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Hot Post: Why Johnny’s So Pissed Off

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Posted on September 12 2010 3:00 pm
Suzanne Venker, a.k.a. "No Bull Mom," is an author, blogger, and speaker. You can find her at www.suzannevenker.com.

This post was first published here…

Americans have heard an awful lot over the years about why Johnny can’t read, but we rarely hear about why Johnny’s so pissed off — for the obvious reason, of course: the topic is off-limits. Addressing the reasons why kids today are struggling emotionally means parents might have to take a good look at what they’re doing wrong. And that’s no fun for anyone.

Yet address it we must. Angry kids have become a bona fide statistic in America — not an anomaly, as in years past. In September 2009, Wall Street Journal‘s work and family columnist Sue Shellenbarger wrote that 29 states in America — along with a few cities — now offer mental health services to our nation’s three and four-year-olds.

From 9.5% to 14.2% of children under 6 have emotional problems serious enough to hurt their ability to function, including anxiety or behavioral disorders,” writes Shellenbarger.

Another study by the Archives of General Psychiatry found depression in children “as young as 3.” Lynn Hopson, executive director of a New Haven, CT preschool says,

We’re seeing more and more children with challenging behaviors every year.

This problem doesn’t end in preschool. Thousands of elementary and middle schools throughout the United States have now been trained to use the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, a program developed by Dan Olweus. His program has been recognized by the American Academy of Pediatrics, along with Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence and other prominent organizations.

Which leaves us with an obvious question: Why are today’s children acting out to such a degree and even in need of mental health services?

There are only three possible answers to this question: Some children are born this way; excessive exposure to media and technology has made children this way; or bad parenting.

As to the first possibility: You can certainly find research that suggests people are “born bad” (for lack of a better phrase) — in 2007, for example, Scientific American highlighted research that indicates some babies are born with violent tendencies — but reason and common sense prove otherwise. For one thing, if some kids are born bad, why the tremendous rise of babies born with natural aggression? Is it something modern mothers are eating? Moreover, prisons are filled with adults with disastrous childhoods. If some children are born with a propensity toward anger and aggression, why don’t half the folks in prisons have lovely parents?

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