If you are a parent or guardian ask yourself the following:
You come out of a store to see a middle-aged man with his hand on your son/daughter’s shoulder. Your child has a can of spray-paint in his hand and there is a half-scrawled obscenity on the wall of a building beside him. Do you:
A - Immediately call 911 and report the man as a pervert who touched your child;
B - Punch the man and tell him he has no business bothering your child;
C - Start yelling loudly there is no way your child would graffiti a building and threaten to sue the man.
D - Drag your child to the car while promising to return with cleaning supplies and walloping the kid at the same time.
This week’s editorial is inspired by an essay, Attaboy, from humor writer David Sedaris, who witnessed such a scene where the parents of a young man chose A, B, and C.
Sedaris was strongly of the opinion that D is correct. We agree. Maybe not to the level of violence, but that may depend on the child.
Somewhere during the past two decades an opinion that children have all these rights snuck into our culture. As the theories about modern parenting took root, the idea that children shouldn’t have a healthy respect (bordering on fear) of all parents slipped away.
A First Lady once penned a book advising that it takes a whole village to raise a child. This advice applies to discipline as well.
Just ask a person who is older than 35 about the way discipline used to be enforced – spankings, whippings, and lashings with a belt were prescribed for any number of infractions. And the thought that a child ought to be asked for his side of something would have been ludicrous. Yet, we don’t know many of these adults who complain now about permanent disability – either physical or mental - from the punishments.
Once upon a time all parents plus aunts and uncles were on one team and all the kids were on the other and the teams stuck together. But somewhere over the past two decades, the kids-team convinced many parents to be turncoats. Now you hear their rallying cry of “nobody had better tell me how to raise my kids.”
We don’t really advocate non-family members dispensing corporal punishment, but we do feel too many parents are much too intent on sticking up for their offspring, rather than disciplining their foul-mouthed little punk.
We have put a man on the moon; we have created darn fine meals from microwaves, we have made computers affordable, but we have yet to figure a way to prevent teenagers from making bad decisions. Parents need to go back to the general operating system of sooner-or-later my child is going to misbehave and I should believe that neighbor who spotted him smoking down in the cul-de-sac... and be thankful I can now take corrective measures. It’s hard to believe that many adults have the free time to sit around making up lies about teenagers for the sheer thrill of it.
Being open to reports of kids run amuck is particularly important if the person calling is a teacher, youth group leader or cop. You seek advice on your car, your gall bladder and your septic tank, why not take a little input from a pro on child raising?
When kids realize their parents always go to bat for them even while ignoring obvious evidence of misdeeds, it is a big step down a steep slope that will likely end in front of a judge one day. “No officer, my child says that was laundry detergent in the bag in his pocket, not meth. Y’all quit hassling him.”
Discipline and a healthy respect of elders and the laws can easily be untaught by parents who see their children as incapable of doing wrong.
So if you answered anything but D to the above question, we’d advise you to switch back to the parents team.