Another mentally disturbed American murdered 18 people last week in Maine. While Americans’ attention has been on the problems of people far away, the mass shooting was an unsettling wake-up call to the problems in our own country.
From the left we got the usual, knee-jerk reaction to the shooting: ban guns. But how can guns be the problem when they have been legal in America since our founding? Something else must be going on to have caused mass shootings on a scale never seen in our history. At this point it seems pretty obvious what that is: America has changed.
The important thing these shootings have in common is not guns, but mental health. And it’s well-documented that America has developed a mental health crisis. What is less well-documented is what has caused the crisis. I’m pretty sure I know the answer. It’s the breakdown of the nuclear family.
The rise in mental health problems happens to track very closely with the breakdown of the family. It’s widely recognized in the psychiatric community that childhood traumas, chaotic childhoods, or stressful family situations lead to a host of mental health conditions—from anxiety to depression to ADHD and OCD. More than ever, children are being raised in these types of environments.
So, turning around this five-decade trend is essential to solving the mental health crisis. Yet it’s rarely addressed by politicians, and no plans have been presented to do so.
But there are other equally significant factors contributing to chaos for children. Children are being shuffled into daycare in record numbers. This is in part due to the increase in single-parent households whereby the parent has no choice, since he or she has to work. But there is something else going on feeding this trend.
Even in homes with two parents, more often now both parents are working, and thus leaving the child to day care or nannies. What I have also learned, having a 2-year-old child of my own, is that even in two-parent households with only one working parent, children are still being put in day care.
The term “daycare” historically has bad connotations, as it should. Traditionally, it was used mainly as a last resort, i.e., in single-parent households where the parent needs to work and there are no grandparents available to help. Few parents wanted to put their children in daycare.
There is a new movement designed to reduce that stigma of daycare. It starts by calling it “pre-school.” But it still starts when daycare starts, i.e., as early as six months old! And more and more parents are putting their children into these so-called schools when their children are as young as six months to one or two years old, even though they do not have to. The reason appears to be a combination of laziness (caring for very young children is not easy—who would not want a break), selfishness (wanting the experience of having a child without having to give up the freedoms associated with having no children), and a genuine belief that pre-school is good for the child. The parents are convinced the child is learning important things, thereby getting a jump on other students. In some cases, it is done to ensure that the child gets “in the system” at an early age to ensure later acceptance into the school’s K-12 program.
I have a 2-year-old. Virtually every parent I meet with a 2-year-old has their child in a pre-school program. They sometimes shame me for not having my child in such a program, as if I am depriving my child of something. Call us old-school, but we plan to raise our child as we were raised, with a mother who makes it her primary responsibility. I first went to nursery school at age 4. That seems about right. A child psychologist I interviewed recently for my podcast stated that he thought 3 years old was the soonest a child should be put into a pre-school.
School learning at one and 2 years old has never been considered essential to childhood development. There is plenty of time for learning. Early childhood development has historically been less focused on getting a jump on the alphabet and math tables and more focused on ensuring the child is provided a loving, safe, stress-free environment. The child’s brain is going through rapid development at this age. Neurons are still connecting. This process can be disrupted by stressful environments and traumatic episodes.
Obviously, some daycares are better than others. But for most, it is babysitting by a low wage worker with as many as ten more children at a time. Rather than having the comfort of home and a loving parent, the extremely young child is thrust into an environment where they must learn to manage and cope. Most of these schools are 9–5, five days per week! I feel a higher level of stress when I attend a seminar with a bunch of strangers. Imagine what it’s like for a one- or 2-year-old to have to interact and cope with other children full-time, five days a week, from a wide variety of temperaments.
Half of all young Americans today suffer from anxiety. Might there be a correlation? Seems pretty obvious that there is.
The movement toward early pre-school can be traced to the leftist movement. For them, the sooner the children can be taken from the parents and indoctrinated into a system wherein the community raises the children the better. It’s no secret that communists sought to diminish the role of the family in favor of the state.
I’m afraid millions of parents are unwittingly embracing this system. Every time we see another mass shooting, it should cause us to rethink this new American model for raising children.