Tag Archives: Parenting

Stop Killing Our Kids!

Since the tragic school shooting in Florida, there have been no shortage of theories as to why it took place.  And, as is common in today’s society, there is no shortage of blame.   I have a different theory from most, but it requires some background history.

In the late 80s and early 90s I was very much involved with the military.  For some unknown reason, my fellow officers and I and the NCO’s were continually being contacted about joining the NRA.  For the most part, none of us joined the NRA.  I am not a member today, even though I strongly support the 2nd Amendment.   There was a major controversy taking place at the time about assault weapons in the United States.  All of us in the military were very familiar with the M-16 rifle.  The Vietnam veterans were intimately familiar with the rifle and its characteristics as they utilized the weapon in a combat environment.  The M-16 was adopted by the military in 1964, replacing the heavier M-14.  The rifle utilized a high velocity 5.56 mm cartridge, with a 20 round magazine.  Later, along with other improvements, that capacity was increased to a 30 round magazine.  By taping two  30 round magazines together, 60 rounds were available in a matter of seconds by changing magazines..  With the use of a selector switch, the military version rifle could fired automatic or semi-automatic.

So here we were with the NRA facing off against Congress to determine the future of assault weapons in the United States.  I place part of the blame on the NRA, because they were using the 2nd Amendment (and their political contributions) as a sledge hammer to bludgeon politicians into assuring there would be no restrictions on any weapon.  Let me point out that this is the primary purpose of the NRA; to assure there are no restrictions on any weapon.  In other words….they were doing their job as required by their very extensive paying membership.

But, I also put part of the blame on Congress.  Many of these politicians received significant funds from the NRA in their election and reelection campaigns.  So at a time when common sense could have prevailed, nothing happened.  For instance, there could have been a limit as to the number of rounds for magazine capacity.  I was a hunter, and the largest capacity that any of my hunting rifles or shotguns had was 7.  Where I hunted, if you didn’t hit what you were aiming for in the first three shots, you were pretty much screwed.  Mostly, the third shot was a desperation/frustration shot after having missed with the first two shots.  So could the magazine capacity been limited to 8?  10?  Should assault style weapons have been banned from the beginning before becoming available to the civilian population?

The reason my fellow military compatriots and I did not join the NRA was because we felt that only the police and the military should have that weapon.  Military and police ‘wannabes’ began buying the M-16 and other assault style weapons by the millions, even though they weren’t for hunting and were not very good target weapons.  There have been over 8 million M-16’s produced.  But the real winner of the assault weapon sweepstakes is the Russian AK-47.  Originally designed with a 30 round magazine, later versions allowed for a 40 round magazine and a 75 round drum magazine.  Russia was the initial manufacturer of the weapon, but then China and many of the old Soviet satellite countries began knocking them off.  After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, the gun markets were flooded with some version of the AK-47.  While attending gun shows in the early 90s, a person could purchase some version of the AK-47 with a case of ammunition for $200!  There are over 100 million AK-47s or it’s knockoffs in the world!

Now we fast forward to today and face the tragedy that there have been over 200 school shootings in the United States.  In order to be classified a ‘mass shooting,’ there must be four or more victims.  In the first two hundred years of this countries existence, there were 7 mass shooting school incidences.  (The first occurred in 1764 in Pennsylvania, when a schoolmaster was shot by marauding Indians, and nine students were bludgeoned to death!)  Since July 4, 1976, this country has experienced 17 mass-murder school shootings!  Twelve of these shootings have taken place since 1999, beginning with the infamous Columbine School shooting in Littleton, Colorado.  If we include school shootings with less than four victims, the number of school shootings would increase to 17 since Columbine.

Why the large increase since 1999?

Well, for one thing, let us look at our entertainment since 1999.  For starters, our television and our movies have become more violent, more sexually explicit, and more vulgar.  During my childhood, what use to take imagination now takes little imagination as everything in so explicit.  We did not see the murder, but would see blood on a wall or shadows on a curtain.   Today, many programs are a compendium as to how many ways a victim can be murdered.  The more gruesome, the better.  What happened to comedies?  What happened to shows showing a normal, stable family environment?  What happened to westerns?   What happened to variety shows?  If you don’t remember these shows, ask your grandparents.  They can give you a list.

Video games.  Have you seen some of these?  They are very similar to our TV and movie entertainment, except worse!  You may think they are a cartoon, but these games are nothing like any cartoons during my childhood.  Killing, sex, and vulgarity are the mainstay of many of these video games. (Can’t the Angry Birds become the Happy Birds?)

Our news reporting does not miss an opportunity to sensationalize a tragic event.  I had to stop watching the news for four days because of the Florida school shooting.  There was not a facet of that event that was not discussed at depth….24/7.  Unfortunately, because of this extensive news coverage, what is a tragic event for the sane becomes a pathway to infamy for the disturbed.  (Gee, if I kill a bunch of people, I can be on television!)  And, because of their extensive, in-depth coverage, they almost provide a road map as to how the crime can be done.

What happened to respect?  We don’t respect the police.  We don’t respect our teachers.  We don’t respect the opinion of others.  We don’t respect the rights of others.  It appears to me that the word ‘compromise’ has been removed from the English language and replaced by the word, ‘confrontation.’  I was continually told while growing up that I should ‘respect my elders.’  Now that I am an elder, that is not working out real well for me.  What’s with that?

So how do we stop school shootings in America?  It has been proposed to arm certain teachers.  An ‘in-school’ reaction squad.  Check.  We can provide in-depth background checks for gun purchasers.  Check.  We can raise the minimum age for purchasing a gun.  Check.  We could ask for military and police retirees to volunteer to assist in providing school security.  Check.  Have our legislators enact legislation against high capacity rifles and pistols.  (Pistols are actually the murderer weapon of choice.)  Check.  Increase gun violation punishments.  Check.  There are a myriad of things that can be proposed or enacted.  Many of which I do not agree.  But here is the one thing and one problem no one has ever approached……..

Our world and our society has changed significantly during my lifetime.  The technological advances have been amazing.  The technological advances have impacted every facet of our society:  how we eat, how we travel, our recreation, information resources, our military hardware, health treatment and services…..the list is endless!

But the one thing that has remained constant during this entire tumultuous period?  Parenting.  Our kids are bombarded and are exposed to sensory overload like no other previous generation.  Who is responsible for the movies and television that children are subjected to and watch?  The parents.  Who controls the usage of video games?  Parents.  Who teaches respect for others?  Parents.  Who has the best idea if a child is emotionally or mentally disturbed?  It would be the parent.

I empathize with anyone who has lost a child to violence.  But the fact remains, a gun or rifle did not load itself, jump out of a box, and then deliberately kill.  It requires the human element to pull the trigger and that is where the weakness of our murder prevention system lies.  Most mass school shootings are done by the young.  Blame others if it makes you feel better, blame the guns if it makes you feel better, but until our young are raised by parents that get into every aspect of their children’s lives, you can expect more of the same.  Stop being a friend and begin being a parent.  Its a much more difficult job, but society will get a better result.

Olympic Parenting – Going for the Gold!

Is our nation becoming a medal and trophy society?

During my lifetime, I have had two important graduations.  One was from high school.  The other was from college.  Two important graduations, indeed.  As I watch my grandkids grow up, they have already had a kindergarten graduation, a graduation from elementary school to middle school, and a future graduation from middle school to high school.  That is three graduations before they graduate from high school!

Who are these graduations for?  I admit, it is kind of cute to see my grandkids wearing homemade paper mortar boards, but I also find it amazing that some of these graduations are with rented caps and gowns, just as I wore graduating from high school!

I have recently witnessed my grandkids’ baseball games where strikes and balls were not counted.  Everyone on the team got to bat once in each inning.  (So far, so good.)  What is more interesting is that the score was never kept!  They did not want to have winners or losers, just participants.  (OK.  I will give this one a pass, because it was little kids.)  I have seen a peewee football game where one player refused to go on the field to play.  He began crying and sobbing and made his parents take him home during the game.  His team won that game, which was the championship game.  While his team was celebrating, he was at home.  He got his trophy even though he did not participate.  That’s another thing, kids today ‘earn’ a trophy every season – even if they are on a losing team!

It becomes obvious that the graduations are more for the parents than for the students.  Do you really think a kindergarten student is all excited about his graduation day?  They don’t know how to spell the word graduation, much less embrace the feeling of accomplishment and transition.

What kind of life lesson was learned by the young football player that refused to play, but received his trophy?  What type of life lesson are we teaching our future adults by not keeping score, and not differentiating between winners and losers?

We have inundated our children with medals and trophies for average and sub-standard performance and behavior.  What we are inadvertently teaching them is that accomplishments are easy.  Average and less-than-average performance is acceptable.  Oftentimes this performance will be rewarded.

We are teaching them that showing up isn’t half the battle – it is the battle!  Or, in the case of the football player, not even sticking around is deemed an achievement.

By having all of these intermediate graduations, we take our eyes off the brass ring – graduating from high school.  This should be step one in every person’s educational achievement and the importance of that accomplishment cannot be overstated.  If you were a potential employer interviewing future employees, how would you react if the applicant said, “I graduated from middle school.  Here is a copy of my middle school graduation certificate. ”  Say what?

Any education beyond high school is a silver ring.  That is true for college, vocational school or military.  If you do not believe that learning takes place in the military, just ask a veteran.  My best instructors were not from my Big Ten university, they were in the US Army.  95% of my Army instructors were better than anyone I had at college.  I digress.  The fact is, we need to teach our youngsters to keep their eyes on that silver ring.

We need to have our children experience winning and losing.  If they are involved in an athletic competition and they are not winning, they have choices.  They can seek additional instruction.  They can become more proficient by practicing.  They can choose a different sport.  Oh.  You did not see that last choice coming?  Not all people are proficient at every sport.  Me and golf, for instance.

In educational endeavors,  applying oneself and studying are usually the tickets to success.  Practice makes perfect.

Success is a function of attitude.  We need to cultivate the proper attitude.  In particular, we need to promote a work ethic.  It takes a work ethic to want to practice in sports.  It takes a work ethic to study and excel in academics.  It takes parental expectations and guidance to place the ‘adolescent rocket’ on the right launch pad.

When it came to parental expectations, Big Daddy G was a taskmaster.  I was never, ever told that I was ‘special.’  I was told that I would finish high school and go to college and be the first college graduate in our family.  Period!   I heard this at least once a week for every week I comprehended the English language.  I was never told I was ‘special’ because he made it very clear that once I left his nest, I would be competing for grades, jobs and promotions.  I would become a member of society’s herd!  It would be up to me and me alone to determine if I was an ‘alpha dog’ or a ‘zeta puppy.’

It really is a pet peeve of mine when I hear so many parents telling their children that they are ‘special.’  What they need to say is that their children are ‘special’ to their parents, grandparents, relatives and close friends.  They are viewed as being one of society’s herd once they leave home.  Like it or not, they will need to compete with the rest of the herd.

Protect your children as much as you can, but they do need to learn how to deal with failure.  Not everyone can win every game.  Not everyone can be the class valedictorian.  Everyone cannot be president of a company or governor of a state.  Some will accomplish those things, but most will not.

For all the parental supervision I received, none prepared me for failure.  I had a terrific work ethic when it came to working.  I received most of my grades with minimal effort.  I was involved in everything I wanted to be involved in and excelled at most of them.

Then I hit college in a Big Ten University at the height of the Viet Nam War.  My orientation class was 25 people.  The orientation lasted two days.  At the very end, we were informed that only 10% of the people in our orientation class would graduate from that university.  As I looked around the room I realized that I was looking in the faces of some pretty intelligent people.  Holy crap!  Only 2 1/2 of us would graduate from that university!  Would I be the 1/2?

I had earned and saved enough money for my freshman year.  I graduated from high school in a class of 61 and I was now sitting in an auditorium with 3000 students!  Talk about shock and awe!  Like most freshmen, I procrastinated because I did not have to work (I had enough money) and I played whenever possible.  I found myself perched on the precipice of academic failure and there was one helluva crosswind!  I did not know how to respond to my parents when they asked, “How are things going at college?”  I could not give them a straight answer for fear of disappointing them.

Between my freshmen and sophomore years, still balancing on the precipice of academic failure, I experienced a life changing event.  Want to guess what is was?  Lottery ticket?  Rich girl friend?  Joining the priesthood?  None of those.  I got a part-time job.  Yup.  Now when I was not in class, I was working.  I changed majors to one I liked.  Now I did not have time to screw around!  I hit the books and did my term papers in advance.  I got serious about college in a big time way.  Why?  Because now I was paying for it and by God if I was going to work my butt off I was going to get as much out of that college as I could get.  I even had one 4.0 quarter!  I came off the precipice and got the diploma.  Only the second graduation of my life.  I survived society’s herd and grabbed the silver ring. (When I was not working part-time, I was working full-time.  There were no spring breaks to exotic beaches.  These trips now seem to be the norm for college and high school students.)

Unfortunately, this feeling of ‘I’m special’ has permeated to adulthood.  Need examples?

Ever watch Tiger Woods or Rory McIlroy play golf?  On each and every hole, the golf marshal will announce, ‘No cameras, please.’  But yet, people who must feel they are special, are clicking cameras just as these two great golfers are in the middle of their swings.  A Tiger tirade generally ensues with the censor assuredly being too late with the ‘bleep’ button.

Non-handicapped people that park in handicap parking?  They think they are special.

How many times have we seen celebrities get in trouble with the law only to have them use the phrase, “Do you know who I am?”  They think they are special and above the law.

Federal senator and representative health plans?  They are not on Medicare!  They think they are special and consequently have a golden parachute health care plan while trying to stick the balance of the population with Obamacare and Medicare.  How convenient.

Welfare recipients that have made a living on welfare?  Somehow, they think they are entitled to live off the efforts of the producing population without contributing one iota to society.  They must be ‘special.’

Suffice it to say that this list could go on and on!  There you have it.  We reward people with medals, trophies and in some instance, paychecks for average or substandard performance.  In some instances there is no performance and we reward them anyway.

Shame on us for not preparing our children to the brutal reality of life.  Everyone wants to be Number One, but it is just not possible.  Parents need to prepare children for the ups and downs that they will face in life.  Children (and adults) need to, in the words of  an old Army slogan, ‘Be All You Can Be.’  Once your child has attained their full potential in life, they will be able to grab the gold ring.  The parent deserves the platinum ring.