"We see a lot of this, unfortunately, in cases of child abuse and sometimes child neglect, and in those circumstances you come to learn that children are exposed to movies and adult behaviors and conversations that they really have no understanding of." Adult media also have an impact on some children.As incidents where young children offend make the news, I hope we don't make the mistake of assuming these child offenders are born offenders. While their actions are of serious concern, labeling these children as bad or evil may serve to reinforce the very behavior we hope to stop.
By labeling children, we are telling them they are powerless. And if the label we give them is something awful, that makes them feel worthless and powerless. With that combination, they may feel there's no point in trying to learn from what they've done wrong.
Unfortunately, many who don't want to label children who offend, go too far in the other direction by ignoring the problem with the vague hope that the child will magically grow out of the behavior. But ignoring the problem may reinforce messages that dominating others is the way to be strong and the only true problem was getting into trouble.
Both extremes fail to teach the offending child empathy for those they offend against. Without empathy, the only consequences a child will see are the payoff they get for offending and the trouble they get into when they get caught.
Lack of empathy plays a part in many crimes, from acts of personal violence to white collar crimes such as fraud and embezzlement. It also robs people of a huge and wonderful part of the experience of being alive.
People without empathy see the world as being full of two-dimensional people.
So maybe the more important question than "What's to blame?" is "What teaches children to be empathic?"
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