Are Kids Trying to Tell Us Something?

We must be doing something wrong as a society.

Today a young teen was shot and killed and four others shot and injured by another teen at Chardon High School, a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. The alleged shooter is a young man named T.J. Lane who reportedly went into the high school’s cafeteria a little after 7 a.m. and began shooting. Young Lane was said by newscasters to have had a “lot of resentment.”

Only he knows why he is so unhappy. One student at the high school who knows him said he comes from a broken home, but that he was “quiet and nice.” Then whatever happened? For how long has this young man been unhappy or mad or sad, and nobody noticed?

There seem to be a couple of issues in these types of situations: first, a young person is sad or unhappy and either nobody notices or nobody cares. Depression among young people is high, but very often, teens are ignored and their depression or other serious mental imbalance is regarded as “normal,” if unpleasant, behavior for teens. There still is no clear understanding why Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold shot 13 classmates in the horrendous shooting at Columbine High School in 1999.  Investigators say they had not been bullied, a common reason given for teen violence, but clearly, something was wrong. Those two young men were not happy.

Neither is there much understanding as to why Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people at Virginia Tech in 2007. Apparently the young man showed signs of being disturbed and unhappy, but few took him seriously.

Whatever the reasons for these horrible shootings, a second thing that seems to keep coming up is that young people seem to think that violence is the way to handle their pain. They must be learning that from us older people,  who too frequently resort to violence as well. How many times have we heard that children will do what you do before they will do what you say? It seems fruitless to tell a child or young person not to be violent when they see adults resort to violence all too often.

Not only, however, do the kids direct their violence toward others; too often, they turn the violence on themselves as well.

Something is very wrong.

It seems that people in general are violent, notwithstanding belief in God, a Constitution, or “family values.” America‘s history is peppered with violence, from the time the Pilgrims landed in Massachusetts. Diplomacy and fairness do not seem to be favored or respected ways of handling conflict; violence, on the other hand, has had a prominent role in conflict management from the beginning.

“Drive-by shootings” were commonplace way before now; in pioneer days, gunfights were common and during Prohibition, gangsters made drive-by shootings almost romantic. Elliot Ness and others were romanticized for their conquests taken by and through violence.

The point is that it seems that we have taught our children that the way to handle our pain is by eliminating “the enemy.” How many of the kids who have gone into schools, shooting, or disgruntled employees who have done the same, have voiced discontent with the way they have been treated by others? Violence is often the last resort of people who feel powerless. Ending someone’s life, or seriously hurting them fills that void…or does it really?

I don’t think young Mr. Lane feels all that powerful now. He has destroyed his life and taken the life of at least one other young person. We older people, I think, need to stop and think. Perhaps we are failing as mentors and leaders and advisors for too many young people, who are struggling with problems of self-esteem and self-love, and who are on a path of self-destruction.

I cannot imagine the pain of the parents of the young man who left home this morning for school, only to die a senseless and tragic death. My hope is that we can learn something before something like this happens again. Violence doesn’t bring a sense of power to one who feels powerless.It only brings pain and, too often, a desire for revenge.

Enough, already.

A candid observation.

7 thoughts on “Are Kids Trying to Tell Us Something?

  1. Whether mild depression or schizophrenia, living with a mental illness can be debilitating. It takes a great deal of courage to face life when, through no fault on your own, your brain refuses to act as it was created. Untreated mental illness is deadly. It becomes the responsibility of the parent to seek and demand their childs treatment. Unfortunately, in this case, that never happened. The other piece to the equation is our children are bombarded everyday with violence whether its in their neighborhood, on TV or in a video game.

  2. You are right. And I am sure many, many people are suffering from some sort of mental illness, but nobody wants to talk about it. The price of remaining silent can be deadly, for the one who remains silent and for those with whom he or she is in contact.
    Thank you for sharing.

  3. I think it’s really sad that these students in all these school shootings are choosing violence as the way to act out their inner turmoil. And I’m sure that the parents of TJ Lane are wondering what more they could’ve done to see that their son was heading down this path. I think the unfortunate thing about cases like this is that, although the TJ Lane might’ve mentioned feeling lots of resentment, he probably was not very open about deeper feelings going on inside, and thus, maybe his parents were completely unaware that such inner turmoil existed for him. I do agree that we as adults in general can do a better job at modeling nonviolence for our children, but I think it’s really hard to prevent things like this from happening, because you never know what these kids are feeling, and depending on how much they’re willing to share, you might never know.

  4. Do you think the U.S. is a child-centered country? Do adults put the needs of childen above their own? Do they recognize their responsibility to children, or are they primarily concerned with fulfilling all of their own unmet needs. Which should come first: Us or them? And how can we make sure to fulfill our responsibility to them, since they are not responsible for being here in the first place?

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