It doesn't require a lengthy examination of our world to grasp that something has gone desperately wrong in today's culture. Right is wrong and wrong is right when it comes to everything from morals to common sense. Stress escalates as we feel much akin to one walking through a field with hidden land mines; we don't quite know where the boundaries lay, so we are on edge and agitated.
Take for instance this story of a Georgia boy who was so out-of-control with his behavior that neither his mother, nor his teacher could get him to conduct himself in an appropriate manner. After a visit to his home by his teacher continued to yield no progress with his rudeness and lack of work in the classroom, his mother took drastic measures. She contacted the local police who agreed to do a little "scared straight" number on her son. Not only did they put the 10-year-old in handcuffs, they took him to the car and drove just a few inches, making him believe that he was being arrested for his misbehavior. One of the officers explained to the boy that what he does has consequences and that behavior affects everyone around him. After the little lecture, he was released and returned to his mother, who says that she has no regrets for taking this action of last resort.
I can only look at this thinking, How did we get to a place where children think they can get away with such misbehavior in a classroom or at home? It appears implied to me that this boy has no father or solid male role model in the home. His poor mother may try her best, but single parenthood is not easy, especially when a child is pushing the limits with their conduct.
No report yet on whether or not this has turned the child around.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the spectrum some Philadelphia, NY parents are livid about the police handcuffing and shackling their 5 year old son as a result of his aggressive behavior at school. The boy was engaging in self-harm as well as biting, hitting, and kicking of others. According to the school, non-physical de-escalation techniques were used with the boy for 2 hours before the police were finally brought in. The school asked that the boy be taken to a local hospital for a mental health evaluation.
There are so many things about both of these stories that make my head want to explode. They all come down to the impression that "the inmates are running the asylum." In other words, we adults are not all on the same page, thus, our kids are running roughshod over us. Families are often not intact, and the needed help in child-rearing is often completely absent. Both of these situations SCREAM for parental support, whether it be a parent mentor or simply another family member building bonds that encourage the child to do their best. Parents like us know what a huge toll it can take on us when our children have behavior issues. We need people that will strengthen us as we create solid boundaries, routines, and structures to help manage those behaviors. Of course, it would help to have competent medical staff and educators all working in unison as well.
Regardless, resorting to hauling our kids off in handcuffs is NOT the answer. Perhaps I have a bias because of personal experience, but trauma is a beast best left sleeping. I am not alone in my viewpoint. Many prominent disability organizations have come together against restraint and seclusion in The Stop Hurting Kids campaign. There must be better ways for schools and parents to come together to ensure our children's well-being and success.
~ Barb Dittrich