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The 19 year-old father killed his infant son over a video game – was the baby’s death inevitable?

To 19 year-old Andrew Keith Johnston, comforting his crying one-month-old son was not nearly as important as playing a video game. According to news reports, Johnston became so impatient with the baby that he and shook and squeezed him, causing death. Johnson is now serving 27 years in a Tennessee prison, and I can’t think of a more terrible waste of two lives.

Sadly, such tragedies may be inevitable – under certain conditions.  In the same way that various factors increase a person’s risk for diabetes or heart disease, so can certain circumstances raise the risk of becoming an abusive parent.

Sure, there are some 19 year-olds who do just fine at parenting. But the odds are not in their favor. Here’s why:

More young mothers today work outside the home, and leave their infants in the care of others who are not emotionally attached to the baby.

More young parents do not have a network of family support.

More young fathers today did not grow up with their own fathers, and therefore lacked a nurturing male role model.

More young fathers today were raised with electronic gadgets and games that often take the place of real relationships.

More young fathers today have grown up taking prescription meds for behavioral and emotional disorders, the side effects of which can be potentially dangerous. (Home Alone America, Eberstadt, 2004)

What can be done to lower the risk factors for child abuse and death? Certainly the biggest improvements in the numbers can be made by raising kids in a two-parent household with a compassionate, involved, mother and father.

It’s too late to save the latest tiny victim of abusive head trauma, but it’s not be too late for others. In Colorado Springs, the Crying Baby Plan video is required viewing for every new parent before they leave the hospital. Click on the link below to share it with anyone who cares for your child – even if it’s a grandparent of neighbor.

The Crying Baby Plan

  • 1. Make sure the child is fed and dry.
  • 2. Wrap the baby gently.
  • 3. Pick the baby up and gently rub its back.
  • 4. Try singing to the baby.
  • 5. Gently rock the baby.
  • 6. Offer the child a pacifier.
  • 7. Place the baby in a stroller and take a walk.
  • 8. Put the baby in a safely secured car seat and take a drive.
  • 9. Call someone on the phone for support
  • 10. If the baby is still crying, put the child down in a safe place and take a break.
  • 11. Check on the baby about every five to 10 minutes.

“Children don’t cry themselves to death,” says Paul Grabb, M.D., director of pediatric neurology at Memorial Health System. “If they’re fed and dry, let them cry.” FFG

To view the video click on the following links for either English or Spanish: www.bsphd.com/downloads/MemorialAHTenglish.wmv

www.bsphd.com/downloads/MemorialAHTspanish.wmv

Additional resources: Learn more about the period called PURPLE Crying – inconsolable crying during an infant’s first four months – at www.purplecrying.info; also, the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome: www.dontshake.org; the Association of American Pediatrics: www.aap.org. For symptoms of abusive head trauma (shaken baby syndrome), plus tips for reporting, visit http://www.cdc.gov/concussion/HeadsUp/sbs.html

Check out Jenny Kung’s latest Chinese Boat Wisdom! This week little Wai Ping faces a first grade teacher with a shameful past. Only at www.familyfieldguide.com.

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