I’ve watched the heartbreaking stories on CNN and via Social Media and held my kids closer at night thinking, “That couldn’t be my child.” That was until last week, a 15 year old Honors student named Hadiya Pendleton was brutally shot in the back while trying to seek shelter from the rain. Hadiya could have been one of my kids. She was seemingly doing everything right (she was in school, in the band and had just performed at the Inauguration) so why did she have to die so violently?
Because some ingrate/thug/savage decided it would be ‘fun’ to shoot into a crowd of kids. While the killer hasn’t been identified, I already know the profile of the killer. He’s probably a young man, angry and a product of his violent community. But just like Hayida who lost her life suddenly and violently, there are countless young people who lose their life in America, daily. For example, there’s the story of Jordan Davis who was murdered in Jacksonville, FL or the heart wrenching story of a mother who lost all of her children to gun violence over a span of twenty years in Chicago.
Our children are under siege and they need our help now.
So what can we do to stop this violence? Should we enact stricter gun laws, mandatory police patrols, yank all the violent music off the shelves? While all of these ideas would help, we still are not discussing the most effective method to curbing violent crime with young people — effective parenting.
Parents are the most influential people on earth. So why haven’t we decided to hold ourselves accountable for our children? Sure we can blame lack of knowledge or socioeconomic status but that’s not good enough. Every child deserves to have a parent that will love, protect, and set a good example for them to follow. Our children (mine, yours, theirs,etc.) need our help. It shouldn’t matter if you’re a single mother of five or a married couple of two, in order to address young people killing one another, we have to take back our responsibility — our children.
Don’t believe me? Walk into any urban school district in America and you will see a generation of kids who have given up. Many don’t care about school and droves are dropping out with no one to stop them. Teachers are frustrated by the lack of parental involvement and kids are desperately seeking attention. As I’ve been in schools all over the South, I keep seeing one constant factor with kids who are increasingly violent — they are the products of bad parenting.
Bad parenting has the potential to ruin children before they’re even old enough to read. Just sit and Google bad parenting and you will find enough examples to make you physically sick. Trust me working in schools I’ve seen it. I’ve watched parents set horrible examples for their children from the time they are toddlers to the the time they are graduating school. Everything from cursing in front of them to doing drugs in their presence. I’ve seen parents have so many children that the older children are automatic babysitters with no life of their own to live. I’ve seen parents completely abdicate their roles and instead rely on schools to clothe, feed and ‘raise’ their children.
All the while, our children are becoming more and more violent.
If you think that bad parenting only happens on one side of the ‘tracks’ think again. I’ve seen parents who live in mansions who are home every night but are so engrossed in their own life, they neglect their children. Or what about the parent who is so focused on their career they can’t take time to make basketball games or go to school functions? Bad parenting knows no social standing or income. It can happen to the best of us.
Even I have been guilty of working too much thinking I was giving my kids a better life financially but neglecting them emotionally. I had to take a hard look at what I valued and make some tough changes. All of us parents have had moments where we could of been better. Instead of us acting like the kids that are being killed around the nation are not “our kids,” why not help solve the problem of teen violence?
It starts with us having real discussions (with real solutions) about how we can improve our parenting such as:
1. Let’s stop buying our children violent music and/or games. Instead take a stand that violence of any kind is not tolerated.
2. Take the time to get to know your child. Talk with them, go to events with them, ask them about their friends, look at their social media accounts.
3. Discipline our children. This doesn’t always mean spanking but if your child does something ‘wrong’ there has to be consequences. Instead of awarding Johnny by buying him new clothes, hold him accountable for his behavior and academics.
4. Get involved in their education. Ask questions, visit the school, sit in in classes — anything that makes your presence known. So many parents are under the belief that by the time their child reaches middle and high school their job is done. That is completely false. With increasing peer pressure, kids need us more during those stages!
5. Compliment our child for things they do well. So many times kids come into schools with zero self confidence which leads to them becoming “prey” to gangs and engaging in sexual activity at an early age.
6. Be a good role model to our children. Kids watch everything we do. If daddy comes home and fights mommy, kids internalize that and react (usually negatively).
7. Help that friend or family member who is struggling with their children. Whether it’s a kind word or help controlling the child, don’t turn your back and act like that’s their problem.
Parents, in 2013 lets all band together and declare this is the year of our children and become parents again!
BMWK — Do you believe violence is a direct result of bad parenting?