What's Wrong With These Kids? The DEEP Gap
Death is second nature in their world. Is it desperation, desensitization, or the destination of the world? ~jj2019
You hear about it every day. Today's youth pain for me was a story about a 24-year-old man that murdered 3 children. All of the girls were under the age of 10. One more day the country is shocked that someone could be so heartless and have such a blatant disregard for life. This happens far too often, and even once is one time too many.
Who are these heartless people? Strangers with psychological problems, relatives with psychological problems, parents...with psychological problems. The common thread with "these people" that society comes to see as monsters is that they have mental issues that they hide or refuse to professionally address, which take over their minds and hearts. The ability to relate to others as a human from another human is gone from their heart and mind. We say they are desensitized. We also know that they are not born that way, but only vaguely wonder at best what happened between birth and the first act of evil. Most often the murder is far from the evil.
As a society, we cannot cultivate negative mindsets and wonder why criminal minds grow. The
further we move away from basic standards of respectful communication, the more we can expect that the reality of humanity will move with it. Evil words, shade, pettiness, and hateful bully-styled dismissal of others feelings have become the norm. Just browse any social media comment section and you will see the language that provides the seeds. Add to the analogy the soil of socialization that separates race, religion, and economic status. Water that will blindness to human needs fueled by our need for wealth, power, and convenience. It's not just the events that end in a senseless physical death. Some children die early in life and live a doomed life until their body is laid to rest. All too often, their living obituary is never read.
Let me give you the highlights. My expertise is that I have lived through many of the things that have killed the spirit of other children. That is NOT a judgment. It is a position of understanding with a coating of gratefulness that I was given the gift of resilience and compassion.
Detachment: Whether physical or emotional, detachment can have a life long effect on the development of a person. One of the most obviously known proofs is the fact that children that have grown up in great adoptive homes often will still seek out their genetic parents. It isn't because of the lack of love or nurturing. It is not an intended reflection on anyone in the life. It is, though, an internal desire to understand their origins. Sometimes, they also seek to understand the reason that the first, most basic, human relationship was not successful. Understanding these things as an adult helps people to better understand themselves. On the side of emotional detachment, a child can spend their whole childhood trying to be good enough to earn their parent or caregivers love. An emotionally detached adult can cultivate a spirit of emotional neediness in a child that can cause them to become people pleasures (at-best) to isolated adults. Can you begin to see what that looks like in adults? Can you mentally envision their social adult behavior? These are often the adults that range in definition from criminals to social outcasts that society carries on one public service cost roll or another. The behaviors are often being acted out far before they reach legal adulthood. So one "what's wrong with these children" is that they were never allowed to develop appropriate attachments as children. Human attachment is the foundation of understanding caring, compassion, and empathy. A few years ago (about 10 now), I learned the correct names of my genetic parent's, courtesy of the Catholic church. I have never laid eyes on my mother to remember her and what I recall of my father is a story more deeply addressed in other blogs and writings. The next set of parents (by adoption) didn't have the emotional maturity to address the depth of emotional support that I needed as a child. In many ways, the academic background to understand the issues that caused my case to go to the foster system would have benefitted us as well. Two fold, where I needed what all children need, their parents, obviously fell away. The nurturing that is often picked up during the adoption process never happened. The downside effect was that I formed an extreme comfort with being solo in life and distrust of key relationships. That empty hole was eventually filled with acts of love, concern, and faithful relationships that helped me want to heal. I'm blessed in that way. And even that took years that so many relationships suffer. To this day, I am still extremely cautious when forming relationships. If those holes had been filled with reinforced pain, anger, and broken promises, the outcome would have easily been a total detachment. When a person's life isn't valued during the development years, they may not ever gain self-value and especially not a value of other's lives. My life mission, based in part on this understanding, is to invest in the value of young lives so they never actualize detachment.
Education: Have you ever looked into the eyes of a small child that has accepted failure for life? I saw it first hand at Club-KLA, the pilot site for Positive FACE. His sweet face still gives me nightmares that motivate me to move forward. I can literally still hear his voice say, "I'm not smart Ms. Gina. I can't learn. I'm dumb". This amazing child was in the first grade. Based on other events, his biggest expectations of me were to yell at him or "hit" when he messed up. My expectations of him were that he would believe in himself and excel. The staffing for the pilot was limited. But we were able to get the rest of the club engaged in an activity long enough to work together one-on-one a few times. The light in his eyes when he got the answers right his homework was contagious. Another member would occasionally spirit through and jokingly answer a question and our young warrior would get so irritated because he wanted to work out the answers - indepently. What I learned more intimately that day is what good educators have known for ever. All children want to learn. My interactions with adults in the workplace has told me that people want to be in the know. Intelligence is everyone's desire. When it isn't supported and seems impossible to attain, you then witness bullies sprout up, looking to dissuade others from what they believe that can't have. Poor education expectations and opportunities actually destroy us as a country. Our strength intellectually is only as sound as our least informed citizen. So we need to embrace the fact that education is a necessary investment, rather than a project or benefit. It needs to be tailored for effectiveness is each community, knowing that there are multiple factors that will effect ability and willingness to learn.
Encouragement: The voice you use when speaking to a child becomes their self profession in life. The child that "ain't no good" becomes the adult that is up to no good. They demonstrate that they have long ago accepted their limits in life. They have been told by parents, relatives, teachers, and more that they are less than capable. They hate it. It hurts. But in time, they believe it. Then, they hate themselves. Because hurt people will hurt others to gain power, they lose empathy and will find ways to destroy happiness around them. Without fail, you will find that the lives of gang members and the incarcerated have been darkened by a lack of positive encouragement. Likewise, when the encouragement comes from negative forces, they gain the courage to pull that trigger, robbery, or sell the drugs. Encouragement is powerful. While it is generally seen as a positive, encouragement is about support and confidence. If a negative force is providing the support and confidence that a person needs to a reasonable life. Encouragement is motivational and establishes approval. That is what "likes" and social media provide, which has created a whole generation of people doing extreme things for likes - approval - encouragement. When we fail to give the right encouragement during the childhood years, it is impossible to expect people to suddenly be self-encouraged without intensify intervention. When we see the child that is always angry or starting trouble, chances are that they receive very little, if any, positive encouragement at home. The "change the world" challenge, look for what they do well and highlight that. Give them responsibility and brag on them. You may be surprised at how their approach to life will change.
Protection: Protection is one of our basic human needs. A fail here sets a person up for failure in life. There are many elements of protection:
Environmental: There is a need for a safe and happy home. People need to have a place to belong and feel they have sanctuary from the elements (weather) and outside risks.
Physical: There is a need for protection from body harm. Meaning no physical or sexual abuse - whether it is witnessed or experienced. Both is damaging to protection.
Mental/Emotional: Sound mental and emotional health is critical to a feeling of protection. Bullies inside and outside of the home are direct, and potentially lethal, threats to this type of protection.
We have to consider what protections a child has need of, and take the steps necessary to provide it. With basic needs being met, a child's confidence is boosted and their abilities are strengthened. A more sound foundation reduces the chances that a damaged child becomes a broken adult. In the words of Fredrick Douglass, "It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men".
How DEEP is your love? If you are able to understand the effects of detachment, substandard education and encouragement, and a failed protection system, you are able to understand what is wrong with our children. Those that are in foster care and have at-risk home lives are more exposed to DEEP ignorance. DEEP ignorance is the failure to acknowledge that detachment, poor education, lack of encouragement, and weak physical, mental, and emotional protection can significantly damage the life of our children. This causes them to miss out on the core ingredients of forming a productive and happy life. It doesn't have to be their destiny. It definitely wasn't mine. But I also have to acknowledge that it is my destiny, with the assistance of ordained professionals, to be a Moses of this cause for some of the youth that had to misfortune of being born into DEEP ignorance. They deserve to learn that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
To date, there have been some awesome wins for Positive FACE including the professional and the results of our pilot semester. I look forward to working with education, mental health, and a variety of other professionals willing to light the way for other survivors, soon enough in their life to truly make a difference. And when a news story makes you think, 'What's wrong with these children?', take a moment and try to inventory their history, home life, and habits. Chances are, the root causes created by American socialization, abuse (physical, mental, and/or emotional), neglect, or substances may have never been properly addressed.