There were a couple of new events recently that caught anyone's attention who saw them. One was the brutal beating of a young girl shown on You Tube by her so called friends and the other was a report on out of control behavior by students on spring break. According to the Florida story on www.momlogic.com spring break is not what it used to be. The extent and degree of drinking, drug use, and sexual promiscuity is significantly increased from twenty, fifteen and even ten years ago. If any of you went on spring break during those years then you can imagine how severely dysfunctional and self destructive the behavior must be for it to be considered distressingly worse. No wonder parents worry about their kids.
The O'Reilly Factor reported on this story and had a "Family Therapist" on to discuss and analyze the issue. Like the "animalistic beating" of the teenage girl by a gang of "girlfriends" these students were displaying and strutting their stuff for a camera and the video finds its way to the internet. After a shallow and silly comment by the family therapist that the problem is due to extended adolescence without adult responsibility O'Reilly redirects that a significant factor to this display of extreme behavior is a lack of shame. That is, they do not care who sees them. That is the point of shame; not wanting to be seen. If you have a sense of shame, you want to keep your shameful behavior in the dark so no one knows what you did. If you lack shame you put it on display and shove it into peoples' faces.
Lack of shame is a calloused and hardened place to be. Most likely, many of the kids on spring break will wake up horrified by what they did and said for all to see once they are not under the influence of substances. The beating of the young girl is another story. There is no report that they were "under the influence" of anything other than brutal rage. All of this raises significant questions for our culture.
The two commentators rightly conclude that a lack of parenting plays a significant role in lack of shame. That begs the question how parenting affects the development of shame. A lack of shame reflects an absence of value, meaning and purpose. Kids without shame are those kids that have figured out whether consciously or not that they are on their own. Their lives feel purposeless, meaningless and valueless because they believe deeply in their being that what they do doesn't matter to anyone. So what does it matter how they act or who sees it?
The most effective parents are those who have a meaningful relationship with their child. Their child knows, despite all the struggles, battles, arguments, and drama that their parents love them more than they love themselves. These are not "helicopter parents" hovering endlessly over their kids directing and protecting them. These are parents who genuinely love being with their kids and invest their lives in giving them life. Their kids know their life has value, meaning, and purpose because what is more important than anything else, more important than what they do or how successful they are or what kind of trouble they cause, is having a relationship with their child. "You are my son or my daughter and I love having you as a part of my life."