Just as Parkland, Florida, and the nation are trying to recover after one of the most horrific school shootings in history last month that left 17 people dead, 14 of them children, more disturbing news came from Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School this week. Two students were arrested for bringing weapons onto the campus, and a third student was arrested for making a threat on social media. This comes on the same day in which two students at a high school in Maryland were injured in a school shooting and the gunman, also a student, was killed by a school resource officer.
In the five weeks since the school massacre in Parkland, the gun control debate is the center of attention. A younger generation is taking unprecedented steps to make their voices heard, and they’re demanding action from lawmakers. As the organized marches, school walkouts and other events continue to fight gun control laws, and as our children still remain in danger every time they walk into what should be a safe place, there’s one piece of the puzzle no one is talking about that could help stop these violent acts in their tracks: parental involvement.
We can outlaw automatic assault rifles and raise the limit to legally purchase a weapon, but that’s not the solution by itself. It starts in the home. The answer is parents, guardians and other caretakers getting more involved in the lives of our children. I’m not saying it’s easy; after all, in many families these days, both parents work, kids are consumed with after-school activities, and free time feels like it’s hard to come by.
As difficult as it is sometimes, it’s not an excuse, though. You have to make the time to stay on top of your kids, know what they’re doing, who they’re hanging around, if they’re struggling, being bullied or anything else that’s going on. It’s your job, and it’s the most important job you’ll ever have. Their lives and the lives of others could very well depend on it.
Over the past 34 years, I conducted interviews with more than 1,200 parents. While the focus of my interactions with them was to study how they handed down their beliefs about money to their kids, one thing always stood out: the closest, most successful, best-behaved and smartest kids are ones whose parents made it a priority to really be involved in every aspect of their children’s lives.
Mothers, fathers and children sat down to eat dinner together, or simply have together time every day. They talked about their days, discussed any big wins, their struggles and whatever else was on anyone’s mind.
They had private discussions away from younger siblings operating from a state of what’s called objective reality, or the way the world really is, not a fantasyland how many of us wish it was. These parents asked the hard and direct questions that most other parents want to sweep under the rug: Tell us about your closest friends. Is anyone doing drugs? Are you struggling in any way? Do you need help with anything? Is anyone acting violent or mentally unstable?
I also talked to a few children of various ages in my studies, and all across the board deep down there were only two things they wanted from their parents: love and attention. The ones who got it typically were more fulfilled and stayed out of trouble. Don’t forget, as Dr. Russell Barley, an internationally recognized authority on ADD and ADHD said, “The kids who need the most love will ask for it in the most unloving ways.”
Away from the children, parents can be more involved by speaking to other parents. Talk to your neighbors and find out what their kids are struggling with. When you drop the children at soccer or baseball, strike up a conversation with the other parents and find out what they know. Don’t feel weird checking in with your children’s teachers, coaches and school administrators to stay on top of what’s going on. Join the PTA or PTO.
The bottom line: get involved in every way you possibly can. You are a parent and it’s your responsibility. The more involved you become in your children’s lives, the better off they’re going to be and the safer our schools will be. Being involved with your kids is by far the best way to put an end to these unnecessary school shootings.
It’s been said the way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice. I couldn’t agree more.