Kindergarten kamikazes

School violence is starting at earlier ages as an increasing number of unsocialized children are cursing at classmates, punching teachers and throwing temper tantrums in class. They spend hours each day watching TV but not enough time interacting with caring, responsible adults.

Kids who are chronologically 6 years old are showing up in school with “emotional experience you would expect of a 3-year-old,” says Dr. Bruce Perry, a child psychiatrist who works with the nonprofit group ChildTrauma Academy, based in Houston. “Imagine a child with the terrible twos in a 6-year-old body. It’s a huge problem in education and mental-health circles.” This “relational poverty,” he says, affects even the wealthiest kids.

Via Education Gadfly.

About Joanne


  1. Sorry to be a heretic, but could this be the result of no mom at home?

    Here’s a riddle that has puzzled me my whole life. I had a feminist mom. While she prided herself on making a living and carrying out the social struggle, she didn’t care much about home.

    Home was a chaotic mess, without harmony or beauty, everything thrown together in haste. Beauty, style and comfort were things that were always promised in some far off future when we finally had plenty of money.

    So, the riddle is, is it better for mom to be happy at work, or for the kids to have a mom at home who enjoys creating a beautiful home and putting a nice dinner on the table?

    Whose interest comes first, the kids or the mom?

    And before you jump all over me for being a male chauvinist, I raised two daughters and I was acutely aware of the need for a comfortable and beautiful home. I worked three day weeks while my children were young, just so that I could be home with my daughters. I’m a great cook because I sincerely enjoy cooking and serving other people.

  2. Stephen, I don’t think it’s so much “no mom at home” as “mom and dad are mediocre parents.” I’d guess the kids who dump out the teacher’s desk drawers or say “Shut up, bitch” acted in similar ways to their parents and were not punished the way you or I would have been punished by our parents.

    Also, if we had acted that way to our teachers, they would have disciplined us and assumed our parents would back them up. Now, the teachers are worried about lawsuits.

    Good lord, I’m sounding like my dad! Excuse me while I go listen to gangsta rap and play “Grand Theft Auto.”

  3. PJ/Maryland says:

    Stephen, I’ve known chaotic homes where the mom was staying home with the kids. And not everyone can become a good cook, no matter how much practice they get at burning water.

    At the same time, some moms (and dads) manage to produce pleasant home environments even when they spend 35 hours a week at work. It probably comes down to time management skills, among other things; again, some people have them (or can develop them) and some people don’t/can’t.

    I’ll agree that when a majority of moms work, there’ll be more chaotic homes than when most stay home. Picking numbers out of the air, maybe once 5% of households were chaotic, and now it’s more like 20%. Do you think the increase in unsocialized 6 year olds (if there is an increase) is tied to this, then? Why didn’t it happen 10 or 15 years ago, since many moms were working then?

    I found the Time article somewhat unpersuasive. They note that “Despite the proliferation of such programs, few school districts will admit to a violence problem — and certainly not at the kindergarten level. Philadelphia is a rare exception.” So it would make sense to check Philly’s records to see if young child violence is increasing, but they don’t. Instead, we’re flooded with anecdotal evidence: “hysterical kindergartners who bit teachers so hard they left tooth marks.” Yes, I’m sure hysterical kindergarteners used to bite much less hard…

  4. Richard Brandshaft says:

    I was raised under the old rules, when “wife and mother” was a full time job. I think the kids are much better off when the mother has something else to do besides supervise the kids and insist the house be neat. I would have welcomed a little neglect and chaos. “The grass is always greener…”

  5. Thanks for you comments.

    To add to the riddle.

    My first wife died in a car accident when my children were teenagers, and several years later I married a beautiful Filipina woman.

    My mother often remarks that my wife’s family is rich, but in fact they are just plain middle class like our family. What my wife’s family does possess is the old fashioned values. The women seek harmony with the men, not conflict. (And if you think a Filipina woman is a pushover, you don’t know much about such women.) My mother sees a home filled with harmony and beauty and she thinks it is accomplished with money. In fact, it is not. In my in-laws house, everybody is playing the traditional roles, and believe it or not they are very happy.

    As I’ve learned to understand Filipino culture, I’ve discovered as well that the culture provides a place for gays and for sex outside of marriage in a traditional way that is just about impossible for a white American to even understand. The rule here is: “Do what you have to do to be happy, but keep it to yourself and don’t disgrace the family.”

    The American dictum is: “In your face.” It makes my wife want to scream.

  6. To come at this from yet another angle, I would love to show this article to all the people who expressed concern that, because we homeschooled our son, he wouldn’t be properly socialized.

  7. I think it boils down to the parents (or parent) not caring enough (or not having the intellectual maturity) to actually parent their child.

    Children need to learn early that biting, kicking, screaming, bad language, etc., etc. are wrong and are not the way to get what they want.(Kindergarten is bordering on too late).

    But I suspect the parents of the “kindergarten terrors” are either too absorbed in their own lives, or don’t have the maturity, or were poorly socialized themselves (and it scares me to death to think what will happen in future generations if the “kindergarten terrors” grow up and breed…)

    I don’t have kids myself so perhaps some would say I’m not qualified to comment. But I do REMEMBER being a kid – my parents were, I would say “loving but strict” – we were taught (by loss of priveliges, being sent to our rooms, having to stand in the corner…) that bad behavior carried unpleasant consequences with it. Break the rules, and punishment was swift and sure. Doubly so if you did it in public – embarrassing parents and discomfiting other people in the area.

    But these days, I see too many parents who laugh off their kid’s bad behavior, or make feeble protests against it. Or they are so absorbed in the conversation with a friend, or in their shopping, or whatever, that they don’t see what’s happening. Or they want to be their kid’s “best friend” and that is incompatible with being the “heavy” when the kid misbehaves.

    I’ve come to dread getting on a train or plane when there are lots of little kids, or going grocery shopping at school’s-out time, because I can usually count on one child of the group being an unholy terror.

    Yes, I understand children get tired, cranky, etc., that they are not perfect angels. But I really think that when a kid’s screaming at 85 decibels in the Wal-Mart produce section, the parent should do something – at the very least, go outdoors with the child until they can calm down.

    There’s a commercial for a baby-products company that has as its tagline “Having a baby changes everything”.

    Alas, there are a lot of people these days who don’t seem to understand that. (

  8. Well, now I’ll suggest that traditional values, traditional sexual roles and religion might be the answer.

    One thing that I’ve seldom heard discussed is this. When you throw away sexual roles that were literally thousands of years in the making, and expect people to construct something entirely new within the course of several generations, most people will fail and fall into chaos. Intellectualized roles do not have the strength and history behind them, as do traditional sexual roles. The traditional sexual roles emphasize harmony and give people a foundation with which to work. When children are confused about what it is even to be a male or a female, how can they cope? We have, I think, thrown several generations of children into emptiness and chaos.

    The saving grace of my life was that my father insisted that we be reared within the Catholic Church. We learned about good and evil through rote instruction and through insistent discipline. (“Why should I do this?” Because I told you so.”) Although I’ve lived in liberal communities for 30 years, I have yet to see anything else that actually works for kids.

    So, here’s the end of the riddle. If traditional sexual roles work and give people foundation for development, why are they inferior to intellectualized roles? If traditional religious education and discipline works, why look for something else?

    The answer seems to be that it is just cornpone and backward to do things because they work. A modern, sophisticated person is supposed to do things rationally… even if it doesn’t work.

  9. Richard Cook says:


    Asian women, except for the uninformed and intentionally ignorant, are know as classy, beautiful, and tough as nails. What a package!! My girlfriend before I got married was from Vietnam. Unfortunatley she had to go back to the home country after Mom died and she inherited a business. I found out why my brother in law (who is a Nam combat vet) said “If the women had been running the war it would have been over in two weeks.”

  10. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Last August My wife and I celebrated our 49th anniversary and she celebrated 49 years of unemployment. I am glad we did not go the two income way, but I doubt we could have done it at today’s tax rates.

  11. Bill Leonard says:

    Although I tend to come down on the side of the traditionalists, I suspect there are other factors at work here. Among them: the inability, for legal and, I presume, other reasons, of teachers and others in authority in the school system to discipline any kid firmly.

    I remember my own first day of kindergarten in September, 1948, in a two-room school house just inside the greater Des Moines city limits. Some kid, possibly immature, probably spoiled and maybe both, threw a tantrum when his mother left the room. Our teacher, Miss Katrina Belz, grabbed that kid, put him over her knew and paddled his ass in front of the kids and a few moms still lingering and gathering in the doorway.

    The tantrum stopped immediately, and Miss Belz, who really was a loving, caring woman, had no trouble for the rest of the year.

    But today that sort of direct corrective action on a kid who probably was long overdue for such action would, at minimum, generate a lawsuit against the teacher and the district.

    Bottom line, there are children with certain mental or physiological conditions who respond in very negative, disruptive and sometimes dangerous ways; there always have been. And for them, quick, direct action probably is meaningless. But I believe the overwhelming majority of kids respond/act the way they do because they can. No adult has ever tried seriously to stop them.

  12. Bill Leonard says:

    My error. “…over her knew” in the post above obviously should be “over her knee.”

  13. My husband and I are traditionalists, too. My husband is bringing up our child (and any future children) at home, and we hope to homeschool in the future. I remember how reassuring it was to have a parent at home, and I’m glad my kids will get that opportunity as well.

    I don’t think it’s been said much above, but I wonder if smaller families also contributes to lack of socialization. My sisters were my playmates throughout childhood, and my mother can from a family of 6 kids herself (my mother-in-law came from a family of 10 kids…) Let me tell you, when there’s lots of kids around, you learn to deal with being around other people. I’ve just started my family, but I hope to have plenty of kids to socialize each other. 😉

  14. I don’t see the need for “traditional sexual roles and religeon” as long as you teach R-E-S-P-E-C-T. My mom was a working mom and not around to make sure we saw her in the kitchen where she (ahem) belonged. We did, however, learn what was appropriate behavior both at home and in social situations. It’s pretty simple, really.

  15. I have worked since my daughter was an infant. My husband and I have always worked full-time. Over the years we have received many compliments from many different sources to the effect that she has beautiful manners and is a, quote, perfect angel. When I read screeds such as Stephen’s I feel like she is being trashed and I don’t appreciate it.

  16. Sean Kinsell says:

    Part of it is also the nuclearization of the family. I was lucky enough to have weekly contact with both sets of grandparents, frequent overnight visits to crotchety great aunts, and friends of my parents’ from church who could be called on to watch me in an emergency. The minute-by-minute socialization that everyone nowadays wants to assume was done, since time immemorial, by saintly mothers (until that Gloria Steinem bitch convinced them to desert their babes at the daycare center) used to be performed by an army of trusted neighbors, family friends, and elder relatives.

    A lot of people who go bonkers defending “traditional marriage” have a strange way of not acknowledging that, perhaps because they view anyone outside the nuclear family who wants input into their child’s upbringing as an interloper, and quite possibly a leftist social worker. Nevertheless, if couples are going to take on the child-rearing burden that used to be shared by 30 adults of varying age and experience, it’s not surprising that a lot of them don’t know what they’re doing, no matter who is or isn’t at home. (And Laura, congratulations. In my experience, mannerliness is the single most difficult value to transmit to a child.)

  17. Sean Kinsell says:

    Whoops–bad choice of wording above. When I say “wants input,” I am not saying that it’s anyone else’s business what rules parents set and what reasons they give for them; I only mean that, in encountering how other people live, the children are going to see that not everyone’s rules are the same, and trying to prevent that at all costs is fruitless.

  18. It’s not that traditionalism is the only way to do things, it just happens to be a tried-and-true one.

    People should do what they can to change things… The reason the traditional roles are so effective is because they’ve slowly but surely evolved over the past several thousand years – but people should also realize that some things simply don’t work and abandon them ASAP.

  19. As long as “village” is not a euphemism for “societal forces and government bodies which set themselves above the parents” villages actually do a pretty good job of raising children.

  20. “When I read screeds such as Stephen’s I feel like she is being trashed and I don’t appreciate it.”

    Laura, you are usually a sensible person. This is not a sensible post. (Everybody has their bad moments.)

    Don’t don the sensitive victim mantle. It’s a big part of the problem.

    And, by the way, “little angel” is not a good role to teach a young girl. Take a trek to Victoria’s Secret. You’ll see this ugly little scenario replayed a million times. Your girl is not a little angel, she’s human, and she’ll grow up to have faults and weaknesses just like the rest of us. The “little angel” motif is a particular failing of white society in relationship to women. It is part of the silly tradition that insists that women are bereft of volition, particularly when it comes to sexuality, and that men are responsible for everything.

    I’d suggest you check your attitudes.

    The tactic you are using is a kind of emotional extortion. (He criticized my little baby! How could he!) I’m tired of it. The Clintons (who I voted for twice) were particularly adept at this emotional extortion tactic. When people persist in using it, I respond with a sledge hammer of ridicule. And, I think you’ll find more and more people responding in that way.

  21. And, to be even more blunt, Laura, I have no intention of monitoring my speech to be sure that I don’t say anything that makes you feel guilty.

    Obviously, my postings made you feel guilty. That was not my intent. But, I really don’t care.

    Grow a thicker skin.

  22. What exactly do you think I feel guilty about, Stephen? About providing for my family rather than asking for charity or tax dollars? About loving my husband too much to make his life hell for not making more money? About having raised a nice, happy, well-behaved little girl?

    Your jumping from the compliment my daughter’s friend’s mother made regarding her angelic demeanor, to Victoria’s Secret, is … well, kind of strange.

  23. “relational poverty”? I thought the correct term was “spoiled rotten”?

  24. I see too many parents today afraid to discipline their children appropriately. I’m reminded of one incident in a restaurant where there was a little girl about 5 years old.

    The child would periodically emit a shriek that started low and in the space of 1 second would reach up into those frequencies that only dogs can hear. Everybody in that side of the restaurant would cringe when it happened.

    Finally one man behind me called out, “Shut that child up, please!” in an annoyed, exasperated tone.

    The father turned around and said, “Are you serious?” The other man answered, “Yes.”

    The kid didn’t make any screams after that, and I don’t know what they parents did, but the father’s attitude baffled me (I had decided I would be the next person to say something if the kid screamed again).

    If your kid is annoying the crap out of other people, you have various options. Taking the kid outside, and/or serious punishment. Or, if you can’t control it, don’t take the kid out to restaurants. It’s a simple concept, but a lot of parents don’t seem to grasp that they do not have the right to bother others with their kids.

    On the flip side, I was in McDonald’s the other night and observed a father actually follow through on the threat “Stop that right now or we’re going home.” The little girl tested him, and he packed them up and left, the girl wailing the whole time. 🙂