On March 13, 2014 Dallas police reported that two suspects were arrested for the alleged aggravated sexual assault of a hearing-impaired child where the assault was set up via texts. According to the arrest warrant of 20 year-old Lucas Martin, the assault occurred on March 11th in a garage.
At the bus stop today as I was leaving the Metro after my daily jaunt I shared the waiting area with a young woman and her son. She could not have been any older than 20 or 21 years-old. Her son was around 5 or 6 years-old.
This young fellow could have been a poster child for ADHD (or ADD in the US) he could not stand still. Moving jerkily and quickly, he would zoom from one spot to the next and then return to Mum to address her rudely and aggressively. At one point he picked up some shards of glass and put them in his pocket. Mum reacted (very slowly) and after telling him repeatedly (at least six times, I counted) she finally approached him and forced him to empty his pockets. Which he initially refused to do; Mum then started a new game of wills by repeatedly telling him to empty his pockets.
All during this four-minute wait for the bus, the young woman threatened “We’ll go back home, if I have to tell you off one more time.” She continually raised her voice to just below a shout. The only time her son actually appeared to listen to her was when she dropped the F-bomb. The emergence of this word caused him to return to Mum, sit down and be still; for roughly half a second.
I kept my distance and did my best to ignore this display and kept fervently hoping that the bus would arrive early.
I was a juvenile prison officer for about ten years. I have seen older children at their absolute worst. I have seen parents that apparently share the same parenting skills as the young lady at the bus stop. Whenever I see a situation like this, I used to think the same thing every time; I’ll be seeing you in about ten years little man. Juvenile prisons are full of young men who have “suffered” from poor parenting skills by their guardians. I hasten to add that not all of the older children suffer this fate, but a large amount of them do.
I have had training in Child Protection which includes the psychology of children. I am also a parent.
The episode at the bus stop was not unusual. More and more you see ever younger parents not dealing with their children’s behaviour. It is not a “one-off” it is becoming a trend; a trait of our society that got its start in the 1970’s when younger parents did not want to discipline their children because “if I punish them they won’t like me anymore.”
It has obviously trickled down through the generations until it has become the commonplace rule of parenting. I’ve got news for you folks, your children don’t have to like you, respect and love you yes, but not like you. Not during the “learning years” at any rate, that will come later if it comes at all.
Children need boundaries. They need rules and they need direction; and in that dichotomous nature of parenting, they also need the freedom to develop personality, imagination and opinion. Sure it’s confusing, parenting is. There is no “See Spot Run” type book on parenting, usually we learn from our parents. And as I’ve already stated, this trend of passive parenting began in the 1970’s. So one of the types of modern parents can be classed as the “passive” parent; someone who will not directly influence their child.
Now I will go on record here and say that I am not a firm believer in “Spare the rod, spoil the child.” I do not advocate beating your children. Don’t worry, we’ve all been there, you’re so angry that you are one step away from exploding; but that is not the time to strike your child. The act of hitting a child whilst in the throes of adrenaline will cause bruises that are far deeper than the bruises on their skin.
There is another type parent out there, the “oblivious” parent. Unlike the passive parent who at least goes through the motions of controlling their offspring, the oblivious parent ignores them. These are the kids that run riot in the restaurant, grocery store, shop, high street, mall, et al. These are also the children who get hurt or, more sadly, wind up getting snatched or killed. Unlike the “passive” parent, I have no idea how to get it through their self-centred heads that they need to pay attention to their children; not talk to their neighbour, friend, co-worker et al.
Oblivious parents also seem to expect everyone else to look out for their children’s well-being. Neighbours, retail staff and even strangers are considered to be responsible for their little ones.
For the passive parent, you just need to be in charge. You don’t need to be a Drill Sergeant rushing up to your small child screaming, “What is your major malfunction?” In fact you shouldn’t yell or scream at all. When you do that you’ve just lowered your maturity level to the rough equivalent of your child. You’ve lost the battle of who’s in charge already.
You just need to let your kids know what is and is not permissible. If they screw up – and they will, they are human and screwing up is something we are all very good at – don’t lose your rag. Let them know what they’ve done wrong and if they do it again they will be punished. And I do mean punish, not beat. But the most important thing about punishment is to be consistent. If your punishment for your offspring’s infractions means “time out on the naughty step” then make it happen. Don’t threaten and not follow through. Children learn incredibly fast, they will soon figure out that mummy and daddy don’t really mean it. They learn all too quickly that there are no real boundaries.
Shouting at your kids will accomplish nothing apart from possibly making you feel better. Part of our training in the prison officer college was that when two prisoners start to fight you should bellow, “Pack it in or stop it.” I can tell you that out of the many times I’ve bellowed, “Pack it in,” only one pair of lad did (quite possibly because I am very loud). Yelling doesn’t work, trust me.
In a nutshell? Punish bad behaviour and reward good behaviour; and I don’t mean buy your kid a Porsche or its kiddie equivalent, a hug or a well done will suffice. Again consistency is the key. If you don’t differentiate between good and bad behaviour how do you think your children are going to learn the difference.
The one common factor in dealing with the end result of poor parenting is that children respond to boundaries and rules. They don’t like it at first; oh no; no one’s going to tell them what to do. But after a while they grow used to it and then come to expect it and then miss it when it’s no longer there; when they leave. In this country there is a huge rate. Roughly 70 to 75 % re-offend and wind up back in prison. Why? What are we doing wrong?
The answer is, we are not doing anything wrong. We are offering, though, the first structure that these young people have probably ever encountered. If I had a penny for every kid who came back to prison and told me or other staff that the reason they’ve come back is because, “I couldn’t make it on the out, Guv,” I wouldn’t be rich, but I be a lot better off financially than I am at present. If you question them further, they’ll explain that they could not manage themselves because they had no rules; no boundaries. If there were rules, they failed to obey them because they had no help from their families.
Now I am not saying that all poorly parented children will wind up in a juvenile prison, but they definitely have a head start on their peers.
After I got on the bus with the ADHD lad and his mum, I could hear a load of kids yelling and running on the top level of the bus. When the bus pulled up two stops down, these same kids all haphazardly came down the stairs and then (like they were the ephemeral twins of the other ADHD lad) they began exhibiting the exact same behaviour as the other lad at the bus stop. The main difference was that this mother was an “oblivious” parent and said or did nothing to control her brood.
Twice in one day on the same bus route I was privy to both types of modern-day parents and the image was not comforting. And despite the fact that I am now a retired prison officer I thought the same thing about both sets of children, “I’ll be seeing you in about ten years time.” I’d like to think that things will change, but it has taken a few generations for parenting to reach where it is at right now. Obviously it is going to take a few more to straighten this problem out.
I hope I get to see the difference while I’m still aware enough to care.
In this electronic day and age where newspapers and magazines are becoming passée I am still reading Readers Digest. I guess all those years of reading them at my Gran’s house and in waiting rooms around the globe has made the old RD a sort of comfy blanket. Comfortable as an old shoe and as reliable as Old Faithful.
It was in this month’s Readers Digest that I read about designer babies. I saw the article in the September issue (I know, it’s August. But that is the fun of monthly magazines, you always get them early) and it was discussing the advantages of using genetic screening to ‘design’ your foetus.
Quite frankly, I was horrified. Have we come this far? I know that what they are talking about is still illegal. But in a world where celebrities and wanna be celebrities have designer dogs, teeth, tits and whatever else you can think of, do we really want babies by design?
The very idea makes me think of Adolph Hitler‘s maniacal quest for breeding the perfect Aryan race. I know that the folks who are suggesting that genetics can help you ‘build’ the perfect child aren’t in Adolph’s class. But dammit, it’s scary!
I am not knowledgeable enough to argue against the idea. My understanding of science and biology doesn’t go much past the high school curriculum level. A high school level that was attained back in the 70’s yet. So if you’re looking for an intelligent debate on the cons of the issue, I suggest you read something by Stephen Hawking, that is, if he even knows about it yet.
No my argument against the genetic building of babies is entirely from the parental point of view. And come to think of it, from the child’s as well. Amazingly I can still remember most, if not all, of my childhood. I know it was a long time ago, but I have been blessed (or cursed) with an excellent memory.
Can you imagine getting into an argument with your ‘specially’ crafted offspring and having them shout back at you, full of indignity, “I didn’t ask to be made this way!”
Or how about…
“Well you designed me! If I’m doing something wrong, it must be your fault!”
My mind is reeling from the very idea of all those issues that genetic enhancing will bring up. Iremember yelling at my parents, years ago, the age old complaint from children across the world, “I didn’t ask to be born, you know!” Or the distant cousin of that statement, “I didn’t ask for you to be my parents!”
But disregarding the above scenario altogether, just how is it that scientist’s or gene enhancer’s think that we know what the perfect mix of genes are?
We could get it completely and utterly wrong. Think about it. People right now are and have been raising children who believe that they are special. That they are entitled to everything because of that ‘specialness.’ And just look how the youth of today are turning out. Thankfully, so far at any rate, there are more ‘adjusted’ kids out there who realize that no matter how ‘special’ you are, you still have to work for a living.
But this gene enhancement or splicing or mojo, whatever you want to call it, is a recipe for disaster. What if experts tell us that we need children who can empathize with everyone and can also be sympathetic to their fellow man. The same child can have his aggression gene altered to keep his or her temper levels down. They can be ‘enhanced’ to allow them to be faithful, loyal, trusting, et al.
I am sure that the child who has those genes introduced into its body would grow up to be a gentle, caring, sharing mild mannered wuss. The world could be populated (for a time, at least until the enhancers realize what a boob they’ve made of humanity) literally by the meek. I think the end of mankind might be escalated a bit by a world full of those folks.
I am not saying that the entire idea is bad. I’m sure that it could be used to help stop deformities, disease, and other horrible things that we all pray our babies will not be born with. I am saying that we should be very careful in this, so far, illegal area of science and birth.
Let’s take a minute to think about what we are doing here. Do you really want to be the new Adolph Hitler or worse?
The film opens with a young professional couple going to bed after a party. Their daughter Emma (young actress Rachel Jordan in her first, and so far only, feature film) asks Mum if she can sleep with her and dad (Cheri Christian, Greg Thompson) and is told that she has to be a big girl and sleep on her own. Later Mum Julie wakes up in the middle of the night and finds an outside door open. Checking in on Emma she finds her with a slashed throat and wrists and what looks like one of her fingers bitten off.
After an undisclosed amount of time the grieving parents rent a cabin on a remote mountainside. Their plan is to “heal” themselves from the loss of their child and try to mend the rift that has sprung up between the two of them. Julie blames husband Allen because she believes he forgot to lock the outside door the night that Emma was murdered.
Allen continues to work as a technical book writer and he encourages photographer Julie to start working again. The couple are in a place of pain and misery and so far only Allen seems determined to rise above it. Unfortunately for the young couple, this was the worst place they could have picked to “get away from it all.”
Before I write about what works for the film, I’ll point out what does not.
Cheri Christian as grieving Mum Julie never really gets our sympathy. She walks around in most of the film looking like she is chewing on a live wasp. Instead of appearing sad and miserable from the loss of their child, she appears petulant and aggressive.
Most of the actors in the film don’t really overwhelm you with their stellar performances either. Amazingly some of the best acting comes from the smaller roles in the film. The shifty landlord Mr Booth (actor Patrick G. Keenan) does genuinely seem to be a boozy wife beater. The librarian (actress Patricia French) delivers her lines with an ease that is admirable.
Greg Thompson as husband Allen is perhaps the most sympathetic character in the film. He is a technophobe and is unable to understand his creative wife. He tries repeatedly to get her started on the healing process. He is both supportive and unhappy at the same time.
The other actor who really sold his character was Jason Turner. As family friend Steve, he only has a few minutes of screen time. But I can honestly say that for the scariest scene in the film, he did genuinely seem at first half-asleep and then terrified. My daughter and I had no problem with being terrified. When the above scene came on, I jerked my bum off the seat and gasped,”What the hell was that??” I have never seen a scarier event in a film.
Now for what the film does well. It scares you. Plain and simple. This picture has the distinction of having one of the scariest scenes in cinematic history. It has to do with a flight of stairs and something coming down it. I really cannot tell you anymore or I’ll spoil it for you. Just trust me, my daughter and I have watched this film several times and it still scares the crap out of us.
There are plenty of other scares that are not as impressive but they get the job done very well. The story is all right, just don’t expect an intricate plot here. But the mechanics of the plot serve it well enough. I didn’t find myself dangling at the end of the film wondering what had just happened. It was tied up neatly, if not a little vaguely at the end.
What did work well for the film was that the main protagonists were so consumed with guilt and misery that at first they don’t notice the warning signs. Later in the film, after it is too late, they notice.