I frequently read Facebook status updates pertaining to inappropriate conversations overheard or questionable behaviors observed regarding our youth. The comments that follow are usually centered on how shameful the actions were, the type of punishment the teen deserves and what a poor job the parent of that child must be doing. It’s rare to find more solution-focused comments.
I recall discussing this very topic with one of my dear friends. She shared a story of a teenage girl being disrespectful to her mother on a school field trip. With my friend being a no-nonsense parent herself, I already predicted what came next. As I guessed, my friend immediately intervened and verbally disciplined the teen by telling her she had better speak to her mother with respect. The girl was surprised and embarrassed and the mother of the teen appreciated the support. This same friend is also one who tells random young men with extreme cases of sagging pants how ridiculous they look. Sometimes, I am sure my friend is ignored, but I am also sure there are times where her words make a powerful impact.
I am wondering what our true responsibility is to children who don’t belong to us. If we fail to speak up, challenge or take an opportunity to make a difference, what does that say about us as adults? Of course it depends on the seriousness of the situation and the connection we already have to the child. But even those young people we don’t know at all could benefit from words of wisdom; if the adult offering it means well.
I must admit I don’t always speak up. I have been known to blow the horn and point or motion to children I feel are acting inappropriately as I drive by. But is taking it even further risking my safety? The truth is our children need us to step it up. I hope we haven’t grouped, labeled and given up on our young people. The village is required, especially now. Our young people need to know, not just that a behavior is wrong but why it’s wrong and what assumptions or consequences will come as a result.
We also must be able to offer advice without judgment. Whatever lesson is being taught goes right out of the window if the intentions weren’t honorable from the beginning. Our young people should know we care about them. We were once young and did things that completely made no sense and we learned from our mistakes by adults showing us the way and providing guidance. Even when we think they should already know better, we must keep in mind there may not be an adult in the home correcting these behaviors.
Whether or not we are parents ourselves, we can still counsel on the importance of being respectable young ladies and young men. Just recently, while out to dinner, I overheard the waitress tell a little girl who was dining with her father, to sit with her legs closed because she was a young lady. The father didn’t intervene because he knew the instruction was correct and allowed it to happen. We never know the influence we may have in a young person’s life by simply taking advantage of these teaching moments.
BMWK, what are your thoughts on correcting, advising and disciplining other people’s children?