- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 5, 2011

Culture Challenge of the Week: Brawls, Vandalism and Intimidation

In late May, a dozen teens stormed through a New York City Dunkin’ Donuts, hurling chairs, upending tables, and stealing drinks and doughnuts.

The Dunkin’ Donuts incident came on the heels of the highly publicized beating of a young woman at a McDonald’s in Baltimore. A 14-year-old girl and an 18-year-old young woman have been charged in the assault, but numerous other teens and adults stood by and, except for one older woman, did nothing.

There’s more. Recently a tribe of affluent New York City teens went on their own vandalism spree, torching a playground at one of the city’s public schools. The vandals’ parents quickly ponied up $50,000 for a playground repair fund. While the teens may see a dip in their allowances in the future, they surely heard one message: Buy your way out of trouble.

What gives? Why such out-of-control behavior?

The teens’ theme? “Because we can.”

How to Save Your Family: Be Parents “On the Job”

Good parenting takes more than love. It takes fortitude, presence and endurance. It’s a marathon, not a sprint!

The attitude problems and lack of civility we see in many teens today is stunning, and a sure sign of parents gone missing.

Walk into any public school in America and you will see posters, signs and school codes that talk about respect. Respect for others. Respect for authority. Respect for self. But it’s meaningless talk - with little impact - if parents are not on the job at home.

When children grow up without parents who teach them how to “love their neighbor as they love themselves,” and how to restrain their impulses, tempers and greed, they will learn it on their own only rarely. Self-indulgence and arrogance take root instead. It takes an adult - a loving parent - willing to commit the time and energy it takes, year after year, to help the child become a person of character.

Few parents abandon their children completely, but many do neglect their children’s character formation because they are simply not home often enough. For some, work, travel or other commitments take priority. Perhaps, as in the New York arson incident, high-powered careers cause them to adopt concierge-style parenting. (“Surely we can pay someone to do that.”) Other parents become emotionally unavailable - too preoccupied, indifferent, exhausted or unwilling to pour into their children.

How heartbreaking. But, how common.

When parents check out, children suffer. They become captives of their own immature and immediate wants, lacking the external controls that will teach them self-control and genuine respect for others. With few external controls, they have little hope of cultivating self-control.

So, fuel yourself for the journey. Pray, daily. Seek the advice of more experienced parents and trusted counselors. Lean on the emotional support of your spouse and close friends. Most importantly, make raising your own children a top priority.

The “world” will tell you to give more time at work and leave the parenting to the “professionals” in the government school system. It seems no one encourages moms and dads to spend more time at home. Well, consider yourself encouraged!

It’s not a matter of choosing between “quality” and “quantity” time with your family. Children need direct attention, and lots of it.

When you dare to buck the system and actually raise your own children, you will discover a joy and bonding with your sons and daughters that you never knew was possible. The fact is, boys and girls need their mommies and daddies - they crave you!

The training we give our children takes time and hard work - but there’s a tremendous payoff in the end: a child who becomes a loving, responsible, self-controlled adult, capable of achieving great things.

Rebecca Hagelin can be reached at rebecca@howtosave yourfamily.com.

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