I was reading with great dismay this news story about a boy from Texas who killed four people while driving drunk. Ethan Couch, a 16 year old in the Dallas area, was sentenced to 10 years probation after causing a fatal accident while he was driving drunk, killing four people. Two additional persons were injured. One of them suffered chronic internal injuries and multiple broken bones, and the other cannot talk and no longer has any motor skills because of a severe brain injury.
The judge bought into the alleged “affluenza” disorder presented by the defense, implying that the young Couch was a “product of wealthy, privileged parents who never set limits” for him, asking for the court’s leniency. As an aside, that defense was, essentially, asking the court to continue doing what he had argued to the court that the child’s parent’s had done for him all of his life. The young Couch got more of the same privileged treatment. I wonder just what everyone things this sentence has taught the lad?
One of the functions of punishment is a deterrent for others. This so-called affluenza teaches other such kids from a wealthy upbringing to expect similar treatment. I believe it does more harm than good. Setting limits and holding kids accountable is what helps to mature them, and teach them responsibility. Furthermore, the American Psychological Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Fifth Edition (DSM-5) does not recognize or even address affluenza. The DSM-5 is to the mental health field as the Physician’s Desk Reference is to the medical field. It’s the mental health bible, so-to-speak.
Society needs to do a better job of embracing kids at a young age. They need surrogate parents to provide proper parenting along with their biological parents. The old adage, “it takes a village to raise a child” couldn’t be truer. It seems as though we have gotten away from being a community like things used to be. Kids tend to stray and it’s gotten progressively worse. They need ongoing discipline and more importantly, they need regular inspiration and love and consistent, even-tempered discipline and someone to be an emphatic ear to listen and hear them.
When I was a kid there were lots of people around for this, from aunts, grandparents, uncles, and family friends who were then and still now are like family, such as Aunt Priscilla and Aunt Anita and Aunt Ruby who were my mom’s good friends that provided good support for times when my parents were working or in grad school or even every day alongside my parents. Extended family was precious. Even among my peer group, there was the sense of extended family, warm and loving people who extended well beyond a familial bloodline.
These days, many kids raise themselves or don’t have a broad extended family. Many parents are just barely out of childhood themselves. I hear people talk about kids and how bad they are these days. Well, I do not believe that kids are automatically bad and evil. They aren’t automatically good either. Regardless what they pick up genetically, all behaviors are learned. Responsibility is learned. Ethical, principled living is learned.
We can prevent bad behaviors from kids like Couch and others like him. But we need to be proactive beginning at the point at which they reach the age of reason. That’s the most expeditious way to raise healthy, loving, and respectful kids. Do you believe this kid will learn anything from this? I for one do not.