I work in proximity of the H&M in Washington, DC on F. Street, Northwest. Several times a week, I observe a young person being carted off from the store by the police for shoplifting. I saw it again yesterday afternoon as I walked to the train to go home after work. I overheard one of the officers say something about calling the kid’s parents. This kid uttered something about his parents not caring because they’re never home.
Seeing that situation got me to thinking: I wonder if that’s the missing link between kids who stray versus those who live a trouble-free life. I never spent much time studying this, but I believe kids who have a loving, wholesome, and nurturing relationship with their parents are less likely to get into trouble. I look back at some of the kids I grew up with, and every one of them who ended up struggling in life or where in and out of jail had a strained relationship with one or both parents. That’s probably not the only reason, but it probably is a risk factor. I know some kids lead remarkable lives, despite their pasts. But those are probably just an anomaly.
I spoke about this weeks ago with a colleague, and he blamed it all on poverty. I had to take issue with him on that point. Sure, poverty does play a role in a person’s life with or without nurturing parents. I know many poor kids do get in trouble; but I also know of dozens of kids who grew up in poverty and they never got in trouble. Furthermore, rich kids get in trouble too. I think of the criminality of Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton. These two just popped in my mind, but I”m sure you can think of others too.
Thinking of that kid I saw getting arrested, maybe his parents were never home because they were always working as their way of dealing with poverty. I’m obviously making an assumption here, for I don’t know that kid or what his family background is. I only know his perception is that they won’t care by his own words.
I think back to a few weeks ago when Joe Biden made comments about the problems families have with out-of-control children and proposing that outside agencies may be needed to help them. While he faced criticism for his remarks – largely due to his delivery of the message rather than the message itself – there is some reason to support what he said. Many parents struggle with their kids and chronic behavior problems. I know firsthand. I’ve seen it through some volunteer work I have done and from a job I had at a group home for troubled, adolescent boys a few years ago. I’ve seen parents (or grandparents in some cases who were surrogate parents) pulling their hair out because of these kids’ behavior, behavior that got them placed in this group home in the first place.
One lady said she often felt intimidated by her grandson and afraid to discipline him. He was a tall 16 year-old, towering about 6 feet tall and she was a tiny little woman. She admitted that her grandson responded well to discipline the few times she tried to discipline him, but she was often afraid to because he could be cantankerous. She said she had no reason to fear him, but fear him she did anyway.
If she was afraid, just imagine how strangers felt around him. I don’t know but, if parents don’t set boundaries and discipline kids appropriately, I definitely see how the child might think the parents don’t care.
This reminds me of a movie I once saw, the name of which escapes me right now. This kid was invited to go to a party with other kids at which drugs and alcohol would be present. This kid didn’t want to attend an event like that but accepted the invite anyway, pretended he’d be elated to go when talking with his friends about it. He counted on his parents telling him he couldn’t go to a party if they hadn’t met the other kids or their parents. It made me chuckle because this kid poked his lip out and stormed off to his room when his parents said he couldn’t go, but inside he was beaming. I bet many kids are like this.
Anyway, I’m really just rambling on now. The point I’m trying to make is, I think kids make better choices and lead better lives when they feel they are part of a loving family. I’d love to take time to really study this. My thoughts are based solely on anecdotal observations. If kids think their parents don’t care about them, that is when I believe they seek family from their friends – or people they think are their friends. That can help lead them to a mountain of trouble.
It’s clear to me that parenting is not all fun and games. It’s a hard job, and I applaud all the parents out there. Kudos to you all.