Lessons From Littleton
Tuesday, May 25, 2010

By: Dr. Brian Brody, Psy.D.

With the recent anniversary of the Columbine School shooting I want to share some thoughts that remain true today.

I loved my community in Columbine - Littleton, Colorado. I moved there in 1985 to work, live and raise my children. I picked this place because it is beautiful, has nice homes and is a down to earth suburb with grounded family values.

In the late 1980's I began to see a pattern develop with many teenagers in all areas of the country. There was a dramatic increase of destructive behavior that resulted in suicides in epidemic proportion. Another phenomenon occurred. Small groups of "at risk" kids banding together to form a type of family replacement for each other. They were very structured groups telling their members how to dress, what music to listen to, what to think and what was acceptable behavior. Some of the groups were devoted to certain negative values such as suicide, death and cutting themselves. One such group was called "Death walkers". They wore black clothes, make-up and listened to music with death as the message. This was a form of what I called "Kiddie Cults". A "Cult" means a group that is devoted to a certain type of worship. Hate, anger and violence was becoming part of the devotion.

Since then we have seen more and more violence from the teen culture. The tragic rampage and massacre in Littleton was a heartbreaking example. Intellectually and professionally I was not surprised. It was a manifestation of a violent "kiddie cult" (suburban gang) that called themselves the "trenchcoat mafia". What scares us all is the deeper knowledge that Littleton was not an isolated incident. That it can happen in any community.

I have found that many kids in the suburbs are overindulged and simply lack the structure they need to be in better control of their lives. Without the proper structure and guidance, children do not learn the coping skills they need to adapt. Loving parents who mean well easily fall into the "rescuing trap". They "run interference" for their children. We want to give our children more than we got. We hurt when our children hurt. We want to fix it for them. We don't expect them to do a better job fixing it for themselves.

Children need to be listened to and helped to learn the problem solving skills necessary for healing. They also need the limits to halt negative patterns. When pain and lack of limits combine in a teen, we often see a serious result. There has always been and will always be trauma and pain in all our lives. The lack of structure and self-discipline has prevented many teenagers from being able to, at least, contain their rage.

I hope and pray that our society has now bottomed out in its learning process. It is time for all of us in society to stop condoning the forms of violence in video games, language, the music etc. It is all of our responsibility to "say no" to the violence in any form. It lies mostly with each family and parent to provide the model for a learning environment at home. Children learn through daily, positive repetitions that become habits that are internalized as values. What we value is a choice. So many kids "at risk" are our best and our brightest. They can learn that "positive is possible".

The information in my book “Lessons From Littleton” contains the lessons I have learned from the many children here in Littleton, including my own. This book is the result of the structure we utilized at home to save our own children's lives.

Since 1989, I have been trying to sound the alarm about violent teens and the growing trend of violence. I have spoken to millions of people trying to sensitize and teach that there ARE answers to the problems our children face. There is not a suburb far enough away now for any of us to run away from the virus in our culture. We parents must face the contagion head on and TAKE OUR STAND HERE.

Author : Dr. Brian Brody Psy.D
Dr. Brian Brody, Psy.D. is a licensed psychologist in Littleton, CO and has been in private practice since 1980. He is the President of the Institute For Integration Therapy, a father and an author of the international parenting book "Lessons From Littleton". To learn more about Dr. Brody please visit his profile here on the Find-a-Therapist.com Directory.