digging deeper

She was gangly. I was early. While I waited, sipping my cappuccino in a corner, I watched her. Except for one tangled strand at her temple, her thin yellow hair was pulled tightly to a bun on the top her head. The loose strand was hot pink. Piercings filled with metal ran up and down her ears. Her jeans were like tights.

She went outside to smoke a cigarette; icy air blasted the store as she went.

I shivered and shook my head: she was all of about sixteen.

My friends arrived, and, for the moment, she was forgotten. Lost in conversation and the catching up of years, I failed to notice her reenter the store, or the way she was camped out, vacant, on a sofa in the corner.

That is, until the text.

“Oh, my gosh,” her cry was loud enough to fill the room. She was staring at her phone. “Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh.” She stood up and went over to a friend. She showed her the text. “What am I going to do?”

Her friend looked concerned.

“My mom’s . . . on the property. She got in a fight. She’s . . .” The girl was babbling. “He should have known better: my mom always wins. But what if she goes to jail? The last time . . . Last time . . . What if she goes to jail? What am I going to do?”

She was practically shrieking now. The room was uncomfortable. Suddenly, I saw her anew.

What was this poor girl going to do?

                   

The biggest influences on kids today are not the media. They’re not the NRA, the NBA, NBC, or Assassin’s Creed 3. The biggest influences on kids today are their parents.

Think about it. In their earliest stages, who do children imitate? Sure, you might hear lines or certain words picked up from movies or, at later stages, school: “Oh, Junior, where did you learn that?” But I guarantee that most of kids’ behavior comes from the people they have the most contact with every day.

But kids have a hard time differentiating between fantasy and reality, you might say. Studies have shown a strong correlation between media violence and aggressive behavior in kids. True. But to whom do kids run for comfort when a bad guy comes on the screen?

Kids aren’t stupid. Even in their earliest stages, children recognize that there is at least some difference between what they see on TV and real life. I’ve never heard of any kid looking for love and acceptance from his favorite television show.

So what does this mean? Am I blaming parents for youth crime in the United States? Of course not. Every child reaches an age of reason and learns that he is responsible for his own actions. Even in mentally ill patients, there is some accountability. What I’m saying is that, instead of pointing fingers, I think it’s time for everyone everywhere to take a good look at themselves and examine what kind of person they are portraying to the world. Are we taking responsibility for our actions and exhibiting the kinds of behaviors we want our children imitating? Or are we exemplifying behaviors that lead to the kind of actions we saw in Connecticut last week?

Because, while it goes without question that better gun control is needed in the United States, with the way things are now, if it wasn’t guns, it’d be something else. You have to weed out the root of the problem to fix the problem itself. After all, there’s a reason we have to take off our shoes at the airport.

personal responsibility

15 thoughts

  1. Once again Provocative Jessica! I’ve started looking forward to “Shift”. Keep them coming. I agree “sigh” we parents have more power then I want to believe!

    • Thanks, Terri! Indeed, I was just talking about this very topic with an old friend and his wife last night. (You might remember him–Garrett. ;)) It is too true that both parenting and environment make a huge difference in kids’ lives. Some kids are born into situations of which it is extremely hard to get out. However, no matter where they’re from, everyone from has the power to make both good and bad decisions and the opportunity to better their lives if they so choose.

  2. Always seems to be easier to fix a symptom than the root problem…then call the problem “solved”….. Good thoughts! Jess :)

  3. Hey Jessica, nice one! I had no idea where you were going with this, but your intro with the “gangly” teen pulled me right in (like the opening of a good mystery novel will do). Great message to get across!

  4. Great share.

    I’m a very firm believer in loving our children on purpose. Children respond to love, that is all they need in their early stages of development. When I give my baby girl undivided attention and just be present with her in the moment, that’s when she’s happiest. This may sound simplistic, but it’s what I know for sure (for now). This proverb speaks volumes regarding our responsibility of parents: Train up a child in the way they should go; even when they’re old they will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6).

  5. Pingback: heartless | shift

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