Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Crimerant has been eating my responses to comments on the post I made yesterday, and now I'm several comments behind. I'm going to post my reply here, below. Maybe someone well be able to comment there and post a link so that they don't think I'm ignoring them.

First, it's somewhat ironic that today there's discussion about the sentencing of another juvenile hinging on how much of a factor her childhood misfortunes will be when she's sentenced for her part in the planned kidnapping, sexual assault and murder of a 13-year-old girl. Another Canadian case, by the way.

Some of what we've been talking about at Crimerant speaks to the issue. At what point has a person squandered their first chance? What kind of punishment is going to act as a real deterrent? You'll probably need to read the comment thread for this to make sense.

My Crimerant comment mini-rant... No easy answers for the problems in our society.

I tried a few more times to get on and comment yesterday, but the internet goblins must have been hungry...

Now I'll try to remember it all, catch up on the new comments, and not make this a mile long.

Terri and Fiz, one can only hope that the law will continue to change and that in the future, the Lori Drews of the world will be held accountable.

I wonder if this is the flip side of the coin PJ tossed earlier: would the response have been different if Lori Drew had been a teenager instead of an adult? Perhaps then action would have been taken, as it was in the case of Dawn-Marie Wesley (although I should point out that's a Canadian case).

Is it just me, or does anyone else find it scarier? Teens assaulting adults... To me, that shows fearlessness, absolutely no barrier to their behaviour. It used to be that the presence of an adult was a restraint, holding teens back from their wilder impulses. Not anymore.

The thought of adults bullying teenagers is sickening, and also far more disturbing to me. Any adult bullying kids needs serious help.

Chris, thank you.

KimPossible, sorry to hear you went through that as well. I was born in '71, so you're right, we weren't so far apart. Melissa said "that age just sucks." It does! I've told my niece that I didn't enjoy high school much, and she was surprised because everyone says how great it is. I told her some of what happened to me in high school (she's 13) in part because I think society hypes up the high school experience, and then when it isn't completely wonderful, it's harder on kids. Was I the only person who thought, "And these are the best years of my life?" Thankfully, they weren't, but I wonder how much that kind of thinking factors in when teens with depression commit suicide.

TxMichelle, it sounds like you've also drawn from your own experience to talk to your kids. As I'm now moving into stepmom terrain, I'm more nervous than ever about all the school issues.

Compassrose raises the question of whether or not juvie will help, or if the anger will just simmer. This ties to Terri's comment yesterday, about what's driving the anger in our society, and goes on to what Melissa's talking about, about the YouTube beating case and appropriate punishment.

I heard a theory the other day, that part of what's contributing to the aggression in our society is our lack of physical activity. It used to be we worked in the fields, we scrubbed our clothes by hand, etc. The more modern conveniences we get, the less active we are. The person speculated that all that pent up energy is surfacing through rage.

I'm still processing that theory, but I do find it interesting that despite washing machines and dishwashers, we have less time than ever. All these modern conveniences were supposed to make our lives better, more enjoyable. Yet we're living on fast food, eating on the way to work. We have road rage. Many parents do less with their kids instead of more. Speaking generally, we have no sense of family and no sense of community.

Four years ago, I moved out to a small village, in commuting distance to the city. We thought it would be a positive place to live. People have told us to leave, we don't belong. The 45% of the population here that commutes is resented by locals. I'm glad I'm leaving.

I wrote a feature for my publisher's website
about the first few pages in my new book. They were inspired by a true story. My mother and I were talking about how back then, people were more trusting. Today, I'd be nervous about picking up a child, even to take them to a police station. It used to be parents told kids if they went lost to go to an adult. Then it became woman. Now, it's 'preferably a woman with children'.

I'm not willing to pin it all on lack of physical activity, but I think that's one spoke in the wheel. It's chemicals in our foods instead of nutrients. It's the fact that kids can't run and play freely like they used to. I grew up with woods behind my house, no fence around our yard, and we used to build forts in the woods for hours. Now, you can't let your kids out of your sight.

We have lawsuits over the most ridiculous things, so some schools have stopped doing field trips. And back to those busy parents who're eating breakfast in the minivan in the morning... How much quality time do kids get with their parents?

All of these things - and more - are contributing to the problems. I'm a huge fan of the tv show THE WIRE, and if you watch it - particularly season 4 - you get a lot of insight into how kids end up on the streets and angry.

I've heard it said that if kids have just one adult they feel comfortable talking to, it reduces the chances of them committing suicide significantly. If that's the case, then imagine all the other positive benefits. Being loved, feeling a sense of security... these things need to come from home in order to give kids the anchor they need in their teen years.

Sadly, we can talk about the potential contributing factors all day, and it isn't going to change anything. We do need tougher sentences for youth. In behavioural psychology we covered all the different theories, but the one that stuck as the best approach was logical consequences. In my limited experience from working with kids, what I see is that most are moving between two houses, and there's little communication between those environments. Punishments don't carry over. Mom grounds Junior and says he can't play the X-Box. Junior goes to Dad's the next night, and he wants to have fun during his two days, not fight, so he lets Junior stay up until midnight, watch South Park, play the Wii and do pretty much whatever else he wants. Too many kids aren't being parented.

Increasingly, teachers are powerless to deal with discipline issues as well. The burden is now falling to the courts, and it's happening too late to be as effective as it could be. When I was in public school, you got sent to the principal's office, you got lines, you got detention, you missed recess, and for most of us that was a deterrent. Now, it doesn't seem like schools can do anything. I know that I've banned kids from field trips because of bad behaviour, and had to fight over it.

As a child, if I broke a friend's toy, I had to pay from my allowance to replace it. I learned to respect others and their belongings. Again, generally speaking, kids don't seem to be learning those lessons now, and we're left with putting the greater good ahead of the individual. The only other thing I can see giving a delinquent is community service, but in the case of Nakita McDaniels, I wouldn't trust her to be in the community unsupervised. She forfeited that right, and I'm glad the judge locked her up.

What these kids really need when they're locked up is therapy and a process that helps them reconnect to society. Unfortunately, I'm not sure the resources are in place for that everywhere.

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