Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the category “Bullying”

Time Has Run Out

Though this post can apply to the senseless violence as it occurs anywhere in our country, I am keeping the talking points strictly to that of the violence in our schools.

Twenty years ago, it was Columbine High School that the unthinkable occurred.  Two students walked into their high school and slaughtered or injured fellow classmates.  The shock and horror gripped our country, and the world.  Honestly, at the time, I never thought I would have seen another senseless massacre like Columbine.  And then over five years ago, Sandy Hook proved to us that violence in our schools would have no limit.  Five and six year olds, along with teachers were murdered.

Everyone was outraged.  Well, almost everyone.  There were those who felt backed into a corner who felt that instead of being concerned for the lives of our children, the bigger priority needed to be paid to constitutional rights, and if children died in the process, then it was a sacrifice that had to be made.  But surely, this would be the final straw to get us to pay attention to making our schools safe.  And to be fair, many schools did react.  But some did not for whatever their reason – denial, money, etc.

I remember when I campaigned for school board many years ago, it was right after Sandy Hook, and the investigation took place as to what possibly might have helped to prevent such a tragedy, from an engineering standpoint, was an issue that existed in my daughters’ elementary school.  Sure, most schools’ doors are locked, requiring electronic entry from a secretary inside of the office of the school.  But for many in this situation, the visual equipment was either insufficient or outdated, and upon entry through the doors, was the hallway, directly to the path of the classrooms.  Under normal circumstances, the camera lens of the security system might only have been able to view the face of someone entering, not what they might be carrying.  But my daughters’ school district made the changes necessary, and yes, it did cost money.

Sandy Hook was to be the wake up call.  But it was not.  In fact, school massacres are occurring at a horrific pace, and because we, as citizens, we, our government, we as parents, are not willing to do the right thing.  So, just a few months ago, another massacre, this time in Parkland, Florida, a movement has grown, this time led by students.  But as adults know, students are not given a voice, so students are ignored.  But if you listen to them, they do have solutions, and it is not all gun restrictions.  All the attention given to gun laws is a dog whistle, that we end up wearing blinders, refusing to look at anything else.  But just as has occurred EVERY time since, the energy, the momentum wanes, until the next massacre.  Now, we have Santa Fe, Texas.  Again, there are many more schools that have been witnessed to similar violence.  There seems no end in sight.

I hear many of my friends complain about “liberal Hollywood” or others who should really “stick to their acting or singing”.  Athletes should stick to their sports.  Well, our government is doing nothing to even slow the occurrence of these massacres let along stop them.

As a parent, I do have a voice in the fight.  And my opinion is just that, opinion.  Some of it is based on fact, which I will clearly state as fact.  But before I get into that, I want to make perfectly clear, while I may not understand certain aspects of gun ownership, I do support the 2nd amendment as well as the rest of the constitution.

Investigations Are Needed

I used to work for a large corporation.  And in my department, we had many accidents, some avoidable, some not.  But our safety record was a big concern.  And since all that seemed to be done, was writing one injury report after another, it was determined that maybe, we needed to form a committee to investigate, beyond what was being reported by the employee.  This committee would be charged with determining the root cause, was everything done possible, to avoid being injured, and of course possible corrections.

Sticking to the most recent event, two things stand out – the murderer (a student) was wearing a trench coat in Texas in ridiculous heat, and while the guns were legal, they were not handled appropriately.

The trench coat, also similarly used in Columbine, was able to conceal the weapons.  But the weapons did not belong to the student, and the parents definitely share in the responsibility for not having the weapons secured.  There are other factors coming out, but those are two of the biggest factors.

Acknowledge What Does Not Work

Are you offended by these two photos?  You should be.  You should be offended by the fact that we are willing to sacrifice our children.  You should be offended by the fact that the cycle repeats and repeats.  Even the president who called out members of Congress for not standing up to the gun lobby, would eventually cave after his tough talk.  In any case, this does not work.

Now I mentioned the need to investigate injuries that occurred in my work place, in an effort to reduce or eliminate injuries.  We need this same level of detail when it comes to this horrific epidemic.  And the only place it can start, is the one place that it is not allowed to, the Center For Disease Control And Prevention.  Why the CDC?  Because violence in schools, with the majority of the violence, gun related, is an epidemic.  It is a violent disease that needs to be stopped and prevented.   So, if what is needed is for the CDC to launch a study, why is not being done?  Our representatives passed a law many years ago, preventing the CDC from doing any studies relating to violence and guns.  Our government simply will not allow it.  And why?  The National Rifle Association (NRA) lobbies our government with ridiculous amounts of money under the guise of protecting the 2nd amendment.  But there is nothing in the 2nd amendment stating that the lives of innocent children and others must be sacrificed in order to do so.

The NRA at one time, was an honorable one, dedicated to gun safety and responsible gun ownership, the “good guy with a gun.”  And I do fault the NRA for not only enflaming these latest tragedies with their rhetoric, but I also blame them for not even attempting to come up with a solution or than the same old talking points.

  • “guns don’t kill people – people kill people”
  • “why don’t we argue for knife control when knives are used, or cars when they are used”
  • “need more guns”

Again, I want to focus on what should be done at this point.  Because the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result.  As it was revealed during the early investigation of this massacre, it was discovered the guns were legally owned by the killer’s father, but they were not secured.  Here is where I am going to call out the NRA.  Here is your chance.  The NRA is about responsible gun ownership and safety, and this incident is a clear failure of both.  Where is your voice NRA?  Here is your chance to speak to your membership to prove that you are more than just a lobbying group lining the pockets of our government.


It is only after the event occurs, when we play Monday morning quarterback.  And those close to the horrific event have a-ha moments and epiphanies, recalling signs that should have been warning enough when they became evident.

This year alone, I have received 4 emails from my daughters’ school about “threats” or concerns that were dealt with, that if carried out, would most certainly have been tragic.  But somewhere along the lines, students got involved, and spoke up.  Tragedies were most likely prevented.

The killer in Santa Fe wore a trench coat, in Texas, on an extremely hot day (yeah, I know, most of them are that hot).  I am not saying that trench coats are uniformly a sign of guilt, but clearly in certain climates, it goes beyond being a fad.  But the other big issue, the connection to the alt-right movement, or more commonly known as the support of the Nazi theology.  And I will not hold back.  If you even admire the word Nazi, you are a racist, hateful, bigot.  There is nothing redeemable about respecting anyone who takes up their beliefs.  It is believed that this murderer some how discovered Naziology.

Mental Issues

My psychology professor in college used to state that it was a ridiculous concept for a murderer to claim insanity as a defense.  Because, of course only an insane person would kill another.  But mental health is another roulette wheel that just spins and spins every time one of these mass shootings occur.  The reasons may be related to bullying, physiological, anger, or any other issue.  No matter, those that need help and guidance to deal with their issues should have that help before it gets to this violent level.

It is now being reported that, while not necessarily his motive was sparked by the spurning by a girl he had romantic intents with, it has been stated that he clearly avoided shooting at people that he had no problem with.  While I do not consider this a mental health issue, somewhere along the lines, he believed it was okay to resort to violence because he had been turned down.

The Weapons

It does not matter what weapon gets used, a semi automatic, pistol, knife, car, rope, if someone wants to kill, the will use something.  But, that being said, we need to stop denying that the type of weapon used determines the body count.  And I find it strange that the NRA is being quiet during this event, because this time, a pistol and shotgun appeared to be used, instead of the usual semi AR.  Where the normal argument from the NRA has always been that a knife kills just as a gun will, the silence by the NRA over the weapons used in Santa Fe is noticed.  Clearly the killer did not want to kill anyone unplanned by spraying an unlimited amount of bullets with not aim or control like would have happened with a semi-automatic or AR.

I stated before, I do respect the 2nd amendment.  I believe all of my friends are responsible gun owners.  And I believe that most believe in common sense gun controls.  Gun controls do not mean the same thing as confiscation.  Seriously, we need to register to drive a car, register to vote, purchase care insurance, be a certain age to drink alcohol, etc..  Why shouldn’t there be responsible laws for guns as well?

The one question that I cannot seem to understand the answer to is this… I respect the right to defend yourself.  I also enjoy venizen so I respect the right to hunt.  But I do not understand the need to posses a weapon with limitless ammunition capability.  Face it, if you use an AR15 to defend yourself, you are going to hit other targets besides the intruder, assuming you even hit the intruder.  And face, it, if your aim is that bad for hunting that you need to spray the animal with gunfire to hopefully hit it once, then maybe you should not hunt.  But, seriously, I would really like to hear the rational answer to having to own a military grade weapon.  They have plenty of them in the armed services, where they are intended.

And let us take a look at the age of the killer just a moment.  He is 17 years old.  In Texas, the crime he committed he was charged as an adult, and therefore eligible for the death penalty.  Rightfully so.  But here is the problem.  Federal law, which overrules state law, says that a 17 year old cannot be executed.  I do not understand this.  There are those who argue there should not be age limits on guns, driving, alcohol, but when it comes to a punishment, age matters and for the most confusing reason of all… their brains are still not truly capable of understanding the gravity of the crime committed.  While I agree with that, all the more reason to support age limits.  It is not that they are being denied forever, just as voting, driving, and drinking, they will get to have guns, when they are mature enough to handle them.

Preparedness Does Not Matter

Many schools in Texas had already prepared for such a vile act.  It had armed guards, even armed teachers.  It led active shooter drills (ah… remember the good old days of just an occasional fire drill?).  But that did not stop the shooter from carrying the weapons into the school.  And the killer kept his recent behavior quiet so as not to draw attention.

I am afraid there is really only one way to prevent a shooting inside the school, or at least, prevent it from going beyond the door.

No one wants to see our schools with police and metal detectors.  But here is the fact, my generation was the last generation able to attend school without the fear of being shot.  Today’s children, this is all they know.  And it has become some common, and so accepted, that this is their normal.  And many children now have accepted that it is only a matter of time before their school is next.  This is unacceptable.

But there has to be common sense here.  There is a reason why we protect adults at a courthouse, or in an airport?  Why do we not provide the same level of protection in our schools for our children?  We cannot keep thinking that our kids are safe in school.  THEY ARE NOT.  Yes, this is not only a disappointing atmosphere to have in our schools, it is also going to be expensive.  But there is no option.

Some want to complain about the #neveragain movement.  But even our youth are tired of us adults doing nothing except pointing fingers, and denying any responsibility.  In the meantime, more die, and will die.  I am willing to bet that there is not one child who would not accept this level of protection in exchange for knowing that they will go home from school every day.

What Does Not Work

Prayers and thoughts do not prevent school shootings.

Congress will do nothing as long as they are in the pockets of the NRA.

Facebook arguments go nowhere.

Arguing with false dog whistles.

Forgetting til the next incident.

Blaming video games, certain music, lack of religion.  There is no scientific proof to back up these claims.  And just like needing a study by the CDC, an actual study would have to be completed to prove those activities or lack of faith play any role.

What We Need To Do

As proven in my daughters’ school, children who get involved, when they see something or hear something, they say something.  There is no wiggle room to determine if it is meant as a joke, or a serious concern.  Our children need to be made aware, this is no longer a joking matter, and words and comments need to be taken seriously, just as we would a student contemplating suicide.

Parents need to be more involved with their children.  Follow their grades.  Show an interest in their activities.

Do not ignore signs which are not normal.  Any loving parent should know their children better than anyone.  The slightest deviation should always set off an alarm and open a door of communication.

And yes, children need to be taught respect for everyone, regardless of race, creed, or gender.  There is no place in our society to teach  racism and bigotry as an acceptable way of living.  And racism and bigotry are taught.  Kids are not born to hate.

Schools need to make sure environments to not encourage or tolerate isolation.  Bullying must be dealt with (a post for another day), and the restoration of zero-tolerance is a must.  Sadly, zero-tolerance was in place in Florida before the Parkland massacre, but strangely, the sheriff of Broward County was one who lobbied for the lessening of zero-tolerance because he department had become so overburdened with dealing with minor issues that he felt could have been dealt with at the school level.  And here is the problem with leaving things up to the schools.  School administrations are scared of lawsuits.  Therefore they are more likely to look past infractions that may seem minor, only to have them escalate to a more serious level.  If the school tries to come down on the bully, the parent sues, and if the parent loses, they appeal, an expensive process most schools would rather avoid.

But you know what would be less expensive, prevention.  And that starts with a controlled entrance with metal detector and armed officers, not teachers.  Let the teachers teach.  And let the officers who are trained for these situations do their job to the best of their ability.

But we have to stop relying on our government to help.  If there is one thing that I learned as a school board candidate, and in particular, dealing in local politics, you can make a much bigger impact on the lower level of politics.  You can make the difference.  And there is no price you can put on the life of our children in the one place they should feel safe.


Too Strict? Or Not Enough?

My parents divorced when I was three years old.  I saw my father in my early childhood, basically every other weekend.  In my teens, my relationship with my father was strained.  Meanwhile, my mother who had primary custody, lived with her mother and an aunt.  My mother worked second shift, which meant, when I came home from school, I dealt with my grandmother and aunt who were often quite busy.  As my mother married again, in my mid-teens, I would still find myself lacking supervision and direction as I did at my grandmother’s home.  I came and went as I wanted.  I did pretty much what I wanted.

Examples of what a family could be considered would come from friends’ families.  I spent a lot of time in the homes of three different friends.  I was always included and treated as one of their own.  During these times, I would notice the roles of the “father” and the “mother” in a lot more detail than what I had grown up witnessing.

So when I became a Dad, I had a pretty good idea of what I expected from my role as a father.  I needed to make sure that my children not only received a good education, but were encouraged and praised for their efforts.

Needless to say, when it came to being punished, I do not recall facing any kind of punishment, not for lack of discipline, as much as not getting caught.  I never saw any of my friends being punished either, other than “grounding,” the act of being restricted to the home, and telephone usage (we had no computers or smart phones, so this was pretty much a very effective method of punishment.  But at no time, had I ever been spanked or hit as a form of punishment, nor had I witnessed any of my friends being punished in this manner.  That is not to say that I have not seen a parent unload on a child in a public place.  I have seen this all too often.  And also too often, the impact being too extreme that it was clearly abuse.  I have been known to approach a parent who abuses a child that harshly.

It was during my psychology studies that I came to learn, and believe, violence begets violence.  And when a child is punished by the slap of a hand (or worse), then what we are enforcing in the child, is that violence is the only way to correct a bad behavior.  And I do not accept that tenet.

And so, when I became a Dad, I had a clear plan in my mind, if the time came, that either of my children would have to be corrected.  Not even up for consideration, any kind of physical punishment.  I was never hit, my children would never be hit.

One thing was certain, that if I made a “threat” of punishment, I had to follow through.  Whether it was removing a toy, issuing a “time out”, “grounding”, or even cancelling a trip, my daughters knew I meant what I was going to do.  There was no line in the sand to cross.  I am fortunate, my daughters never tested this theory.  Because one of the most important needs of discipline, is consistency.  And I gave that to my daughters from bed times, to school preparations, to even just a phone call.  My daughters know that I will always be cosistent.

So, the other night, the conversation came up, if my daughters felt I was a strict parent, which I always believed I have been.  I am not flexible with our roles – they are the children, I am the parent.  If they have  grade that can be better, I push them to improve it.  When my daughters are with me, they know there are “expectations”.  I purposely do not use the word “rules” in this post, because to me, that implies that there are problems with behavior.  But 99.9% of the time, if either of my daughters were asked to do something, it was done and without even an eye roll.

But the answer that I got from both of my daughters was actually quite surprising.

I am not strict.

I was confused.  I was firm.  I made sure things were done.  I made sure that behaviors were not imposed on other people.  Sure, we played and such, but I made sure that my responsibilities as a father in raising my daughters were met.

So I asked my daughters why they felt I was not strict.  Sadly, they both believed that being strict was related to some sort of physical discipline such as spankings.  And because I have never laid a hand on my daughters, they felt that I was not strict.  But just as I witnessed when I was a child, my examples of a “strict” family through those of my friends’ families, this is what my daughters were witnessing.

I was kind of disappointed that my daughters felt I was not strict.  But to them, the way that I raised them, is not because of being strict, but because I care as a parent (their words, not mine).  I was saddened that they equated strictness to some form of physical punishment.  Having never been exposed to that, either being spanked myself, and certainly not spanking either of my daughters, I had a hard time understanding why they felt this way.  I know I get uncomfortable when I witness a parent spanking, even if lightly enough just to get the point across, because I really do believe that act of spanking, to make a child “good”, actually does build the idea in the child, an act of violence does result in the desired behavior.  And if that is not guided as the child grows up, this can lead to problems.

I tried to convince my daughters that I was strict.  But just as other things that I want them to learn from me, it is the end result that will count.  I want them to learn most importantly, that to care, to be respectful, and to be consistent, are all important qualities when it comes to raising their children some day.

A Day To Be Recognized, Not Celebrated

Publisher’s note – this particular post is a general post, not reflective of any particular situation that I may or may not be dealing with personally.  Furthermore, this post is being written gender neutral, as it is a topic that affects both genders.

Just as I am an advocate for cancer survivors and patients, universal health care, and adoption, I am also an advocate against something called “Parental Alienation.”  Today is the annual recognition of Parental Alienation.

To be clear, this is an issue that affects both mothers and fathers, but also extended family members such as grandparents.  But what exactly is Parental Alienation?  First, it should not be confused with the term “Parental Alienation Syndrome” which is completely different, though it is considered the next level from Parental Alienation.  According to Psychology Today, Parental Alienation is the “psychological manipulation of the children against a targeted parent.”  This is not necessarily a custodial parent vs. non-custodial either.  The action of Parental Alienation is “psychological manipulation” which simply means causing the child to think differently about either parent, usually in a negative sense.  Simply put, talking mean about the other parent so that the child wants nothing to do with the targeted parent.  This type of emotional abuse actually can occur with extended family members as targets as well, such as grandparents, aunts and uncles, siblings.  The individual actually manipulating the child will have one or more targets.

Parental Alienation Syndrome is actually when the manipulation has been completed, and the child, who under normal circumstances would unconditionally love both parents, now tries at all costs, to avoid the targeted parent, even to a level of hatred themselves comparable to the offending parent.

What would cause one parent to go after another parent, and use the child in this manner?  Clearly it is to serve as some sort of revenge, either for a system that the antagonist perceives did not give the desired result, or even if the desired result was reached, the decision was not enough.  The hatred of the target by the other parent, is more than the love the parent has for the child.  That does not mean that the offending parent does not love their child, the offending parent just hates the targeted parent more.

No one gets married with the ultimate goal of getting divorced, well unless you get involved with a pre-nuptial agreement, then I believe you pretty much do not have confidence in your marriage lasting.  I do not have the secret formula to what makes a marriage last “til death” parts the spouses, or when the marriage simply falls apart.  And the reasons that marriages do fall apart are numerous, from issues such as money problems, to even getting married under false pretenses.  But at no point, should this EVER affect the children.

And that is exactly how Parental Alienation works, by drawing the children into the failed marriage.  Only the two spouses are the ones married and divorced, not the children.  The children will keep the same parents as they had when they were married.  However, when one parent is driven to cause as much hurt as possible, children do get used as a weapon to hurt the targeted parent.  Make no mistake, this is emotional abuse, child abuse.  No child, under normal circumstances will hate their parents, unless they are convinced to, and this is Parental Alienation.  When the targeted parent is no longer able to be involved with the child, now by the child’s choice, this is Parental Alienation Syndrome.  In the short run, what this means to the offending parent, “good, I got what  I wanted, my child hates (the other parent) and I know that parent is hurting now because of that.  I have now hurt the targeted parent as much as they have hurt me.”    Think about it, the parent seeks revenge, uses the child to do so, and succeeds.  Sure, the targeted parent has now “paid” for their transgression and nerve for filing for divorce.  But now you have a child, or children, who will have not only parental issues, trust issues, and relationship issues in their future lives.

The offending parent does not take the harm to the child into consideration.  All that matters is what occurs to the targeted parent at all costs.  But just as any traumatic event in a child’s life, whether it be abuse, loss (death) of a parent, auto accident or fire, the child who grows up resenting their targeted parent faces a couple of major issues.  There are all kinds of shocking statistics that point to risky behaviors of children of alienated parents, but one thing is certain, it is not something the child will ever forget.  And just as the offending parent will feel victorious, vindicated, eventually the child will discover the manipulation, and the role that they themselves played, or were played.  And then a whole new set of issues will develop.

So how does a child get manipulated against their other parent?  Involving the child in discussions pertaining to the divorce process from court orders to the issues of the divorce.  Lies.  Talking negatively about the targeted parent.  Wrangling support from outsiders (family and friends) to “verify” the things said about the targeted parent.  Really, anything that causes the unnatural act of turning a child against their parent.  That is manipulation.

And while “parent” is in the term, the act is actually involving the child, there are things done to add to the hurt caused to the targeted parent which is meant to reduce any fight the targeted parent may put up.  Keeping the targeted parent from communicating or seeing the child, not sharing simple things like photos and report cards, not informing the targeted parents of medical issues that arise are all acts of parental alienation, because the purpose is there, to alienate the child from the targeted parent, to erase the parent from the child’s life.

And those outsiders that actively participate or encourage the unnatural act of turning a child against their parent, may actually be considered worse because they are not as emotionally involved as the offending parent, then presumably should have a clearer head, to see the hurt being caused to the child.  Again, do you hate the targeted parent more than you love the child?  Then you are guilty of Parental Alienation.

I am an adult child of divorce.  I grew up hearing awful things about my parent by outsiders.  My parent chose to not deal with all the hatred and manipulation by the others.  And so, as much as I loved that parent, I grew to hate that parent.  And as visits diminished, the hatred grew because clearly, everyone else was right.  And the absence of my parent proved it.  But a tragedy early in my adulthood would open a door that had been slammed shut by me.  Now, I am not the kind of person to hold a grudge, even in this extreme case.  I never did ask either of my parents why they got divorced, and with my father no longer living, I do not want to know, being able to hear only one side at this point.  I have forgiven, moved on, but have not forgotten.

I love my daughters.  I did divorce from their mother, but I did not divorce their mother.  I divorced from my wife.  And that is why it has been so important to me to not allow to happen to my daughters what happened with me, because I know how it feels.  Because our daughters will outlive both of their parents, and most likely have a family of their own, their mother and I will need  to co-exist as mother and father.  There are children that are not as fortunate.  Those children will never get the chance to stop the hurt, never get the chance to forgive.  And that is what today is all about.

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