Two families are worrying that one of their children has picked up a knife during a squabble with a sibling. There was another family at the end of last year, and this feels like a new trend. I am convinced that this was not a determined way to hold on to an inheritance, it was a reflection of everything that has been in the papers and media recently about knifings. The parents are asking for help but this is the sort of impulsive action that might very well ‘end in tears’ but can’t readily be predicted or prevented. Any papers and research is to do with the ‘carrying’ of knives, which is a different thing altogether. Children who carry knives will often believe that they are carrying a blade defensively – just in case someone picks on them. But carrying already makes you feel braver, so kids are more likely to feel confident in a confrontation, bring their knife out and get into trouble!
[As a hitch-hiking nineteen year old , when the world was safer, I was with another girl and my parents did not know!!!, I remember getting out the flick-knife my boyfriend had given me and ‘casually’ playing with it, so that the overly helpful driver would let us out of his car. He did. Later I thought how lucky I was not to have been killed. but Later!]. And it has been going on for some time – in the 1960s boys were being frisked on the way in to some schools.
The issue of knives in the kitchen is something else and may be another example of the insidious influence of the media. We all read so much about stabbings and knives, that it seems a reasonable thing to do. [Similarly, all those things about other forms of violence, sexual relationships etc]. We are inured to a lot of this, we just accept what we see on TV or read about – I can’t be the only person to have realised how dangerous it is to live in any of the Soap Addresses!!
The American Psychological Society prepared a testimony which was presented to the House of Representatives in 2004 pointing out that we are increasingly desensitised and being coarsened by the media.
Tomorrow I shall phone these mothers up and sympathise. I shall suggest that they keep the knives slightly out of reach, explain why knives are dangerous and threaten their children with disaster if it ever happens again. As they used to when the children played with fire, or on the stairs. Their children do not believe that nasty things happen to them, they are playing in just the same way as when they deliberately wobbled on a wall – and fell off, or tossed a glass or plate casually – and then it broke. This is a little different because they want to frighten their brothers and sisters, but they are just trying the knife for effect. Unfortunately the long-time outcome can be quite disastrous.

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