Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Empathy for Bad Choices

My heart is going out to Claudia and her family today.  Her son did a terrible and foolish thing, and will no doubt pay some serious consequences for what he did.

She wrote an incredibly poignant post about these events.  This morning, she wrote:
When we look from the outside in at newspaper articles, at news programs on TV, at jail rosters we have feelings that range from disgust to anger at these "losers" who are ruining our society. We can wish for serious legal consequences, not thinking about how they got where they are or how well they might have been doing.

But more than ever before I'm realizing that behind each of those faces on the jail roster website there is more than likely a mother, or other person, who loves them -- or at one point did before it got too difficult to bear. There may be years of neglect and abuse as children where society failed to protect them. They might be people who are homeless and mentally ill who can't get services because we as a society (and dare I say as a church) are failing them.

My wife and I worry that we too may be in the very same situation with our child one day.

Our kid has done some pretty dangerous and impulsive things in the past.  Do I believe that she could do something that would cross the line into serious criminal behavior?

Yes, absolutely.

This isn't a value judgment on whether my kid is "good" or "bad."  It's simply recognition of the fact that she is impulsive and explosive.  That combination often ends with her making bad choices that she later regrets.  So far, the worst she's done is threaten me with scissors and kick a boy in the groin.  Could she escalate from there?

I think so.

Three years ago, she was just threatening to hit.  She has since started hitting, kicking, biting, spitting and throwing things.  She's damaged property and she's bruised and scratched us, even drawing blood.  Now that she's threatened with weapons, do I think she could go further?

If her pattern of escalating violence continues, I think she could, and that really scares me.  I'm frightened of the life-long negative consequences she could give herself.

Claudia is right in saying that our society is failing these people.  It's absolutely true.  When our child welfare system doesn't intervene, or intervenes too late, the damage has already been done.  The system creates generation after generation of children who grow to be adults who can't, or won't make good decisions for themselves.

It's incredibly sad because we as parents can do the best job we know how to do, and it's still not always enough.  We can't stop our kids from making terrible decisions that are made because their brains don't work right.

Society, rightly or wrongly, expects people to behave to a certain standard, and when our kids do not, they find themselves in trouble, and the world looks upon them as bad people with uncaring parents.

We care!

It's just that caring, sometimes, isn't enough.

I'm just so very, very sad for Claudia and her family right now.  They are in my heart and my thoughts.


  1. Are you sure she wants you to post her full name? She doesn't on her blog, nor does she explain exactely what happened...

    1. A valid point, though all of this information has been posted publicly on her blog at one time or another.

      I've gone ahead and made the appropriate edits.

  2. What I have noticed about a few of my kids escalating behaviors is this - there are lots of lines we draw (knowingly or not) with regards to behaviors. Once my children crossed that line, there was no going back. The escalation in bad behaviors may look slow, but it was still steady and consistent. Just like Danielle, my daughter and son both would do or say something shocking and then the next time, it was easier for them to say or do and then it became just "what they did/said" then it became "normal for them" then it got worse. For example, the first time my son said he hated me. I was shocked and hurt. He is my 6th child and in my 23 yrs of parenting, the first child to say that to me. After that, it was a constant refrain from him. I guess he figured he said it and was still alive to say it again, so he was gonna do it just because he could. After all, what exactly could I do about it? He values nothing but food, and he knows I won't take away the basic necessities of life so he doesn't feel any consequences. Unfortunately, that was the tip of the iceberg. These kids have an inane ability to find what shocks or hurts us the most and eventually desensitize us to it - then the behaviors get worse.... Many times, our psychiatrist would talk my son out of "meaning it". He'd get him to say he didn't really mean the threats he made and then look at me like, "See? No problem, he didn't really mean it" - that sure made me feel better (not). I would seriously document the things she says and track how things progress for the new dr. and psychiatrist.


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