13 September 2011

Wounded Spirit 2

Wounded Spirits Part 2 (by John McInerney)

If I had to choose one chapter in this book that was the most important for the parents of boys, it would be this one.  From my personal experience, the teenage years can be either the most fun, or the most painful years of your life.  Mine was more of the latter than the former.  I’m sure we all want our children to have an enjoyable childhood, however, we must prepare ourselves and our children for the pain they may experience in life, especially for the middle to high school ages. 

I have some very passionate views on the teen years, and my opinions may not be politically or even theologically correct.  As a Christian man I honestly struggle with what Jesus said about turning the other cheek, and “those who live by the sword will die by the sword.”  I know He is correct, but oh Lord, it is so very hard.  At this point in my life I still struggle emotionally with thoughts of childhood difficulties.  After training in the martial arts for 26 years, part of me still says, “I wish I knew then what I know now.”  Yes, sinful thoughts but the truth.  

Our boys are told that violence is not the answer.  They are told to tell a teacher when someone picks on them.  They are threatened with suspension not to throw the first punch.  These are the words of the authorities.  But there are other authorities at hand for boys.  There are other concepts that make up their worldviews by which they must operate.  Concepts such as “don’t rat on anyone, or you are going to incur the social wrath of the community of other boys.”   “Real men don’t tell mommy they are being called names.”   “If you are tough you don’t tell Daddy you can’t stand up for yourself.”  These two opposing views cause internal torture, paralyze any hope for change and leave young men incredibly lonely.  All of this goes on day in and day out while the purpose of going to school is for an education and it is often the last thing a young man can think about. 

As a young man walks the halls of his school and rides the bus to and from home, it is easy for parents to be oblivious of the emotional barrage a young man has to deal with.  We now live in a world where “in the past four decades there has been a 500% increase in the rates of homicide and suicide.”   Suicide ranks as the THIRD leading cause of death for ages 10-24 “One child in five is frightened in the classroom.”  74% of 8-11 year olds and 86% of teens, reported being teased or bullied by their peers.  Young men who are quiet and socially inept are now bringing guns to school to end the pain of emotional abuse they have endured for years. 

Why do boys do this to one another?  Well the Scriptures tell us that our “heart is darkened.”  Even from birth we are sinners and every 13 year old boy can probably attest to that.  Dr. Phillip Rodkin of Duke University says that, “…bullies are rewarded socially for harassing kids who are below them in the pecking order, which probably explains why many of them do it.” 

Singer Lauren Hill had a great quote.  I may not have it perfect but she basically said, “every time you surrender yourself to someone else’s opinion, part of you dies.”  Dr. Dobson in this chapter wants us as parents to protect the spirits of our boys from the world they encounter.  So how do we protect our young ones?  How do we keep them from beginning to hate themselves because of the degrading words of their peers?  How do we allow our young men to go out as sheep amongst wolves in this crazy world? 

Well, let me share what Dr. Dobson says. 

Reduce the visible violence

First he believes that violence in our culture has warped the minds of children and we must protect them from that.  A very interesting point he brings is that children under 2, should not watch TV “because it can interfere with healthy brain growth.”  Now you all know that if it weren’t for Barney, there may have been times you might have choked your little toddler.  However, if you can hold out a bit – the less TV the better for young ones. 

Honestly as I thumbed through all of my children’s movies today, I think Barney was the only one I didn’t have any problem with.  Almost every other one a scene which had violence or aggressive language (words like idiot and stupid) and mostly from Disney might I add.   A show like Cinderella is a charming movie for adults but young eyes watch a mother who is incredibly cruel to her daughter and their small minds cannot comprehend this.   No wonder my 2 year old keeps saying “Gothal is not nice,” over and over again (see Tangled – amazing – first Disney movie someone gets shanked).

Dr. Dobson points out that violence in the media which is started from a young age and then greatly increasing as time goes on, often can be a catalyst for a pressure filled environment.  Shall I mention the word Columbine?

Watch for signs

If you see your child moping (more than normal), complaining of stomach aches, having trouble sleeping, and especially making comments about not wanting to live, you may want to seek help.  (According to the NMHA, four out of five people who attempt suicide have given clear warnings.)

Start using the words “feeling” often (this point is from my seminars I teach in bully prevention)

“How did you feel in school today?”
“What made you feel happy?”
“What made you feel excited?”
“Did anything make you feel sad?”

The more your child gets use to saying, Mom/Dad “I felt…” the better.  Dobson says, “simply being heard can go a long way toward lifting a child’s depressed mood.”

Be home for them when they come home from school (if possible)

Right when a child walks in the door from a stressful day that is the time they probably need an ear and a shoulder the most.  Be a good listener to them.

Understand they are boys

There are Dad’s who often say that this is just part of life – a rite of passage.  They have to be tough in this world.  I am all about my boy being tough, however Dads, I hate to break it to you, but they are not men yet, they are boys.  And there is nothing wrong with protecting your son.  Actually, it’s called good parenting when you do that. 

So what will I tell my son when he is going through these hard times.  Well, first, my son will know how to defend himself.  I will personally take care of that.  But from experience that doesn’t help when everyone is laughing because someone said you look like a …….

So I will tell him that Jesus Christ was the toughest of all men.   He hung on a cross for hours after being beaten by those He came to save.  They spit in His face, they called Him names and He never said anything against them.  He could have made them into the dust He formed them from without a word but instead He asked God to forgive them.  

There is a difference between meekness and weakness, a very large difference.  I will teach my son the difference between these and about the strength of His Lord that He can cling to when amongst wolves.  I will also make sure he knows that I will fight to protect him, no matter if that means listening to him and not over reacting, speaking to teachers or parents, or moving halfway across the world.  

Protect their spirits parents.  They need you.   



  1. Thank you for sharing your heart my love! Perhaps that is why so many parents have chosen to homeschool, perhaps they are trying to preserve their children from being wounded at school and trying to protect them from "negative outside influence."

  2. A powerful post. I truly appreciate hearing a man's experience and a father's perspective on this subject. Thank you for sharing your insight and wisdom. - C


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