The killings in Newtown have unleashed not just a call for banning guns, but an increase in naming calling. Name calling is a step on the path to violence.



When I lived and worked in the Bronx, trash on the streets, in the curbs, and on the lawns in the parks was common place.  In Colorado, trash on the side walks, even the curbs is rare, and in the parks a bit rarer.

The difference lies in the Monkey See Monkey Do Law of human behavior. It explains why more have attempted mass shootings since the Newtown Shootings, which probably were sparked a bit by the other more recent but less deadly shootings at malls.


The more people who violate acceptable behavior, the more others give into the impulse to do the same.  That is why one of the cardinal rules of parenting is to model the desired behavior.

So what does this have to do with the increase in name calling observed on Facebook?  The shootings model aggressive venting of feelings.  So the name calling increased.

One might think name calling a safe release.  For many it is, just as for many a punching bag is a good release.  Sadly for some it leads to increasing aggression.

When I first became a foster parent providing short-term care for out of control kids, I pretty much ignored name calling feeling it was an innocent release of pent-up feelings.  With in three weeks of beginning to accept kids into our home, small violence acts grew into a riot.  You can read about those first three weeks and what I learned  in my book When Good Kids Do Bad Things.

A psychiatrist blamed the riot because  I served them skim milk.  His exact words: “You are depriving them of their mothers rich golden milk.”

Shows what he knew about mother’s milk.  Moreover the kids had lied to him. y David and I drank skimmed milk, the kids had whole milk. The shrink’s advice made me stop calling myself a therapist for a while.

My husband, a dog whisper, suggested however, that name calling and cursing were like dogs growling – a warning.  He reminded me a mother dog does not tolerate hostile growling in her young, but will grab an aggressive puppy in the neck and shake him.

One  foster kid even asked us to use physical punishment to keep him and the other’s in line.  Not our style.  But we did become Marine Tough about language.  A kid could not  utter the more obnoxious “Damn” or “Sh–” without paying a price – fifty cents in the cuss box.

I was amazed  at how quickly after joining our family which 99.9 percent of the kids placed with us obeyed our Marine Tough language rules. Even when cursing once the new laws were in place,  the curses served as a fence around their aggression and the punishment electrified the fence.  Really angry or prolonged cursing or name calling meant more punishment – going to your room until calm and able to apologize   The kids determined the length of this Time Out for Teens.

Anger-guru Carol Tavris sees anger as a need to be heard, a cover up emotion for hurt or fear.  When I ignored bad language I was not hearing and the kids had to escalate to grab my attention.

Now here is one other point – it was essential that I be angry when I objected to language and punished. The kids may not even have known their anger was an out growth of hurt and fear, but my anger apparently spoke to that and they felt heard.  Bad language was a safety valve. “>Bad language no longer serves as a safety value for many.  When Gone With the Wind was released, there was much upset at the use of the word “Damn.”  Now anything goes.

 Emotional Fitness TIPs

Tip one: Take back the power of language to help control behavior particularly in our homes, schools, work-places and media.

Tip two:  Realize that when anger is attached to name calling and cursing it is a signal that a wrong needs righting — look for hurt and fear in yourself or another and deal with the hurt, not the name calling.

Tip three: Seek solutions rather than blame when bad things happen.

Stay strong

I am not that much of a fool to think cleaning up language will end violence.  It won’t, but it remains a small step in the right direction.  Keeping yourself from calling names is a way to practice kindness and to think more deeply about what matters.

Thinking about what matters and practicing kindness are two of my Daily Twelve Emotional Fitness Exercises.   Click here to go to the webpage that describes all twelve.

You  might  enjoy my Emotional Fitness Pinterest Boards. They are designed to keep you strong. Some are laughs, lots are posts of other people’s advice I find useful, both my blogs posts can be found there.

Meanwhile thank you for your support and as I tell myself over and over –  share, care, stay strong and suck it up.


DISCLAIMER: FORGIVE MY GRAMMATICAL ERRORS FOR I HAVE DYSGRAPHIA.  If you need perfect posts, you will not find them here. Dysgraphia is a not well-known learning disability and means that sometimes my sentence structure is not that easy to follow or I make other errors. Still, most people understand me. All of my books are professionally edited, but not all of my blog posts are.  If this troubles you, feel free to read elsewhere.  If you persevere, you are practicing kindness by lifting my spirits for that means you find what I say helpful and that is one of my missions. Kindness always repays those who spread it.

All my books can be found on the my Amazon’s Author page  For now they are for parents, but come the new year and I will jump into the adult fitness market.


  1. Pingback: Take a Look at Ourselves? – The Practical Psychosomaticist

  2. Oh Katherine – such violence and so many young lives ended.
    I congratulate you and David (your husband?) on your caring attitude to those kids who came within your sphere of influence. I have no doubt they have taken those good things learned early into their adult lives. Happy Hannukah or Christmas whichever you celebrate. 🙂

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