoot and kill others.  Girls cut and kill themselves.  Both of these problems are at an all-time high.

Kids are remarkably resilient if we let them be.  When we shield them and protect them and do things for them we are creating little monsters.  Look at Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory for classic examples of kids gone awry from misdirected parents.

What our country needs right now is less control and more empowerment.  We don’t need to ban free speech and guns.  We need to teach people how and when to use them appropriately.  Stop helicoptering and start empowering.

Like It or Not, Trump Is Your Kids’ Role Model

young-male-face-2-1428084-639x514An eighth grade girl had a concussion and dropped her books at school.  An eighth grade boy walked by her and laughed at her in front of his friends.  Did any of them stop to help her?  No.

As parents, we’re mortified to know our sons and daughters are going to school with people like this.  Yet, we turn on the TV and see Trump mocking Clinton for stumbling when she’s ill.

How are we supposed to instill the value of treating people with dignity into our children when they see high profile leaders behaving like bad kindergartners?

Role Models

Indeed, “the Trump effect” has been identified as a cause of bad behavior at school, but mean behavior is much more pervasive than that.  Reality TV is the archetypal example of mean behavior in the popular media, with Trump as one of the meanest television hosts. But the contestants themselves are goaded on to be mean too.

Even seemingly benign kids’ shows on the Disney Channel turn mean behavior into fodder for sitcoms.  Jessie is one of the worst I’ve ever seen, presenting comedy in the form of a 12-year-old rich girl belittling her nanny for wearing inexpensive clothes.

Albert Bandura’s famous 1960s Bobo doll experiment illustrated how children learn aggressive behavior by observing adults behaving aggressively.  In the experiment, children tended to imitate an adult who was praised for beating up an inflatable Bobo doll.

Whether fiction or reality, on TV or at home, kids pick up aggressive behavior from the adults they see modeling it.  Therefore, it’s up to us, as adults, to model respect and dignity if we want children to learn it.  We cannot rely on schools to teach it to them; we must show it to them.

This means we have to check our own behavior.  What are we saying?  How are we treating others?  What are we watching and laughing at?  Are we calling others on it when they disrespect someone?


Donna Hicks wrote the book on dignity, with that very name.  She defines “dignity” as “our inherent value and worth as human beings; everyone is born with it.”  She contrasts dignity with respect, saying respect is earned through one’s actions.  In other words, people don’t have to earn dignity; it’s inherent in being human.

“The desire for dignity is universal and powerful. It is a motivating force behind all human interaction—in families, in communities, in the business world, and in relationships at the international level. When dignity is violated, the response is likely to involve aggression, even violence, hatred, and vengeance.” –Donna Hicks, Ph.D.

It doesn’t have to be an “us vs. them” world out there.  If we honor that inherent desire for dignity as we interact with people, we will likely get it back.  Even if we don’t, we’ll be teaching the next generation of leaders how to treat others with dignity for the future safety of our world.  If we don’t start, bad things are likely to happen.