This week I read an article concerning the newest free pass (Affluenza) that excused a young man for his poor choices and decisions. It seems that if you have enough money you can now, literally, get away with murder. By pronouncing this decision the legal system, at least in Texas, has now set the whole issue of accountability, consequences for poor decisions and the notion that we are all equal under the law back countless years. Toss it all out because some judge was bored that day or forgot his civic and social responsibility to ALL the constituents he was elected to serve. I guess my point here today is this. A teachable moment has presented itself for parents to drive home some valuable thoughts on drinking, driving and responsible decision making. However, I’d be willing to bet that there weren’t many discussions around the dinner table about what happened in that Texas courtroom. One reason for the lack of discussion could be that dad may not be present in the family home any more. This leaves the ‘work’ for mom to do when a young man really needs to be offered some guidance from his father about what happened on that road the night 4 innocent people were eliminated from the ranks of the living. That isn’t to say that mom can’t deliver the message but young men need to hear this message about male behaviour and what is and isn’t acceptable from another male. It is likely to carry more weight–to be internalized–if dad or at least another male role model delivers the message. That message needs to be that what happened is not OK and that is not what men do–at least not responsible young men even though the law of the land basically said otherwise in this case.
Right now the ‘One thing that kids need from us is. . . .for us to be their parents and to stop trying to be their friends.’ . I’ve had this conversation with many parents. Often times it’s with those parents who seem to be struggling to maintain their youth after it has gone well past them. We see mothers trying to dress like their daughters and fathers trying to look ‘cool’ with their sons–(Tats, clothing styles & over the top body piercings). We hear about the mother who recently hired some ‘exotic’ dancers for her son’s birthday party. They were to be the entertainment for he and his friends. He was 16 I believe. We hear of fathers who take their sons ‘out’ for their 18th birthday and get them ‘hammered and laid’ as a way of introducing him to manhood. There is a mistaken belief among some parents that if they ‘befriend’ their children that their children will then respect them more and will be less likely to get into trouble or be a problem in some way. The only thing that is likely to happen is that ‘junior’ will take full advantage of this whole situation and will get whatever he wants from dear old dad any time he needs something he can’t afford or doesn’t want to spend his own money on.
What our young men need are fathers who are able to clearly define what the boundaries for acceptable behavior are all about. Both parents need to encourage and commend their kids for the appropriate choices and decisions they make and hold them accountable for the choices they make that are not so responsible or appropriate. As parents we owe our kids clear guidelines and expectations for them to follow. Where or how would they get them otherwise if not from their parents? Certainly not from their friends. Friends usually don’t do that. Hearing those clear messages and understanding there are consequences to choices helps to keep our kids from experiencing a bloated sense of entitlement as well. Our sons and daughters learn from what they see us do and by what they hear us say. That’s how they learn from us and that is our job as parents.
This does not mean that we cannot be close to our kids and love them. It does not mean that we can’t enjoy them and have fun with them and take them to concerts, for instance, or interesting places and do wonderful things with them. It does mean that we need to be able to say ‘whoa’ when ‘whoa’ needs to be said. You can’t be both a parent and a friend so make a choice, do it quickly and then stick to it. Our kids need us to be parents more now than they ever have.
That’s how I see it anyway, Jim
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