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Self Worth and Resilience: America's Mixed Messages to Teenagers

Updated on May 13, 2019
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty uses advanced degrees in preventive medicine, psychology, and TCM in research and treatment for public and private health agencies.

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Solidarity Helps Build Self Esteem

More than ever before in the Untied States from 1990 - 2020, teenagers need to find within their families and/or loyal friends, a consistent support group against which to judge the events of the world and their local community. Violence is on the rise in school shootings, while public service announcements preach non-violence and the White House promotes bullying and harsh actions.

Teenagers receive far too many mixed messages in this nation. Adults can develop better models among themselves to reinforce feelings of self worth in teens.

“They screamed shoot em’ ... They were referring to the immigrants.”...'Shoot them!': Trump laughs off a supporter's demand for violence.

— The Washington Post; May 9, 2019

Bullying and Violence Are Not Always Stopped

Children and youth in the USA have been killing others and committing suicide because of bullying and abuse increasingly since the 1980s.

In high school, a young man I knew was so abused that he arose one early morning, took his father's shotgun into his parents' bedroom and killed both his parents. This was before there was any child protective services enforced in our county. School counselors were few and could give no advice, either, except on what college courses to take after high school. More help than that was needed in our city.

In the early 1990s, six sixth-graders in a local Christian middle school in my community committed suicide under the increased stress of parental bullying. The school tuition cost $400/month and the parents denigrated and severely punished these six youngsters ages 11 and 12, because they were earning B+ averages instead of straight As.

Self esteem was hammered into major depression and suicide in these youngsters.

The school then did a strange thing. The administration created a separate 6th grade school wing that provided no extracurricular activities, field trips, special events, or celebrations for the surviving youngsters and families. The principal placed a McDonald's restaurant (now eliminated) inside for a lunch room. No one could explain this except in terms of isolation, but to what end?

Bullies and Abuse

Bullying and child abuse are increasingly larger problems in this nation. As found by a study I helped to conduct in 1994, the top problem in education in my area of 1,000,000 residents from preschool to 12th grade was violence.

Students from elementary school through high school are carrying guns to school.

In the 2000s, two eight-year-old boys squared off in their school parking lot right beside a 6-lane highway and pointed loaded and cocked handguns at each other. Fortunately, a teacher stopped the shootout, saving several children and motorists.

Violence needs to be stopped and further, prevented.

Surely, eight-year-olds should not be having a gunfight in the school yard. Why were the children allowed access to handguns?
Surely, eight-year-olds should not be having a gunfight in the school yard. Why were the children allowed access to handguns? | Source

Mixed Messages About Good and Bad Behaviors

A Boxford, Massachusetts teen girls' volleyball captain was called to a party to rescue a friend who had been drinking too much alcohol. Calling for help was the right thing to do.

The captain cheerfully went to pick up her friend, but the local police arrived shortly thereafter and in the spirit of 1970s drug raids, arrested everyone in the house!

The cheerful young woman was released, since she had no alcohol in her blood system, but her high school took disciplinary action against her, because she was in the party house. This responsible young woman was demoted from captain to player on the high school volleyball team and then suspended for five games.

The rescuer was punished for attempting to drive a drunk friend home as hundreds of public service announcements, her own school system, and many parents preached than and now. How was this just or fair?

when treated in this manner, teens must be thinking: How are you to have high self esteem when you are told to absolutely do something and then are punished for doing it? How are you to survive if the adults are all acting crazy?

The former volleyball captain and her family stand united in believing that the girl did the right thing in being a designated driver for her friend. They sued the high school, even though the lawsuit may not have been successful.

Teens need their families to back them up when they have done something positive. They cannot develop resilience when they never know how their behaviors will be met.

Teens need their families to back them up when they have done something positive.

Suicide and Mixed Messages

A 12-year-old in Florida recently committed suicide, because a 14-year-old girl began dating the younger girl's former boyfriend. How and why did this tragedy happen?

The older girl did not like the fact that her new boyfriend and the younger girl had a history together.

The older girl convinced other girls, especially a 12-year-old female henchman, to gang up on the first girl online and harass her. In fact, the group threatened to beat her up and told her to kill herself. She killed herself.

Where were the parents when these events transpired?

Sheriff Grady Judd called the parents of the older girl and her main henchman and told them to bring the girls into the Sheriff's Office. The parents refused, saying the girls were not doing what they were accused of doing. However, Internet records presented clear evidence of guilt. The sheriff sent detectives to the homes and arrested the two girls.

The two guilty girls were charged with Felony Aggravated Stalking. However, both were allowed to freely access the Internet while on home detention! The older one even posted on Facebook that she did not care that the dead girl committed suicide at her urging.

The families of these two girls should be investigated for child abuse and alcohol/drug abuse as well as any other circumstances that cause deadly behaviors in the children.

Society preaches Internet safety, but many children and youth are bullies online.

Sheriff Grady Judd spoke to parents at Crystal Lake Middle School about bullying and online safety: “It’s another opportunity to remind parents and guardians they do have control.”

Source

Anti-Bullying and Anti-Abuse Laws

Some school districts are enacting anti-bullying policies.

My opinion is that when bullying begins, teachers and administration should step in and stop it. In teaching youth ages 13 - 24 for a decade, I never once failed to stop a fight or an instance of verbal abuse. I called police each time that a call was warranted.

One of the suburban school systems here punishes children that stand up for themselves and fight back when physically attacked, even when parents have taught them to do so. This is also a mixed message. How can self esteem and resilience be built when a child is required to allow another child or children to beat him as if in a prisoner of war camp?

Anti-abuse programs are beginning to take hold in America. As always, certain professionals are under the duty to report any abuse against children and the elderly. However, in some states, it had become the law that everyone is required to report a case of abuse of either. Check your state legislation to find out if your state is one of these.

Find out about anti-bullying and anti-violence programs in your community and support them, or join them in their activities. You'll be developing a stronger "next generation."

This content is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for formal and individualized diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed medical professional. Do not stop or alter your current course of treatment. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2013 Patty Inglish MS

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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      5 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Much success without your graduate education, cclitgirl. It can be rough going, but worth the costs.

      I like what you do to handle put-downs and such; that action goes a long way toward changing that type of behavior imo. It's great to hear from you!

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      5 years ago from Western NC

      Well-written and cogent article. As a teacher, when I hear/see instances of any sort of "put-downs" or any kind of harassment, I actually stop my class and we talk about it. You're right about mixed messages, too. I do think schools go overboard in adhering to their own policies - like the six year old boy who got suspended because his mother put a plastic knife to spread peanut butter in his lunchbox - this happened years ago and I don't remember the details, but yes, it's aggravating that we don't use common sense sometimes.

      It's also good to see you - I've been hard at work teaching and finishing my graduate degree, but I definitely love and miss HubPages and will hopefully be back soon!

    • epbooks profile image

      Elizabeth Parker 

      6 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Great article. I hate hearing about a person getting bullied- so sad. Thanks for bringing this to light.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      6 years ago from The Caribbean

      Thank you for dealing with this important issue. Kindness is punished; cruelty escapes punishment. The bullies are mostly acting out their frustration on those weaker than they are. No one thing will solve the problem, but it would help if adults would take time to interact, to question, to listen to the young ones express themselves. Quality time in communication would certainly lessen the mixed messages.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      6 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Shyron E. Shenko - I am sorry to hear about your beihng bullied and I am also angry that the man abusing the 14-year-old was not charged. Then the house was burned down! Where is the criminal justice system in that town?? Some friends in Michigan are having some problems, because both the police and fire departments just went through layoffs. Things are getting bad. I hope sharing this info helps - Thanks!

      ChitrangadaSharan - Bullying is bad for everyone, to be sure. Thanks for the vote up!

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 

      6 years ago from New Delhi, India

      A very well written hub on a very important and sensitive issue.

      Bullying must be taken seriously and the offenders must be punished. I believe bullying of an individual, if unreported leads to low self esteem, which can be fatal for a sound psychological growth.

      Great hub, voted up!

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 

      6 years ago from Texas

      This hub should have been written long ago. I was the one being bullied. That made me a loner. But mom and dad traveling every year, I went to different schools, that did not help.

      I just heard about the 14 year old who was raped and then she was bullied into dropping charges then their house was burned down -- the male said the sex was consentual and nothing is being done, What happened to statutory rape???

      Voted up, UAI, shared, liked on fb.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      6 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      I like your thinking here, Ericdieker - get the bully punished too.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      6 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Great Job. I always scratched my head at punishing both parties in a fight. It was that way when I was a child -- crazy. I think it made me pick more fights with bullies. Because no matter what they got punished too. See how strange a mind can work? But our punishment was more violence -- swats, of which I was king of for two years. Now that is self esteem!

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