Sunday, September 20, 2009
In one of the many videos that surfaced of Van Jones, he points out that school killings are done by white boys. Black kids will kill each other, but won’t shoot up a school. While many consider Jones' idea to be a racist overstatement, it is a trend that many of my colleagues have discussed through the years. What is it that makes a child shoot up a school or a postal worker randomly kill at work? Is there a way to prevent these things from happening?
One of the most notorious killers of our times was Ted Bundy. He was intelligent, clean cut, handsome and well-liked. Recently, we’ve been astonished by similarly intelligent and clean cut alleged killers: Phillip Markoff, the “Craig’s list killer” enrolled in a Boston medical school and Raymond Clark, an “ivy league” animal research technician who may have killed a graduate student over her treatment of laboratory mice. The list of known sociopathic killers could fill notebooks, some dating back into ancient records, some female, and many children.
Experts say that even in a loving environment, a sociopath can kill his entire family, then sit and play video games with friends as if nothing happened. Are these all “bad seeds” born with no conscience or empathy for others? If so, how do parents detect the pathology and, more important, how can it be averted?
Though studies suggest that most sociopathic killers were abused as children, not all abused children grow up to kill. Sociopaths may be intelligent, charming and show no outward appearance of their inner turmoil. They generally exhibit superficial charm, are manipulative and domineering, and feel entitled to more than others. Their lying and abberant behavior is never perceived as wrong, as they lack remorse, shame or guilt. They are incapable of love or trust in or empathy for others and of normal self-control. They generally need a lot of stimulation in areas that may be social “taboos.” Therefore, they may exhibit rage and abuse, delinquency, irresponsibility and promiscuity. They often hide their pasts as they move from town to town or job to job exploiting others.
Doctors agree that by the time the sociopathic child reaches school age, he is already on his way to developing into a psychopath. When the crimes eventually come to light, it is typical for neighbors, friends and teachers to show shock and disbelief that such a “normal, smart and likeable” child could have turned into such a monster.
So, what are the things that we should look for as signs of trouble in children?
• An interest in fires or starting fires (a firestarter)
• Cruelty to animals
• Bed wetting that lasts longer than normal
• Total lack of conscience, empathy or compassion for others
• Lying, manipulative and deceptive behavior
• Lack of remorse or indifference
• Avoiding intimacy such as hugs
• Vandalism to property
• Bizarre writings or drawings which depicts scenes of violence against women
• Preoccupied with violence
• Acting out in a sexually inappropriate manner
• Seeks immediate gratification of needs
The trouble may be genetic or even physical, as in the case of fetal alcohol syndrome. The traits may develop as a result of traumatic events. Some doctors believe that our society is to blame because mothers are encouraged to NOT bond with their children. We are told to bottle feed, find nurseries so we can go back to work, never to let a child sleep in the parent’s bed, let the child cry itself to sleep and to punish bad behavior in some way. These socially accepted parenting options are not necessarily good for a child that needs and deserves nurturing, closeness, security and love.
But, don’t feel guilty. Just be vigilant. Because once the sociopath reaches adulthood, treatments are more difficult, as they never perceive that they have a problem or they manipulate and/or threaten the therapists. If your child exhibits anti-social or unacceptable behaviors such as those listed above, seek professional help, as the most promising treatment appears to be in prevention. Therapeutic intervention at a young age can help children to channel anger and other emotions in a healthy manner and build better behaviors that experts believe might avert problems later in life.
Please note that the list provided by therapists is but a suggestion for further investigation. Children from horrible circumstances become wonder, loving adults and parents. Children from wonderful families can become monsters. We don't have a perfect parenting manual. If you can develop one, you will be the next billionaire!