In February, there was yet another school shooting; this time in Florida. By the time this column is published, there most likely will be another. Since January, there have been six shootings on school grounds in the United States; Philadelphia and Oxon, Pennsylvania; Benton, Kentucky; Los Angeles, California; Italy, Texas; and Parkland, Florida. Four adults and 16 students have been killed and 43 people injured.

All of them started their day like any other. No thought or premonition of what was ahead; just another day at school. Perhaps they were looking forward to passing a test or winning a game; maybe they had music to prepare for a concert, or a friend who needed a shoulder to cry on; maybe a teacher or coach was excited about a new way of communicating, or a different skill practice.

We will never know.

We are left with talking heads 24/7, who repeatedly interview grief-stricken people, and spew blame all around. There is bi-partisan bickering and talk of untreated mental health issues. There are bitter debates about interpretation of the Second Amendment, posed against an acknowledgment that something must be done. Then it quiets down until the next time …

When we were in school, it seemed the worse thing we had to worry about was getting our homework done, and when to take our gym shorts to school. In high school, maybe we worried about “Mike” when he got caught smoking cigarettes on school grounds.

When our kids went to school, we never gave school shootings a thought. The kids were more concerned about having the correct footwear for the sport, or whether they could take hot lunch. And yes, there was a “Mike” then, too, and he got caught having a beer near school grounds. He was suspended for three days, then back in class for the rest of the year.

People now talk about what they see as the prevalence of “lack of respect” in our young people. Whether it is respect for property or people, the elders among us bemoan the fact that it is lacking in next generations. If it’s vandalism, they don’t respect cars, homes or other property; if it’s inflicted injury, they don’t respect people. If they act on a whim or a dare or just do anything they want without showing respect of any kind, they have no conscience.

Kids are blamed, as if they brought it all on themselves.

Children are not born with a total sense of respect or a fully developed conscience. They are supposed to learn those things from their parents, and others. We have a responsibility to teach our children through discipline and through example.

Discipline is not the same as punishment. Discipline teaches inner controls and trains for correction and maturity and is given out with concern and love. Punishment is to inflict a penalty and is often given in anger. It focuses on past and present offenses, rather than learning for the future.

Children do learn more from what we do as parents, than what we say, but they also learn from logical consequences for their behaviors. They learn to have a conscience through practicing empathy, and they learn respect though watching those around them, and from having their own thoughts and feelings respected.

I remember Sean from my days in a preschool. When Sean came to us at three, his answer to solving every problem was to hit, push and hurt. When his “girlfriend” broke up with him one morning at age four, every teacher held her breath. We listened and remained ready to jump in as Sean approached her. He put his arm around her little shoulders and said, “I want to use my words to tell you how I feel.”

Our year-long work had paid off. He had learned inner discipline. It was powerful.

Maybe the shooter had an diagnosed mental health issue. Maybe it was the loss of birth and adoptive parents. Maybe it was access to an assault rifle. Maybe it was stress. Maybe he was full of hate. Maybe he felt helpless.

We can hear the survivors’ voices, full of passionate eloquence. As politicians, talking heads, policy makers, teachers, parents and neighbors, we need to really hear them.
With mutual respect, maybe we can, together, move our children into a safer and better place.

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