Tuesday, April 07, 2009

There are ALWAYS signs

A tragedy occurred last weekend in Pittsburgh. A woman placed a 911 called asking for help with her 22 year-old son. He came home drunk again and his dog left a mess on the floor. She'd had it and wanted him out of the house. Police arrived. They entered the house and two were shot in the head. A third was shot as he came to their rescue.

All three police officers died. Two others were injured. So, so, sad....

According to the first report from a high school acquaintance this was a nice, quiet, smart kid. Soon the public learned he was kicked out of high school and later enlisted in the Marines. He lasted a few months and was thrown out when he got mad and hurled food at his Sargent.

Back at home he began to stock pile weapons and post messages on hate websites. His looks changed drastically as he posted pictures of himself...head shaved, tattoos representing all sorts of evil things. There are many more pieces to this puzzle unfolding as the sad week strains on.

There are always signs. This didn't happen over night. There are always signs.

As a high school teacher I see kids who struggle to fit in all the time. They come in many shapes and sizes....the signs and the kids.

The signs are there in middle school and even elementary school.

I'll bet you think I know the signs.....and I'm going to list them here. Well, no. If I knew the signs, so would the Columbine teachers.

What I feel compelled to write about is what I've observed and learned about what works with [some] kids.

1. Kindness Sadly some kids rarely hear a kind word, or a compliment, a real genuine compliment. It doesn't have to be elaborate or fancy. Good job ... You look nice today ... You did that? Wow! ...I think.

2. Consistency Kids need some consistency. Some of the same things will happen everyday. Someone will be home everyday after school. There will be a dinner of some kind every night. There will be an alarm every morning to get up to and go to school. Stuff like that. Not knowing make kids nervous. ...I think.

3. Consequences Kids need to know there will be appropriate consequences for their actions. And when the consequences are over....case closed, a new day. If you smack your little brother after we told you not to, you will be in time out. When time out is over you will sincerely apologize, hug and then go play. If you come in at 12:30 and your curfew is 12, (and I've been sitting here for half an hour waiting for you) you will not go out for two weekends. ...I think.

4. Listen I'm big on being a good listener. It's so easy and so many adults don't it. Just shut your mouth and listen. Then watch what happens. Silence (and eye contact) speaks volumes. It says, I care about you and what you are saying. I do not have to comment on every little thing. I don't have to hear my own voice. Look them in the eye when they start to tell you something. Don't rush them. Just look at them with your best, I'm listening look. Add when necessary...And then what happened? ... or... really? ...so they know you are listening. I found if they ask me what they should do, or for advice, I say, "hmmmmm" and wait a second or two....because they already know the answer. If this starts in elementary school it creates a safe secure place for kids to go and share at home. ... I think.

5. And...Snoop. Yep, I said snoop. I know, I know, respect their privacy. But until they are 18 they are your responsibility. You are responsible for turning out a decent human being. How are you ever going to know what they're up to if you don't fold the laundry and put it away in their drawers? Or, suddenly lose your favorite shoes and wander into their room looking for them. Or have a question about tomorrow's lunch menu, etc. ... I think.

BUT, if you snoop you have to be ready to deal with what you find. If say, you find a note to your kid from another kid saying another kid doesn't like your kid, put it back. Or, if you find a drawer filled with Hershey Bar wrappers, leave them alone. There are many things much worse than these that still fall between the normal bars on the, Is My Kid Normal, chart. Be careful to freak out about the right things.

Starting early in elementary school become aware of what kids are/should be into. Know their friends and their friends parents. Make sure those parents' values and rules are similar to yours. Invite their friends over after school. Ask them to stay for dinner on occasion.

Finally, if you find drugs, drug paraphernalia, suspicious magazines, or weapons of any kind do not walk away respecting privacy. Do not! Privacy goes out the window. Tell your kid you love him/her with all your heart as you pull out the incriminating material and listen a bit, then start talking. It's your house, your rules, and your love.....above all your love, which is never, never negotiable. It's always there.
So, child of mine, here's what's going to happen...

Oh and while I'm on my high horse, pleeeeeeeeeese don't be the "cool" parent who lets the kids drink at your house because you've taken all the car keys and will let them sleep it off in your basement/family room. First of all, it's I.L.L.E.G.A.L. to serve alcohol to minors EVEN IF IT'S IN YOUR OWN HOUSE. AH-HUH! You could (and should) be arrested. And second, those pre-pubescent, pubescent, post-pubescent bodies cannot handle the alcohol the way you can. They could die or suffer irreversible brain damage after five or six beers. (I saw that on ER last week and I also happen to know it's true.)

I have no idea what happened in the childhood of the young man who shot the Pittsburgh Police officers. He is so young to be so angry. It just made me wonder.

I'm not an expert and I know many wonderful parents who have done all the stuff I've mentioned here and more and still have problems with their kids. Who knows....this is just me and my thoughts from what I've seen as a teacher.

1 comment:

Dave said...

Thank goodness my parents never said anything about my candy wrappers..... I would have been in big, big trouble.... :)

What wonderful insight from a fabulous educator and mother. I wish all parents and teachers assumed your approach - that parents and teachers share in the responsibility for the successful upbringing of a child. Think about all of the trajedies that might have been avoided.