Toward a Kinder Generation
By hilda mitchell
Special to The Pilot
“Guns don’t kill people,” the NRA says; “people kill people.” Guns may be handy, TV and video games may provide an incentive, and the lack of a good mental health program allows crazy people to go unnoticed until it is too late.
But addressing only those issues will not solve the problem of a nation with too many angry and violent people. The USA houses more criminals than the top 35 European countries combined.
We are a nation of laws, and enacting those laws is the business of our elected officials. Our business is to look around us to see how we may have contributed to the presence of so many angry people in this nation.
Let’s sweep around our own back door. Parenting may be the toughest job we face in life, and we aren’t prepared for it. Often, our only source of information is recalling the techniques that were used on us as children. People from abusive homes are likely to abuse their own children. Prisons are full of those who were abused or neglected. This is passed on from generation to generation.
My daughter and I have taught child development to high school students, and we agree that the real need is to educate their parents. No matter what is learned in school, we parents will resort to repeating the behavior of our parents.
Recently, while sitting in a FirstHealth waiting room, I witnessed a parent, or grandparent, with a child who looked to be 5 or 6 years old. She suddenly started wildly beating the child and jerking him around by his little arms. I rose to say, “Stop beating that child!” She ignored me. I said it again, and she told me to mind my own business.
A man near me rose to tell her that she was making it our business by beating her child in our presence. He tried to explain to her that there were better methods, and I tried to explain how harmful it is to jerk a child by the arms. She told us again to mind our own business.
It was significant to me that the child was not crying. It meant that he was used to this sort of treatment. When he is grown and a parent, this little boy is likely to use the same techniques on his children that were used on him. How can this cycle be broken?
Parents need to know how a child develops from conception onward. If the above violent parent had known the stages of development, she wouldn’t have expected logical thinking from a child under the age of 9 or 10. Piaget showed this with a simple demonstration using children from 5 through 10. Had she known this, the mother would have come prepared with crayons and paper or a story to read.
When I taught child development in the 1970s, the school system forgot to fund my program. No pots or pans to teach foods, and no textbooks for child development. The superintendent told me to start my program at the age of 3 — not to begin at conception, as I wanted, because the parents would say it was sex education. Well, I had them over the barrel because they were asking me to teach without textbooks or funds. When I insisted on starting with conception, the superintendent and principal said, “Just don’t tell me what you’re doing.”
Later in the school year, I was able to get some help from the football slush fund, created from the sale of sodas at the games. I had refused to allow them to store Cokes in my empty closet. They said I could have some of their uniform money if I would let them use that closet. When the year was almost over, I had funds to get textbooks.
I tell you this to let you know that teachers often have to use their own resources in order to give the students their best.
I see a ray of hope in Michelle Obama because of her dedication to family. If that can just be harnessed into educating parents, I think along with proper gun laws and video game oversight, and a better mental health program, we might start a kinder, more positive generation.
Hilda Mitchell lives in Pinebluff.
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