Eleven days before Christmas and some disturbed young man takes out his anger and frustration on the innocent. It makes you wonder what the hell is wrong with this world. Well, I have a few ideas…including the idea that too few parents pay attention to their children anymore. They schedule their kids’ lives to the nth degree with activities that do little more than keep the kids busy. No child needs soccer, piano lessons, language lessons, private tutoring, volleyball, softball, art classes, play dates, and 43 other things going on every week. What they need is time with family. They need to know they matter; that money isn’t everything; that they are more than their last report card or sports trophy. They don’t need to live in a McMansion; they need to live in a home with parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, or others who love them and interact with them on a personal level.
Instead of 19 kids and counting, how about 1 or 2 kids who count? Pay attention to your kids. Give them your time and attention. If they’re toddlers, it’s a great time to start. If they’re older than that…it’s not too late! Understand that these people you’ve brought into the world are important and have feelings…actually listen when they speak and quit trying to shush them all the time. If they learn they can’t talk to you about the unimportant things, they will never ever come to you about the big important stuff.
Quit chasing the almighty dollar, folks, and chase a stronger family. All the money in the world cannot replace the love and attention of an actively engaged parent/child relationship.
Our children are not little adults. They need time to play and time to grow. They need to learn that not everything they do is “special”. They need to learn to make mistakes and learn from them. They need a few scrapes and bruises to learn from those, too. They need to understand the value of chores, the value of play, and the value of…well, being valued. Show them you care, but don’t condescend and make them believe they are without flaws. They need to understand that they are lovable even if they mess up and they need to accept responsibility when they do. They need to know there are consequences for their bad behavior and rewards for good behavior. Boundaries are good things — it gives children room to explore within safe parameters. It also helps, in conjunction with everything else, kids learn that stepping outside the boundaries isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but that they should do so with the understanding of what may happen when they do so.
How many times do we hear from the families of those who commit such atrocities that they knew their child was unhappy or that something wasn’t right (or worse, they didn’t notice anything wrong) and yet nothing was done to help the kid? In the instances where they didn’t notice anything wrong, why not? What else was so important in their lives that they didn’t see their child was troubled?
Spending time with your kids and being truly engaged in their lives are the greatest gifts you can give them. They don’t need a brand new car on their 16th birthday. They don’t need 500 channels on the TV. They don’t need designer clothes. They don’t need a week packed with busy work. They need your time, your love, and your attention. They need to know they’re more important than vacations and parties and “things”.
A little more patience and time and we’ll see fewer tragedies like the one today.
That’s the end of my rant. I’m going back to praying for the families who lost loved ones today. I’m praying the community, especially the children, can begin to heal. I pray we never have to hear another story like this one.