AN END TO VIOLENCE

by Karen Fenton M.S.

Incidents of children and adults taking their rage out on innocent citizens like what happened in Tucson or what happens in school rampages, is an indication that our society is very broken. Attributing rampage killings of innocent people to a case of a mentally unstable person or a nut case is only name calling and not very meaningful. Instead we, as a society, need to become aware of the potential danger of unexpressed emotional pain in our children as they grow up. I am convinced that the painful and repressed feelings of killers during their growing up years, is what is responsible for most of the violence in our culture towards others or towards themselves. Abused, neglected or isolated children have no place to go outside of their home to express the resulting emotional pain they feel like we adults, who have all kinds of groups to go to and express our feelings of frustration or anger. We know that keeping these feelings inside is unhealthy.

Without a healthy release of pent up anger it can stay locked inside for years, building and piling upon itself, often turning to rage and fury, getting stronger and more forceful, pushing into our subconscious where it may not be remembered. However, these repressed feelings can gush out suddenly in full force in the form of rage or fury at some point in life either aimed inwardly in suicide, cutting, eating disorders, diseases, addictions or outwardly in animal killing, rape, domestic violence or murder like the rampage (rage) in Tucson by Jerad Loughner. Either way, repressed angry feelings are extremely destructive when left unexpressed so we need to find a way to prevent the inevitable internal buildup.

I think most of us donít even like to discuss these kinds of emotions out loud let alone in public, but we need to begin to discuss them for our own survival. It is up to us as a society to come up with a way that will allow our children an opportunity to express their pent up feelings, on a daily basis if necessary. How can we do that? By providing each child with a caring adult that has the patience to listen and really hear what the child is going through. Ideally we would want parents to fill this significant need but is obvious millions of them just canít. We donít necessarily have to fix their problems unless we want to. It is the patient, attentive listening to a child that will allow them expression of their feelings instead of holding them all in only to explode later. I know there is a belief in some that stuffing feelings, not talking about them and going on with life is the way to live, especially for boys, but it seems obvious that isnít working in our society. I have an all inclusive plan that would solve the problem of children having nowhere to go and no one to talk with about the excruciating pain they suffer at the hands of family members or kids at school.

First of all prevention of violence has to begin with the children, and most importantly, during the early stages of frustration or anger before it escalates and is acted upon in unhealthy ways. We need to provide a trained listener person for every child every day, in groups and individually. You may say that it is impossible to provide listeners for every child but I am certain there are millions of high schoolers and senior citizens across this country that would be willing to volunteer to be trained to be patient listeners for our children. If we donít connect with our children on an emotional level, and we continue to deny them their right to feel heard and therefore respected, we will be denying ourselves of a healthy society.

The best place for us to provide these listeners is in our public schools and daycare centers where children gather every day for all their growing up years, instead of continually wanting it to happen in homes with millions of ill-equipped parents that have already shown that they cannot make it happen. We have to redesign our schools by ďmarryingĒ educators with social workers and psychologists, together under one roof in our day care centers and schools which would free teachers to do what they do bestÖTEACH. The emotional needs of students would then be addressed by those most qualified.

We can implement a plan that will allow for every school and day care center across the United States to provide trained volunteer and professional listeners who will listen to the children on a daily basis. We must stop pretending that parents or caretakers can do the job. They havenít been able to so far and in many cases parents or family members are often inadvertently responsible for their childrenís anger. In the case of GLBTQ children who are being bullied daily or committing suicide, they frequently cannot confide in their parents. Alice Miller, a famous psychologist once said that even a badly abused child can turn out to be a happy, productive citizen if they have that one person in their lives that allows them the feeling of being heard. If you ask a teenager, that has had a mentor, what was it that made the difference in their life; they will say they felt heard.

With a listening program in place thousands of social workers will be able to go to work and listen to the children instead of being overburdened with caseloads of families, yanking children out of homes, away from parents who didnít know how to listen to them. Thousands of psychologists can work in public schools and day care centers every day listening and mentoring the children instead of working with the damaged psyche of adults who were never listened to when they were children. Teachers can then focus on teaching!

I am certain that if we implement such a program in our schools we will see violence decline both in and outside our schools. In addition I believe childrenís anxiety would be reduced and test scores would rise. The unprecedented amount of federal, state and local monies, now being spent for a criminal justice system that simply doesn't work, can be redirected toward covering the cost of an education system that also includes emotional development, "with no child left behind" in either their educational or emotional development.

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Last updated January 2011