In light of the terrible tragedy in Newtown Connecticut, it is worth reminding ourselves of a few things. 

I talk to parents all of the time about the “smooth road” vs. the “rough road” that kids travel (see “School Struggles” for elaboration).

When you’re a smooth road kid, life is pretty good.  Reasonable gratification is experienced in school.  Your parents are proud of your accomplishments.  You seem to get along nicely with others.   School and social life progress along on a relatively positive trajectory that continues into college and beyond.  From where I sit, about 50% of the kids are on a relatively smooth path.

Then there’s everyone else.

Within this bell-shaped curve are kids struggling academically, socially, and emotionally.  School is not a gratifying place for them.  Many of them feel like “losers.”  There is a cumulative effect to all of this.  One grade of negativity layers on top of another until the canvas cannot take any more of the splatted paint.

Research has shown that challenging/struggling kids get yelled at on average about 65 times a day.  65 negative comments a day X 365 days in the year equals 23,725 negative comments on average for the year.  That’s 237,250 comments for a 10 year period.

 So by the time a rough road kid reaches his mid- twenties he’s probably heard about a half million times in his life that there’s something wrong with him.   While that number may be exaggerated some, the basic facts are inarguable.

Kids on the rough side of the road do not feel good about themselves.  By the time they hit their mid- teens, many are angry and disconnected.  They do not feel that anyone is on their team.  There is no sense of encouragement coming from any source that matters.  Getting past their “loser” thinking becomes virtually impossible.

I won’t pretend for a second that I have the answers, but I do know unless we recognize the issues and get these kids connected, there will be rage.