Over the last few days, I've been handling a situation with my oldest son. He's 18 years old and he's dealing with a fight that happened here in our community that involved his friends.
My son called me from somewhere in about 12:30 am the other evening and explained to me that a group of his friends had been jumped.
I dug into the details a little bit more.
His friends had gone to meet a another group of kids to watch a one on one fight to settle something that had escalated at a McDonald’s parking lot earlier that evening; one of these stupid teenage dramas that sadly escalated to a point of no return.
His friends showed up at the designated fight location, and apparently all of them ended up getting jumped by a large(r) group of kids.
The situation turned pretty bad.
A baseball baseball bat had hit a kid’s head, a knife was involved in a stabbing, someone got hit with a hammer with the claw side of a framing hammer and these boys got beat down.
Painfully and unnecessarily, group of kids ended up in the hospital.
This situation escalated quick went beyond the point of no return.
Young people got severely injured.
When I heard about this for my son, I asked him calmly,
How can I help you?
After I listened to his confused answer, I followed with,
How do you feel about this?
He went on to explain that he had been playing basketball that afternoon with a group of the kids that were involved in jumping his friends. So now I could see the dilemma he's trying to figure out how to navigate.
Well, the police got involved and are currently investigating, so we're sort of past that point. And like most dads, I would say Well, don't get involved.
That's the first thing that comes to mind, right?
Not now. I’m not so certain that's what my son wanted to hear from his dad.
He was sharing his anxiety with me over the situation. He had certain feelings. He wanted to lash out. He wanted seek retribution for what had happened to his friends.
My response to him was simple and a bit unexpected,
‘This is the outcome. If you want to be involved in violence… even as a witness, then you're opening the door to trauma. You are opening a door to allowing yourself to suffer.’
He’s just going to see a shoulder shrug for me, and that's about it.
I've raised my son to understand this. He knows that I'm not a fan of violence.
He knows that I understand what the outcome is.
I don't really believe in the glorification of it.
I don't believe in the monkey dancing.
But (in his paradigm) telling him to leave it alone is no different than telling him to not stick up for his friends. You've got to stick up for your friends, always. But how?
Those boys went looking for a fight and they got a fight. End of story. That's it. Go back to playing basketball.
It's terrible what happened. The outcome was terrible.
Young people got hurt.
Young people were also involved in hurting other young people. And that's going to stay with them for the rest of their lives.
As mentioned, there’s a current investigation going on. It will affect family finances, college plans, future career potential even.
Most of these boys are seniors in high school, good kids, from good families, getting ready to go off to College. Now what?
When you distill it down to the most basic level, in my opinion and the message that I had to my son was that, if you want to play with violence if it's you feel cultural pressure, social pressure, influenced by entertainment … to take it to that level because of some stupid incident that happened in a parking lot.
Well, guess what?
Nothing's going to surprise me when it escalates. No outcome will surprise me. And when it’s over, leave it at that.
Where will retribution take you? Suffering, through shame, regret, anger … if you’re lucky a few bruises and stitches.
For my son, I had to also recognize that all those emotions are perfectly natural. It was critical that he (and I) understands that.
It was OK for him to feel the way he was. In fact, I was proud of him for the way he responded.
So how does he get involved?
‘Help your friends out. Be present and on point through the healing process. Be the man, be the leader. Show up for your friends in the strongest way possible, but losing control of your emotions, losing control of your physicality in your body and allowing yourself to suffer and to be a victim of violence … that’s no way to help. And that's in certainly no way to be involved for your friends.’
There's significant opportunity for growth here, an opportunity for my son to look through the lens of violence and understand that there just isn't a positive outcome.
If you want to go there, then you need to understand that there will be suffering, there will be long term consequence. Are you prepared for that?
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