The Florida School Shooting: Why We Are All Part Of The Problem (Yes, Even You!) & How We Can Fix Ourselves

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We are all to blame.

And we grow more desperate by the day. We are desperate for answers, for our fears to be calmed, for our lives to feel safe. But we aren’t any closer to controlling our nation or our world. We haven’t found a way to make everyone else think like we think and believe what we believe, so we get angrier and louder.

We are all to blame.

Backed into a corner of despair, we now ignore science, we banish common sense and we forget compassion. In the absence of a conversation and healthy debate on gun control, we now we attack each other. We can’t fix the gun issue in this nation, so instead, we blame. We blame the parents, the system and everyone else.

And in some ways, it is the parents’ fault.

It's because we, as parents, aren't teaching our children how NOT to hurt people. How not to scare, bully and intimidate people we don’t like. We aren't teaching our kids how to handle their emotions. Nor are we giving them the emotional support they need when they show signs of distress or an inability to cope with complex emotions.

Instead, we punish and shame them for these feelings. And by doing so, we are failing them as parents, when what they need most is help — real help and support.

But here is a dirty little secret: We are all messed up. We are all imperfect people and imperfect parents.

The loudest voices are often come from the most pained people, people who are desperate for control in their own lives.

We blame more. We become more fearful. We retreat and surround ourselves with people who think just like us. We do not debate or converse. We bully and intimidate and name call.

Fixing this means stepping back and taking responsibilities for ourselves.  If policy change isn’t on the table and people think the answer lies in our own homes, then we better start doing what everyone suggests. We better start at home. Our homes, not our neighbor’s home.

Look in the mirror. You are part of the solution that can, in part, — end the pattern of school shootings, whether you believe it, or not.

But it is time to put your money where your mouth is.

You may put on a good show about what a great life you have, how your life looks perfect, how you have a great house, car, education, job, vacations, whatever — but I know you are hurting.

I don’t care if you are a surgeon or a server, the meanest or the meekest, a liberal or a conservative, I talk to you. I hear you. You tell me your stories.

I listen to your pain. I know the trauma of your childhood. I know your heartbreak. I get that you are scared, resentful, stuck. I know you wonder how you got this way. You want more, but you don’t know where to go to find what’s missing. You aren’t even sure what you want.

You either stay stuck in isolation with a fake smile on your face, or you retreat into a place of detachment. You want to matter. You want connection. You just want to be happy. You are desperate for control. You wish your relationships fulfilled you.

You wonder if you are getting through to your kids. You worry about their mental health. Are you messing them up? Why are they depressed, anxious and feeling alienated?

And as a means to make sense of it all, we blame, we control, we become absolute.

And our kids sit by watching us the whole time.

They see our fake smiles. Our fake happiness. The see us blame and offload responsibility. They begin to display the rage, fear, detachment we model for them each day and we wonder why these beautiful toddlers have grown into angry teens. We wonder why they don’t seem connected, aligned, happy.

This is not an immigrant problem. This is not a circle of poverty issue. This isn’t about your faith. This is an issue for families like yours, families that look perfect, who seemingly have everything, who smile brightly for family photos.

We parent out of fear or in haphazard, reactionary ways in order to cling to control.

Videos go viral of parents who strip their children of their possessions or shame their children by wearing sandwich boards with their ‘crime’ written on them. These parents are seen as ‘good’ parents, parents who care, parents who are willing to do the tough parenting.

Look at the school shooters. Does anyone think that more shame, more isolation, more disconnection, more anger and more violence would have saved them?

There is a time tough love. There is a time to strip our kids of their technology. There is a time to ground them. But if this is the steady diet of punishments you are feeding your kids, I urge you to shake things up.

When was the last time, instead of harshly punishing your child, you took your child by the shoulders, looked into her eyes, and said, "I love you. I need you. You are wanted,"?

When was the last time, instead of stripping your child of their phones, their tablets or their friends, you held him or took him for a walk, rubbed her back, ran your fingers through his hair?

What if, instead of shaming him, you took him by the ears into the woods or a park and you picked up litter. All day. All weekend. Together.

What if, instead of "grounding”, you took time away from friends to have them  read to children? What if they helped out at bingo in a nursing home? What if you had them write love letters to their siblings?

What if you decided to be vulnerable yourself? Admit that you don’t have all the answers but you can help offload their pain? What if you sat and listened and didn’t offer all the solutions?

Your kids won’t get "out of their own heads" if you don’t get out of yours.

Try something different for God’s sake. If it is so easy to judge and blame others, then be open to all possibilities for your own parenting. The stakes are high.

Parent your children as if lives depend on it. Because they do.

If kids can find apps and sites online to buy guns and plan mass shootings, you can find an elderly neighbor or a farm or an afterschool program that can use help. You can find a park to clean up or a workshop to tinker in. You can collect food for a food bank. No excuses.

Don’t whine about how much time it would take away from your weekend. Don’t complain about the extra effort when you already do so much for your kids. Don’t tell me you were shamed and blamed and used as a whipping post and you turned out just fine. I talk to men and women all the time who have never recovered from the shame and punishment of their childhoods.

Parent your kids in every way possible. Your kids may need tough love, but I can assure you, they need compassion, too. They want you to see them. Love them. Forgive them. They want understanding and connection and respect… the same things you want.

Do you provide your family with a cushy life? Do they have sports and friends and vacations and tutors? Do you then turn around and shame your kids for living in the very same life you provide? Who’s to blame?

Is shaming and stripping them of dignity going to make them grateful? Behave to your standards? You think that is the way to make them talk respectfully to you?

Are you sitting in an armchair griping about kids these days? Judging other parents for their too harsh or too lax parenting styles?

Look in a mirror. You are part of the problem.

Are you too black and white? Are you too vague? Are you too strict? Too controlling? Are you too lax? Too angry? Are you too detached? Addicted to your phone? Do you blame, resent, wish you were something more? Do you  fake a perfect life? Are you a know-it-all? Morally superior?

I talk to successful people every day who are hurting. They are depressed and anxious. They don’t know where to begin.

They love and worry about their kids. Their relationships are delicate. They have picture perfect lives from the outside and are fragile and second guessing themselves on the inside.

They numb with all sorts of things from working too hard, to alcohol, to legal marijuana, to shopping, to yoga. They are freaked out about their food, their dog’s food, the detailing on their cars, the TSA agent who wronged them.

Why aren’t we this passionate about parenting our kids?

When was the last time you said to your kid, "You are a born leader or artist or writer or athlete or whatever. Being good at this is a gift. It comes with responsibilities. How will you use these gifts to better yourself? How will you use these gifts to serve others? What does it mean to you to have these gifts? Do you feel powerful or alienated because of these gifts? How can you expand them?’

Parenting today seems to fall into two courts. Either you are a parent who believes control and shame and power will make your kid behave, or you are a lax parent, a snowflake, who wouldn’t dream of crushing your child’s spirit.

As always, the answer is somewhere in the middle. It is hard to find the middle ground, the center, when we feel vulnerable and victimized when we step out of our "safe" camp.

There is no middle ground today. There is only fear. My side, your side. I’m right, you’re wrong.

Politics have become a release valve. We find our tribe and then we listen to the same radio programs, watch the same TV shows, plug into the same news sources. It is now acceptable to name call, to bully and to intimidate.

Someone shows vulnerability and they are destroyed, reputation and career, for speaking up. It gives us great power to destroy. It sets a powerful lesson for those who disagree with us. We control, we shame, we rule with heavy hands.

It doesn’t matter if we are talking about gun control or vaping in junior high bathrooms, our kids are watching.

And we’re scaring our kids.

There is no middle ground. They are right or they are wrong. They are excellent students or they are failures. They are morally correct or they are shamed. Seemingly, there is no way to please, to be fully accepted, to be loved unconditionally, to be themselves. And still we look around and blame others?

Parents don’t want to hear this because it means they have to dig deep, but often the best way to change a child’s behavior is to simply love them. Often the more a child is acting out the more love they need (and the more difficult it is to give it to them). Saying things like, "You make me proud," or "That was a very kind thing you did," or "I love you because..." or "You make me laugh when..." or "Remember that time we…?" unifies a parent and a child… even if a child rebukes your kindness.

Parent from the middle ground. Be firm, but be fair. Be tough, but love unconditionally, without moral judgment.

Our kids are growing more depressed, more anxious, and more alienated. Suicides are increasing at alarming rates. And we think heavy handed shaming and anger is the answer?

Do you always have to be right? Do you judge? Is your religion exclusionary and harsh? Are you willing to forgo absolute control with your kids so they can grow up and be mentally healthy? Are you willing to do that for the greater good of your own kids and society?

Can you be silly? Can you hug? Can you compliment, not just on how they look but really compliment their character? Can you be grateful for them? Can you let go of needless opinions and harsh rules? Can you parent in the ‘now’ and not in the ‘well, in my day’?

If we are going to hurl around rhetoric that guns aren’t killing people, people are killing people; if we are going to point and blame and say that all this anger starts in our families and that our kids deserve more than this, then we all better get out of our armchairs and get help.

Get help. Yes, you.

If you think you are too successful for therapy or coaching, then you are part of the problem. If you think isolation and shaming your child is going to solve their problems, you’re part of the problem. If you think being angry, resentful and detached isn’t messing up your kid, then you’re part of the problem.

If you think pretending that your life is perfect is okay, you are part of the problem. If you think over eating, over exercising, shopping, faking a constant smile, drinking, volunteering, being nice, or being mean is going to make you whole, you’re part of the problem. If you sit behind a computer and blame, you’re part of the problem.

If you staunchly refuse to look at politics or people from different points of views, you’re part of the problem. Think everything is absolute, black and white? You’re part of the problem. Think your religion and your morals and your ideals are the only way? You’re part of the problem. If you think you’ve worked too hard and provide too much to cow-tow to your kids’ endless needs, then you’re part of the problem.

If you have unresolved wounds and trauma from your childhood or your past, hire a therapist. If you need help with a new perspective on parenting, boundaries, self-esteem, confidence, hire a coach. Are you bitter? Get a bit of a sick thrill by over-controlling or talking crap to your kid? Get help.

Enough excuses. Fix yourself.

This isn’t someone else’s problem. This is yours. It’s mine. Our society is crumbling into violence and blame. Stop judging. Stop trying to control everyone else when you can’t control yourself or your own life. You hurt. You are scared. You crave control. You wish you weren’t filled feelings of regret, inadequacy and lack of self-worth.

Guess what? We all feel that way.

We all want quick fix answers that feel good, that allow us to be right, that make all the pain go away, but the only way forward is to look in a mirror.

Fix yourself first. Your kids and your community will follow.

T-Ann Pierce is a transformational life and mindset coach, who helps her clients tweak their perspectives so they can begin loving the lives they are living. If you still have questions about injecting your life with empowerment, joy, meaning, and peace, contact her at 847.730.7531 or drop her a note at T-AnnPierce.com.

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