“Teaching your child to count is easy, but teaching them what counts is invaluable.”Bob Talber
It was just a regular Monday night in my home. My husband and I just finished eating dinner and were discussing the news of the day. I watched as his face expression changed when he read me an article about a group of teens who had committed the unthinkable.
Six young teens sexually assaulted a fellow student and football team-mate in the locker room. I will spare all of you from the details of the event. As I listened to the words fall from my husbands lips, I became furious. I continued to research more and I grew sad. I was simply overwhelmed with every aspect of this case.
This occurred at a private all boys Catholic high school, grades seven to twelve. What makes this entire situation even more upsetting and unbearable is the fact that it was recorded and uploaded for the entire world to see. This makes me physically ill. I am a trained psychotherapist and I am supposed to be able to handle just about anything. I am taking some deep breaths here, but I am furious.
When these types of tragedies take place, everyone has an opinion. Blame will be placed on the school first. Questions will be asked about how this could possibly happen on school property. No, don’t you dare. Schools are meant for educating your child, end of story. They are not meant to babysit this type of behaviour. At no point are they sitting in teachers college being told they may walk into a locker room and face this type of situation, so hey “keep an eye out.” This is not in their job description.
Next, the media will try to blame the Catholic Church. We send our boys to this school because we are raising them in the faith of God. We believed they would be protected by the All Mighty himself. Respectfully, I have to say, don’t lay this in his lap either.
There may even be a stretch and blame may be put on the brotherhood of football. For centuries when teams are formed, new members are hazed. Our school is steeped in tradition and it is the way things have been done for generations. Well, forgive me if I have a hard time believing that your father and his father were held down on a cold bathroom floor with a broom stick placed in their body cavity. For that matter, I highly doubt each one of you on that team were either. Is the video of you screaming for your life now playing in the “cloud?” I didn’t think so.
So, where does that leave us. Where should the blame lay? Are these children old enough to be accountable for their own actions? I can only speak from a psychological stand point here, and that answer is yes. Were they aware that their behaviour was wrong? Yes. Were they aware that their behaviour was harmful? Yes. Were they aware that their behaviour was causing the other individual shame, hurt and embarrassment? Yes. Did these individuals know that what they were doing was against the law? Yes. How do I know this for sure? I know that their brains have developed enough at this age to make these simple comprehensions. I know that we live in a connected world where they are informed more than we give most young adults credit for. I know that our school curriculums educate our children of appropriate sexual behaviours beginning in sixth grade in this province. What this leaves me with is this. Even if they lacked compassion, sympathy or empathy, they had the basic knowledge of right and wrong to know the difference.
For the remainder of this blog I am removing my therapist hat. I am wrapping this up wearing my mom cape. Do I feel any of the blame should be put on the parents shoulders? Yes I do. Please understand that I do not know any of these families and I can only imagine the immense amount of stress and sorrow they are all under. Any of us who have children understand that at any given moment we could be faced with a situation where a child of our own could do something and we are left shaking our head. We are looking at them and thinking I know I raised them better than that. But did we?
That is the question I want to really look at. There is no question that the level of bullying and school yard fights has morphed into something much darker than from years past.Twenty years ago if two people had a problem with each other they settled it with fist to fist and it was done. Now, entire books, blogs, pod casts and support groups have been implemented to ward off cyber bullying. Social media has changed the way scores are settled. People of all ages sit behind screens for days on end, combining forces and making cliques. They attack people individually, peeling away layers of their self esteem, posting private, intimate and sexual videos of them for the world to see. They have their pose follow them as they physically attack people so they can record it and upload these violent fights for everyone to watch.
Our children are purposely drugging unsuspecting kids at parties and then sexually violating them. Did I mention they record that as well and share it with the world in an attempt to humiliate and tease that poor soul.
Our children are holding young boys face down in private Catholic school locker rooms and placing broom sticks in their body cavities. Our children stand around and watch. Our children record it and upload it while they laugh because they think it is funny.
Ask me again if I think parents are to blame for this. Yes I do.
You see, the internet may have changed bullying , but it has also changed the way we parent. It is all one big competition. Splashed all over social media is who’s child counted to ten first and who’s child scored the most goals. Pinterest has us making sure that we baked the most unique cupcakes for our child’s birthday parties and heaven forbid if we don’t nail those family portraits. Our lives are constantly on display. Take a step back and think to when you were growing up. How many sporting events did your parents enroll you in? How many custom birthday cakes did you have? Did you have home ade Halloween costumes every year and family photos in the corn maze for the holiday card? Did you have that mom who hand made Christmas treats for your class?
Mom truth, my own mother wasn’t even aware that I played field hockey in high school. Not once did she bake special Christmas treats for my class or feel like a failure because we didn’t get out that holiday family card with our picture on it. We did not grow up in that generation. She taught me how to tie my shoes and brush my teeth. She made sure that I knew you always say please and thank you. I knew at all times that if I did wrong, I would have to answer to her. The most important thing my mom taught me was compassion and empathy. There were times we had plenty and times we had little, but she is always willing to help others. I never once look back on my childhood and think I missed out. She blessed me with the greatest of gifts, and because of that I am now able to gift them to my children.
In this generation what do our children need. Our children are now use to instant gratification. So they need to realize that also applies to when they make mistakes. They are now able to cause a problem and quickly realize they have zero consequence. This is a recipe for disaster moving forward into their adult life. You are giving them no tools and frankly that is your job. You cannot be parent of the year racing to be the first one in mom group to have little Sally saying “mommy” but give them no coping skills when they leave high school. That is the biggest parenting fail facing us today. These children are entitled and it is terrifying. They sit in my office broken, defeated and wondering what has happened to them. They recount their childhoods with walls filled with trophies, hallways lined with academic awards and no life skills. The perfect childhood all mapped out on social media, kicked out of the nest with no wings.
We need to focus less on what looks good on the outside and more on what is essential on the inside. Do not forget about empathy. Our children need compassion. They need to know that loving one another is fundemental. These are life skills and they need these to get through the rest of life. These skills need to start at the same time as teeth brushing and potty training.
How do we teach them? That is simple, we live them. I learned my most valuable life skills by watching my mother. Be the person you want your children to be. Most importantly, talk to your children. Do not wait for the right age. They are never too young. Be specific and tell them there are people in the world who may want to hurt them or others. Remind them this behaviour is never acceptable and it is okay to be scared, but that they can always talk to you or someone they trust. Be upfront about the consequences they face if they participate in wrong behaviour. Sexual assault or even recording and uploading child pornagraphy holds a jail sentence and they should know this. Our children want, and deserve these honest conversations.
Our world is changing faster than we can even imagine. Do not live in that fear. Embrace it, find the good in it, but always discuss it with your children.
Communication is the key. I want to live in a world with joy, with sympathy and with love. I want that for generations to come.
Much love ❤