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Austin Murphy
Austin Murphy

The Bad Kids 'LINK'

Zhang Dongsheng is a teacher whose wife, Xu Jing, wants a divorce. He takes his in-laws to Mount Liufeng and asks them to help him fix his marriage, but they refuse. Enraged, Dongsheng pushes them off a cliff to their deaths. The three kids accidentally record this crime while visiting the mountain to take pictures. The trio decide to trade the footage with Dongsheng in exchange for 300,000 yuan. Dongsheng says he doesn't have the money but offers them 30,000 yuan upfront with payments to come later.

The Bad Kids

Pupu eventually begins to trust Dongsheng after he saved Chaoyang and let her and Liang stay at his apartment during a typhoon. Dongsheng gives the kids 300,000 yuan he borrows from a loan shark but overhears Liang telling Chaoyang that he will keep backup footage of the murders. Dongsheng forces Liang to give him the backup but finds that it is fake. As a result, he hesitates to save Pupu during an asthma attack and puts her in danger of dying of asphyxiation.

A story that follows three children from a coastal town who unintentionally film a murder scene. As the kids become involved with the suspect, it opens up a case that is far more complicated than it looks and entraps several families into an unpredictable outcome.(Source: Adapted from the novel "The Gone Child" (坏小孩) by Zi Jin Chen (紫金陈). Edit Translation

The group was informally named by Kristen Applebees on the first day of school when she noticed the five other kids talking to Vice Principle Goldenhoard about their detention: Fabian Seacaster and Gorgug Thistlespring received detention for getting into a fight first thing in the morning; Fig Faeth received detention for breaking into the teacher's lounge and attempting to steal a ghost steak; Adaine Abernant received detention for stealing a library book from the restricted section; Riz Gukgak received detention for breaking into Principal Aguefort's office and stealing one of his teabags. Kristen did not "officially" receive detention.

When Coach Daybreak, a fellow member of Kristen's church, approached her to ask what adventuring party she wanted to be in, she pointed to the five and said she wanted to be with "the bad kids". Daybreak suggested she join a group with other like-minded, religious individuals, but Kristen insisted he give her detention too. Coach Daybreak declared that she had 'bore false witness' (a religious offence, not technically a school rule) and gave it to her.

We witness a similar waxing and waning with Lee, a burly black guy who has a child with another student, a skinny bespectacled girl named Layla. The two seem to want to do the best for their (adorable) little boy, but Lee has difficulties with his elders at home, as do many of these kids. Sometimes he appears quietly motivated; at other times, about to slide off the planet, with no idea why he should be struggling for a diploma.

The kids in classroom 4B have a reputation as the "baddest" kids in school. What no one sees is that each kid has a reason for acting that way. Mila has been removed from her mom's care and placed with her aunt, whom she doesn't trust. Landon has trouble learning, but doesn't want anyone to know. Jordan's father was recently sent to jail. Jayme has been taking care of her younger siblings while her mother starts dating again. Together, the "bad kids" in 4B learn about acceptance, stepping out of their molds, and confronting life's challenges.

THE BAD KIDS aren't really "bad" at all -- they're just trying to get through school, even though the deck is stacked heavily against them. Abuse survivors, teen parents, kids with drug-addicted parents (or no parents): These are the students at Black Rock High School, situated on the edge of Southern California's Mojave Desert. The documentary focuses on a handful of these teens as they try to graduate, with various degrees of success, while also showing their real-life struggles and very difficult life circumstances.

The area surrounding the Mojave Desert is a starkly beautiful region but also tough and unforgiving; so is this deeply moving documentary. The material is compelling: A principal and her staff attempt to reach -- and teach -- teens whom some have deemed unteachable so they can find their place in the world with confidence and worth. And the way this story is told, with deep compassion, and the kids it follows, will break your heart and stick with you long after the credits roll.

For Zhang did not expect that teenager Chaoyang and his friends would catch him in the act. An opportunity for blackmail presents itself and the kids start down a dark path that will lead to the unravelling of all their lives.

Anyone with kids knows that every one is different. Some may be more creative, others more coordinated. Well, what about behavior? In a recent article in the New York Times, psychiatrist Richard Friedman pointed out that mental health professionals have long been trained to see children as products of their environment, intrinsically good until influenced otherwise, and he disagrees.

While there are all too many bad parents around, he argues, chronic bad behavior by a child does not necessarily mean bad parenting is responsible. Some kids are just bad seeds. He joins us in a moment.

Dr. FRIEDMAN: Yes. So you could say on the one hand, you know, these parents may have been doing something in a subtle way that was bad, but then you'd have to explain: How is it that they raised two perfectly normal, healthy, well-adjusted kids?

CONAN: So obviously, if you lock a kid in the closet for 12 hours a day, they're going to come out a little strange, but on the other hand, you can have strange kids who were raised by perfectly nice people in a perfectly healthy environment.

Dr. FRIEDMAN: Yes. I mean, kids are unbelievably influenced by their peers. I mean, obviously, it's not just the family. But Jill raises a really important point, which is, you know, there are lots of mismatches between kids and their parents.

Dr. FRIEDMAN: Yes. I mean, he's pointing out that, you know, kids don't come into the world as blank tablets. They're not tabula rasa. I mean, Jerome Kagan, the psychologist at Harvard, showed very early on, you can identify temperamental trends in kids.

You know, there's a group that's shy and afraid of strangers and reacts to new things with a lot of anxiety, and there's a group that's quite comfortable socially and extroverted. And if you follow these kids over many years, which he did, you find out that these states, these traits, these temperament traits, are stable.

Dr. FRIEDMAN: You know, there's a certain amount of plasticity, yes. And you know, you'll probably never take a shy, very, very shy and frightened child, and turn this child into an exuberant extrovert. That happens in a vanishingly small number of kids in his sample.

Parents, you can relax a bit. Sometimes bad kids, the bullies, the thieves, the meanies, just happen. That's what psychiatrist Richard Friedman argued in a recent piece for the New York Times. Of course, there are many bad parents too. But perfectly decent parents, he says, can produce toxic kids.

And the only thing that I would add is that when it comes to defining what is good parenting, there's a lot of science out there that is correcting what people think is there, and parents of kids who are acting badly not psychopaths, as Dr. Friedman says should know that there is emerging bodies of work which can actually be very helpful.

You know, whether it comes from looking at kids from bullying, and there's great new data out of Finland that can help schools and parents understand why who becomes bullies and why, or whether you know, work on sibling cruelty, great work out of Illinois by Laurie Kramer(ph) that can help relieve this incredible cruelty that goes on between siblings.

Dr. FRIEDMAN: Yes, absolutely. I really appreciate those points. I mean, even insofar as, you know, helping kids to develop, you know, a capacity for empathy, you know, something that everybody believed was, you know, inalterable, it's hard-wired, you're either nice and have empathy, or you don't. But it turns out that you probably can acquire empathy in certain social situations, and you can be taught. You can actually learn how to model and think about other people's feelings.

CONAN: I wanted to ask you both about this email that we got from Zach(ph) in Boulder: The development of a person includes multiple interacting variables, an idea which ought to be communicated to the public to dispel theories of unidirectional causality: it's the kids' fault or it's the parents' fault.

Occasionally, I've met the kids, but even when you meet the kids, even a difficult kid can be nice, you know, and well-behaved in your office. So you know, you're getting a snapshot of people's behavior.

And I benefited from my older siblings going through my parents learning how to be better parents. And I think that saying, even though parents are being good, I think, you know, it's parents' job to raise children, and kids can be they need that. They need what they provide.

I mean, they're the ones that kids are learning from, and all these external things, and the first caller talking about the problems she had, if a parent doesn't have a skill set to help deal with that, the kid's going to seek either stuff from other outside influences, which probably a lot of times won't turn out well, or just become problematic.

Mr. BRONSON: Right, but there is science that says what, as parents now, where are we to put our emphasis on making that better? And that science says stop trying to resolve the conflicts that do emerge and teach kids the skills of initiating play together in a constructive way. And they tend to get less fighting simply because they play better in the first place.

And on most measures, you would think that progressive dads sort of beat all other kinds of dads because they're so involved in their children's lives. But there are actually a couple of risk factors to being a progressive dad. One has to do with higher rates of marital conflict. Because, often, parents who are doing co-parenting 50-50 end up arguing about the kids a lot, and 40 percent of the arguments are about the kids themselves. And the other risk factor is discipline. The progressive dads are really great at turning on the charm. But on average, we're not so great at consistently disciplining our kids. And if there's one thing out of the science of discipline is that inconsistency is not good for kids and does cause aggressive behavior down the road. 041b061a72


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