Articles are available for reprint as long as the author is acknowledged: Domenick J. Maglio Ph.D.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Fitting In: Not Doing What's Right

Six girls and two boys from Lakeland High School pummeled a sixteen year-old girl unmercifully. The cheerleader victim’s offense was “trash talking” online. They planned to put the video of this “cool event” on UTube and MySpace. The initial reaction to their arrest by some of these high self-esteem teens, who are as young as fourteen, was to worry about missing cheerleading practice. This “fun and games” violence is being repeated throughout the USA.
This is not urban ghetto gang violence of the past. These modern teenage imitators did not come from abusive families or live on the streets. Their main problems are that they have limited conscience development and have too few meaningful goals to keep them on the straight and narrow path. These suburban “gang wannabees” often come from homes where they are in charge.
The ability for children to choose and play with friends without parental involvement is minimal in our suburban existence. Their cool way to act with peers is not taught by the peers but by the media. They have learned how to “talk trash” but have negligible street smarts living in their upscale electronic homes. Everything in their lives is about them with little empathy for others.
They want to be celebrities who fit into a gangster, hip-hop world. They do not have access to a “ghetto” so they create a pseudo one in school and at parties. Their phony conversations are not about their daily lives but are about the imaginary existence they project.
The leaders of these suburban virtual gangs are the slickest, most verbally manipulative individuals of a group of lonely, purposeless souls. They do not have to actually prove themselves by their fighting prowess or use of a weapon. Their obnoxiousness is all they need. Through violent verbal imagery they can sway and intimidate members into following them. These threats happen in IM- instant messages, constant phoning and in school.
The gang members are not physically or verbally hardened. Their parents rarely used physical punishment or yelled at them. The slightest threat by someone else puts fear into their hearts. These teenagers are insensitive to the feelings of others but are extremely sensitive to “put-downs” by their peers. Their major objective as a teenager is to be accepted as the exciting person they fabricate on MySpace.
The major need of these pseudo gang members is not to get away from an abusive family but “to belong” to a group of peers. The “big-mouth” leader provides the discipline that they are seeking and rarely receive at home. They are unprepared to fight against the wickedness of others. The best they can do is to passively stand by as an accomplice to verbal and physical abuse of others.
The members choose not to confront the bully tactics of the pseudo gang leader for the same reason that their parents do not stand up to the objectionable behavior of friends. These adults lack strong values of right and wrong. We adults ignore many obvious wrongs but expect our children to act differently in their teenage world.
Today most of us have been given too much on a “silver platter” to realize the sacrifices necessary to accomplish our goals. Just like a winning team becoming complacent, America is becoming fat and lazy as the leader of the world. Many of us are living off the assets of our ancestors.
These ancestors had to work hard to survive. They were taught right from wrong, knew history and had a firm faith in God. They understood the long-term benefits of living a moral life although it was just as hard for them as it is for us today. They fought for their survival and freedom.
Rejecting the notion of being friendly weak parents and returning to maintaining moral values will end our tolerance of behavior that leads to destruction and evil. Parents need to punish their children for misbehaving to teach right from wrong and toughen them up to face the temptations of life. This will give them the moral strength to stand up to people and groups hurting others.
Strong moral people have the courage and the fight to maintain a decent and peaceful society. The vulgar brutality of children on children can only be moderated when parents teach their children right from wrong.
Dr. Maglio is the author of Invasion Within and Essential Parenting. He is a psychotherapist and the owner/director of Wider Horizons School.


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