A 6-year-old boy shoots a teacher in Virginia. Can it be rehabilitated?


According to police, a 6-year-old boy from Richneck Elementary School in Virginia used a gun legally purchased by his mother to intentionally shoot his teacher on Friday. The event is shocking and unnerving and, as with other crimes, we instinctively want justice for the victim and a way to ensure that no further harm is done by the perpetrator.

So it’s easy to see this child as deeply concerned and label him a threat to society. Some of us may want to lock it up and throw away the key. But as a psychologist who researches traumatic stress and treats its survivors, I hope we don’t. Instead, I hope we will compassionately provide mental health intervention for the injured teacher, the classmates who witnessed the shooting, the community reeling from the attack, and also for the boy who pulled the trigger. Why? Why, research shows that most children who receive early intervention for violent behaviors recover.

Research indicates that «warm, positive relationships,» rather than punishment in the form of reprimands and negative consequences, have the greatest impact.

We can assume that the child is undoubtedly experiencing trauma because shooting someone, whether intentionally or not, is a devastating experience. That means you need treatment. Furthermore, typical legal remedies are meaningless to a person too young to understand the full scope of her actions or what long-term punishment entails.

«Given a 6-year-old’s lack of cognitive and moral development, it makes little sense to seek aggressive criminal or juvenile justice prosecution against the child,» he said. dean kilpatrickprofessor at the Medical University of South Carolina and director of the National Center for Investigation and Treatment of Crime Victims. «He does not have the capacity to be legally responsible for this fact.»

Indeed, moral development it is incomplete in young children. There are different theories as to when humans develop the ability to distinguish good from evil, but psychologists generally believe that a core understanding of good and evil occurs. not before at 9 years old. Damion Grassopsychologist and associate professor at the University of Connecticut, also noted that often, «young children, especially those exposed to violence, may imitate violent behavior without fully understanding the ramifications of their actions.»

The good news, he said, is that this means «there are a lot of ‘catch-ups’ that can happen with proper nurturing and care.» Since imitation is part of how children explore the world, a good example provided by parents, teachers, community leaders, and even peers means they can absorb those behaviors, too.

patricia keriga professor at the University of Utah and a leading expert on youth recovery and resiliency, pointed to a large number of research demonstrating the short-term effectiveness of interventions for both conduct disorder — a psychiatric condition in persons under the age of 18 who engage in a habitual pattern of aggression toward people and animals, destruction of property, cheating or theft, and serious violations of the rules — as well as “what might be considered aggressive behavior of ‘yard variety’ — bullying, getting into fights on the playground, and reactively assaulting peers.”

Early interventions for children can include preschool intellectual enrichment and skills training that provide cognitively stimulating experiences that might not be offered at home. These can help a child develop a solid foundation for thinking things through and foster an openness or motivation to learn. They may also include teaching social and emotional skills to help manage one’s feelings, relate more effectively to others, see different perspectives, and engage in effective problem solving.

Additionally, at-risk children who demonstrate impulsiveness, attention deficit, or difficult temperaments can be taught how to make healthy connections with others, including how to resolve conflict safely. Chicago Parent and Child Centers they are a good example of how to provide these interventions. They have been found to improve academic performance. achievement among children, as well as reduce the occurrence of the crime in adulthood

Interventions can also help parents. Teaching parents how to reduce harsh and ineffective parenting skills, using positive parenting practices such as offering praise and encouragement, and engaging in closer follow-up with their children is essential to helping children have a healthy view of themselves. themselves and the world.

Parents can also learn how to better handle their children’s tantrums, disobedience, or defiance, how to reward children for appropriate or prosocial behaviors and administer negative consequences for inappropriate or other aggressive behaviors. Learning to consistently set and enforce limits helps children learn to control themselves and choose appropriate behavior. It also teaches children that they are more likely to get what they want without violence and how to express difficult emotions without attacking others.

In the meantime, school programs that help children develop Self-control skills and social competence. I have had positive effects in reducing the occurrence of aggressions. After-school and community-based tutoring, such as the provision of recreation-based drop-in clubs and tutoring services, can also help reducing youth involvement in crime and subsequent delinquency. Rates of improvement vary and depend not only on the level of intervention but also on the age of the child.

Kerig said there is also some evidence of the effectiveness of such interventions for «callous and unemotional traits,» a subset of conduct disorder behaviors that are considered signs of severe psychopathy and a potential precursor to antisocial behavior. Furthermore, the research indicates that “Warm, positive relationships,” rather than punishment in the form of reprimands and negative consequences, have the greatest impact. “Since these children are primarily motivated by self-interest, the best way to influence them seems to be to make sure they like the people around them,” according to an article from the University of Oslo, so that they show “consideration for them.” like someone they like.”

Certainly, pointing a gun at an adult and shooting them point-blank may be more violence than research to date confirms is treatable. And I certainly don’t want to jump to radical and overly optimistic conclusions by saying that every individual can be rehabilitated.

Let’s use the energy of all our intense emotions about this tragic incident to advocate for this child to get the help he needs.

But whatever intervention is used, said the Duke psychiatry professor robin, “the sooner children and families seek mental health services, the better.” The earlier children at risk are involved in interventions, the more likely it is that good skills will take root and flourish rather than allowing bad, ineffective or dangerous skills to develop and take hold.

Because at this time we have no idea what the circumstances of the boy who shot his teacher are or what other problems he might have, it is premature to speculate on the exact type of treatment required. But make no mistake, a mental health intervention is needed, and there is deals which can be used to help you.

The intentional shooting of a teacher by a 6-year-old boy is reportedly horrific and heartbreaking. Let’s use the energy of all our intense emotions about this tragic incident to advocate for this child to get the help he needs, along with the teacher, classmates, and everyone in the classroom. community that have been affected.

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