As a parent of a teenage girl, I cannot begin to imagine the pain felt by the parents of the Steubenville victims. Just this afternoon I read a similar story about a 17 year old girl from Ottawa, Canada, named Rehtaeh Parsons. She, however, was driven to suicide. Such a pretty young lady and a tragic story.
We try to so hard to teach our kids, guide them, and help them understand right from wrong. We want them to understand that when we say “choose your friends wisely”, we are not trying to run their lives. Literally, in this day, we are trying to save their lives.
The people our teens choose to spend time with, and the way they choose to spend their time, is no longer a simple decision to make. The availability of drugs, alcohol, and even entire homes is so much greater than it used to be. Being a parent these days is more challenging than ever. It is a scary world to raise kids in. So many of us without even realizing it – are enabling our kids. We buy them cars, and smartphones. We give them money instead of making them earn it. We do what we can to keep them happy, but at what cost?
I am not saying that tragedies such as the steubenville rape case could have been avoided by proper parenting. This is a terrible tragedy that breaks my heart. What I am saying though, is as parents, we have to be so very careful. I am far from the perfect parent. My daughter has had her share of trouble including being a victim of sexual assault herself. Could I have made her stay home that day? Sure I could have, but I know she would have found a way to get into trouble anyways. She is strong-willed and probably would have snuck out to get her way. Letting her go spend time with her friends that summer day was a small step in letting go. That’s what we have to do as parents. We let go and hope they make wise choices. Unfortunately it sometimes doesn’t turn out so great.
Do you ever just wish you could crawl inside their brains and force them to make the right choice? Choose the right response? What a difference our kids could make if when they are chosen as team captain, they pick the one that is always picked last first? What an impact that could have! Why can’t our kids see that? It would be such a simple thing to do!
Referring back to the young girl from Canada, I wonder what it would have taken for her to find value in herself? I wonder if it would have been that hard to do. A kind word, a smile, an invitation to sit at a lunch table. When you think back on your own middle school and high school years, do you remember a time when someone went out of their way to be nice to you or help you? If you do, it was probably a simple gesture on their part, but you never forgot it.
If we could just get our kids to grasp that concept. Sadly , it isn’t possible. So here we are. The best we can do is do our best to help them understand how easy it can be to make a difference. Be it a negative difference, or a positive one, our words and our actions are more powerful than any double edged sword.
What ways have you used to teach your kids the value of simply being nice? Please share your thoughts with me in the comments section.