Read Chapter 1 of 'Jack and Jill'

Charity told me: "Monica and I were very articulate, something we got from our parents. Through bragging, we put each other down; in addition to the achievements we boasted about, we competed with each other in the language we used to describe them."

But let's look at a uniquely different language mechanism used by a fraction of the nation's total child population. Wanting attention but craving love, respect, and acceptance, their language is laden with not-so-subtle threats and desires to commit violent deeds; sometimes they are heard gloating about tragic events or expressing their desire to wreak acts of destruction. When they are among peers, instead of bragging about achievements, real or imagined, they engage in morbid revenge-speech: they talk violence, engage in hate-speech, and concoct death fantasies where vengeance is exacted — other people pay with their lives. During a talk I gave to a parent group, I was asked if this kind of talk wasn't "as innocent as bragging and merely taking it to a different level." Absolutely not. As a parent, it is critical that you know the difference.

Children who engage in morbid revenge-speech are braying and bellowing. That means (in this narrow context) they are gloating, fantasizing, or rhapsodizing about violent and destructive events, their role in them — or their regret about not being involved — or their wish to bring such or additional gruesome and devastating events to pass. Some go so far as memorializing their plans in writing. Children who brag desire to build up. They imagine a future (attention, respect, popularity) created by their verbal efforts in the present. On the other hand, children who bray and bellow yearn to destroy. They (1) either desire no future at all, or (2) want a future in which they take the lives of all the people they blame for making the present threatening, unbearable, and undesirable for them.

As a parent, you need to recognize that braying and bellowing are verbal telltale signs of feelings of worthlessness, hurt, rejection, frustration, bitterness, isolation, resentment and more. Charity told me that in addition to Monica calling her a "slut," "slave" and other derogatory words, Monica would rage with hatred. Charity said, "she threatened to kill me lots of times."

It is little wonder that Charity found quite pleasurable her detainment (before prison) in the juvenile hall. There, she could relinquish her role as the family slave and be pampered. The juvenile hall was located in a very affluent area, and she said she "loved the place." One reason was: "You had your own personal cook. They took your food orders a day ahead and fixed whatever you wanted." (The times are indeed a-changing when jail is preferable to home!)

The following is a sampling of some of the braying and bellowing events that occurred in and around the nation, beginning in October 1998. Carefully observe what the brayer/bellower says :

· A 14-year-old from Edinboro, Pennsylvania accused of murdering a science teacher during a school dance had earlier shown other students a handgun in his father's dresser and told them he planned to kill nine people he hated.

· The 13-year-old from Jonesboro, Arkansas accused of gunning down four girls and a teacher told other students before hand that he "had some killing to do."

· Two Pittsburgh seventh-graders were suspended for distributing a "hit list" of 10 teachers the students wanted killed.

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