COLUMBIA — I was recently asked by a county health organization to serve on a committee concerned with juvenile obesity.
Although I agreed to assist in any way I could, I let them know in advance that I don’t believe that any problem affecting America’s children can be solved until some means can be found to deal with America’s parents.
For example, one person on the committee described how her organization encouraged a group of parents to establish a community garden so their families could enjoy fresh vegetables.
Unfortunately, when the time came to harvest the crop, the parents admitted that they did not know how to cook fresh vegetables. The organization was then forced to go beyond its budget to hire someone to give cooking lessons so that the food would not go bad.
While this may sound like an isolated case to people unfamiliar with many young parents, it’s not. Obviously, there is no way society can force parents to feed their children nutritious meals. While meals can be monitored at school, ensuring children get one healthy meal a day may be the best that can be done.
Although certain restrictions can be placed on foods served in restaurants, the public cannot keep parents from allowing their children to eat at fast food cafes several times a week.
Parents can't be required to monitor the amount of sweets children devour or teach them healthy eating habits. While we all may be concerned about the health risks involved when children continue to overeat, if their parents are not concerned, very little can be done.
This is a big, big problem that affects everyone. When parents fail, society assumes the responsibility of taking care of their children. Taxpayers pay for foster care and assume the cost of juvenile justice despite having no control over the way children are raised.
This is a danger inherent in a free society where individuals do not feel morally or ethically compelled to honor a community standard of behavior.
I have met with several parents to discuss ways to discipline children since corporal punishment is not allowed. Unfortunately, most parents fail to adopt a system that works consistently.
Most of them try a form of “time out” with little or no success. Few can build a relationship early in the life of a child that is based on respect for authority.
At one time, the educational system was able to partner with parents to guide most children to a successful life. But because a large portion of society has adopted an “anything goes” philosophy, that partnership has not survived.
With high school dropout rates continuing to undermine the situation, it is likely to worsen for generations to come. A few school districts have found a recipe for success, and it’s sad that others do not try to follow their lead.
All serious parents should sit down and ask themselves where all this will end. Many of them say they want government to stay out of their lives, but they continue to create situations that require government intervention.
The time has come for parents and grandparents to step up to the plate and take responsibility for their progeny. Some have already taken responsibility, and for that, we are eternally grateful.
For the rest, remember: The well-being of your country is at stake.
You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or sending her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.