It happens at least once a month.
I find myself feeling sad when I have to tell young parents that I can’t help them solve the problems they are having with their children. I have to tell them truthfully that I have no experience with children who have no respect for their parents. In the days of my childhood, the single, most powerfully motivating factor for doing good among my friends and me was the hope that our parents would be proud of our behavior.
In those days, of course, adults were in charge and children simply did as they were told. Was that bad? Well, I suppose in some cases, for some children, it was bad. But for the children of my family, it was good. It was a system that provided us with security. We always felt loved and protected.
Unfortunately, as a society, we tend to go to extremes in our attempt to solve problems. Instead of dealing with a tree’s bad apples, we deal with all the apples, defects or not. The defective apples which required individual attention are overlooked and their defects manifest themselves in other ways. Abusive parents go on to become mass murderers of adults. And although many parents, in an attempt to prove their worth, go overboard with permissiveness, we continue to have those who abuse and neglect their children. We have a whole stack of rules to protect children from abuse. But for some strange reason, we refuse to accept that restrictive laws can never replace education.
Although child abusers are quite obviously the worst offenders, it’s difficult to determine whether second place should go to those who neglect kids or those who enable them to misbehave. Most of us have lost track of the number of families and even neighborhoods that have been and are being held hostage by criminal teenagers and young adults who live with parents and grandparents who are willing to overlook their rampages. How many older people are shut up behind barred windows and doors out of fear of young hoodlums who are allowed to prowl around their homes and apartment buildings while their parents appear not to notice? The roof over the classroom gets blown off if a teacher raises his or her voice to a student, but who hears about the number of times teachers’ lives are threatened by students whose parents pay the kind of taxes that leads them to believe their children are sacrosanct?
Every day, we all see the children on the street, in stores and restaurants at 2 years old already in control of the family. The adults who accompany these children seem unable or at least unwilling to discipline them even though child molesters are often lurking in the background waiting for the opportunity to kidnap a child who might stray.
As a society, we are being held hostage by irresponsible parents and grandparents. It is our tax dollars that pay for schools and later the jails. Yet, we the public sit by silently while the classrooms are disrupted and teachers and other children are threatened because we know a losing battle when we see one.
All kinds of emotions parade in the name of love. Insecurity, immaturity, confusion and idolatry are just a few of them. People who truly love their children want them to grow up to be responsible citizens and contribute to a civilized society. They have sense enough to know how difficult it is to survive under barbarism where violence is allowed to flourish unrestrained. Most people understand that discipline is a form of love. To allow a child to grow up oblivious to what constitutes good or bad behavior is not love, it’s child abuse. To release a child into the world without the ability to refrain from harming himself or herself is unconscionable.
It is unrealistic to believe that the matter of irresponsible parenting will take care of itself. Ultimately, those who refuse to police themselves will have to be policed for the good of society.
This is not the kind of situation that any responsible person cherishes. With our nation’s human and technological resources, we have a wonderful opportunity to bring up generations of children who can change the world. They can revitalize and protect the environment, they can revolutionize food production to feed all the hungry, they can make medical discoveries that can cure diseases, and they can be goodwill ambassadors throughout the world.
2005 can be the New Year of the Child. It can be the year when we truly focus on what is happening to the children and why. This is another moment in time when a person can either be a part of the solution or a part of the problem. Take your choice.
You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.