Tuesday, April 28, 2015

In Praise of One Baltimore Mother

If you've been watching TV, you have probably seen the riots in Baltimore.  If you've been keeping up with social media, you've probably seen the one mother in the entire riot-plagued area of Baltimore stepping up and being a parent (not discounting the parents who quietly and calmly protested with their children in this same city).

My general response when I hear of riots on TV==whether by urban blacks or drunk college kids--is meh.  A bunch of idiots making their entire demographic look bad.  Glad I don't live there.  Glad I'm well armed in the event that such a thing ever did happen where I live.  So it was no wonder that this lady who saw her kid acting up, and no doubt putting his own life in danger, captured the country's attention when she did what any responsible parent would do.

And that is what is often missing in today's world where people act like fools and there is no one to correct them and teach them that there is a proper way to do things (and reach your objective) and an improper way to do things (and possibly end up dead or in jail).  This goes for everything from kids who bully and riot to kids who find a gun and don't have the knowledge/skills to know what to do with it.  On a slightly unrelated note and even more surprising, if that's possible, was a recent movie I watched on Netflix (Food Inc or Fed Up, can't remember which one) in which a group of elementary kids couldn't even name a bunch of common vegetables and had no idea where they came from (other than the grocery store).

I know that parenting is a hard job (and that the best parents can have idiot children despite their best efforts) but it is even more imperative in this day and age that parents make the effort to teach their kids well.  Back (way way back) in the day, the only influence kids had came from their peers, family, and neighbors.  Communities had collective values and everyone pretty much toed the line.  These days kids can be influenced by anyone--from their friend's parents who think it is cool to host a party for teenagers, with alcohol, then post about it on Instagram, to ISIS recruiters who (somehow) make jihad look enticing.

I know that there are many more factors against parents (and that the good old days weren't always so good no matter how rosy the glasses) these days but the basics of parenting haven't changed:

  • spend time with your kids (not just driving time to and from school but actually doing things with them and talking to them)
  • keep your kids busy and occupied (a busy kid has less time to get in trouble)
  • know what is going on in your kid's life (no, checking their cell phone from time to time is not spying, it's being a responsible parent)
  • have high standards and high expectations for them (in manners, morals, behavior, education, etc) and hold them to these
  • know where they are and who their friends are (easier said than done sometimes)
  • give them as many learning opportunities as possible (this can be any kind, from volunteering in a soup kitchen to planting a garden or going to the zoo.  Kids who have a broad-based education are often more confident and do better in school)
  • build up their self esteem (not in the 'everyone who shows up gets a trophy' way but by praising what they do well and correcting things that they don't do well)
  • model the behavior you want your kids to emulate (when the kids were young we attempted to model the kind of behavior we wanted them to follow--and were marginally disappointed that they still, on occasion, sometimes more often, acted like idiot teenagers, but somewhere along they way they grew up and became really good parents to their own kids)
If more parents went out of their way to do the right thing when it counts, the world (and Baltimore this evening) would be a better place to be.

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