Today I received a high honor. It happened as my three-year-old daughter and I were listening to classical music in the car. Ever since we took her to see the Nutcracker she has referred to any type of classical music as "ballerina music", so the music reminded her of her upcoming dance recital. She reminded me that she was going to dance on the stage in a "pretty ballerina dress", and then surprised me by asking, "Daddy, will you dance on the stage with me?"
In addition to being touched and honored, I was reminded of a tape lent to me by one of the elders of my church, Jeff Loveland. On the tape Josh McDowell was speaking at a one-year memorial service for the victims of the Columbine shooting. He gave some fascinating statistics about the relationships of children and their parents that every American should hear.
McDowell commissioned a definitive study of the last 17 school shootings. On the surface, the results were the same as dozens of other similar studies; there seems to be no "profile" of a teenage killer. They come from poor, middle class and rich homes. Some are nerds and geeks; some are the most popular kids in school. They come from a variety of races and religions. Some make good grades; some don’t. Some have been bullied, others are the bullies. McDowell went below the surface, and discovered a common thread that other studies missed or ignored. He found that in every case, the families of the murderers were superficially normal, but were in fact dysfunctional when it came to the relationship of the children with their parents. In particular, the fathers were either absent or minimally involved in parenting.
After making this discovery, McDowell commissioned another study that involved 2,000 children ages 12 to 17, and 1,000 parents. The study revealed that children raised in a SINGLE PARENT home were 30% MORE LIKELY than the national average to be involved in drugs, alcohol, and violence. I can almost hear some of you saying, "That’s no surprise. I’ve always felt that divorce was the major cause of youth violence. I’m glad WE have two parents raising our children." Read on.
Adolescents raised in TWO PARENT families in which the father had a poor to fair relationship with his children were 68% MORE LIKELY than the national average to have problems with drugs, alcohol, and violence! That floored me. Two parents in the home are no defense against the problems we’re discussing, unless the father is close to his children. If he is not, his children are at more than twice the risk of children raised in single parent homes.
The final statistic shows us the answer to school violence, as well as a host of other problems affecting our youth. Teenagers raised in two parent families in which the father had a good to excellent relationship with his children were 96% LESS LIKELY than the national average to become involved with drugs, alcohol, and violence.
These statistics show us that many of the things that we have assumed would protect our children will not do so. You can raise your children in a two parent family in a "good" neighborhood, send them to a "good" school, and even take them to church. But if there is a lack of emotional attachment, if there is no loving bond between the children and their parents, particularly the father, children of every background are at risk. In essence, this study shows that if the boys who killed their fellow students in Colorado had enjoyed a loving relationship with their fathers, Columbine would never have happened.
THE ARTICLE ABOVE DESCRIBES THE LONG-TERM ANSWER TO SCHOOL VIOLENCE. What can we do in the short term? Our schools are full of students who have been raised without the love and guidance of a father. What can we do right now to make schools safer for our children?
ABC had a segment on Good Morning America this week in which a dozen high school students from different parts of the country were asked about school violence. The author of "Jack and Jill, Why They Kill", James Shaw, was also interviewed. He said, "It’s time we got serious about finding a cure, not simply tending to the symptoms." He described two girls ages 12 & 13, who decided to murder another girl. They were caught with a box full of knives and razor blades when another student informed on them. He told about a 15-year-old boy who almost succeeded in blowing up his school. Gun restrictions wouldn’t have stopped these kids. If they can’t find a gun, they’ll use poison or explosives. Shaw feels the problem is that kids don’t value human life. This is the result of taking God out of the schools.
The students who were interviewed said they didn’t feel safe in school. They complained that in some of their schools as many as 90% of the students engaged in some form of violence or drug use on campus. Most felt that school administrators did little other than suspend violators, who were soon back in school committing the same offenses.
Teachers are also afraid. All across the country teachers have been assaulted, raped and murdered by students. I have interviewed high school teachers who illegally carry guns to school because they are afraid of their own students. They can’t enforce discipline because the school boards and courts are so liberal.
What is the answer? There isn’t one answer. For the children, a good starting place might be an anger management course. Parents or teachers who see signs of unusual anger in teens would do well to visit www.angermgmt.org . The New Hope Anger Management program has been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, NBC Extra, Time Magazine, and several radio broadcasts such as Health Journal and National Public Radio. They provide materials and courses to help people of all ages deal with anger.
A good starting place for the schools would be to adopt strict disciplinary policies, and for the school boards to appeal decisions of liberal judges who try to weaken them. Children need a structured environment, and most will respond to fairly administered discipline. For those who don’t, society has provided an alternative structured environment that used to be called reform school. No one wants to remove kids from school, but if the alternative is an environment where children aren’t able to learn because they are constantly afraid, then "one should suffer for the good of many." Especially if the "one" is a child who brings knives and guns to school and threatens others?