Love your child, serve our community

February 28, 2012

What was your childhood like?  Do you have fond memories of your relationships with your parents?  Your friends?  Your neighbors?  Did you develop connections to your community?  These are all essential components of raising children.  We have to teach them responsibility.  We teach them by showing them how we live our lives.  There is an article today about an Indiana boy who went to prison at the age of 12 for murder.  He pled guilty to conspiracy to commit murder and was sentenced to 25 years.  He and some friends apparently planned the murder of the stepfather of one of the boys so that they could all run away together to California, or maybe Arizona...somewhere, anywhere but home.

This posting today is not about the long term incarceration of children.  This boy did conspire and execute a plan to murder another human being.  But, reading this article started me thinking about what went wrong in this young man's life to make such a plan acceptable?  Didn't he have any connections or upbringing that would steer him clear of such violence? 

It is an unfortunate reality in today's society that many children are raised in broken and mixed homes.  Marriages and divorces are commonplace today.  Still, most of the children raised in such situations do not turn out to be murders or even criminals.  There has to be something more - or less - going on in the lives of the children who turn to crime to find their acceptance, personality, or character.

In the 80's many blamed TV and movies for increase in violent crime.  Opponents to that theory replied, "I watched 'Top Gun' it didn't make me a Navy pilot.  Watching Rambo doesn't make me violent either."  There is probably validity on each side of that argument.  We do adopt - to some degree - the character of the people we look up to and respect.  But, simply watching violent movies or playing violent video games alone will not turn a sweet child into a killer.  There is more to the puzzle.

While I'm not convinced that watching violent movies makes people violent, I am convinced that we become like the people we hang around.  Peer pressure is a powerful force, especially in the lives of the young.  Young people have much to offer.  They are a promise of the future.  They remind us to look at things with a fresh perspective.  We learn things about ourselves when we teach them how to live their lives.  We impact the lives of our youth when we pay attention to them.  If our attention is positive, we teach them to be positive and look at life and life's challenges with an eye towards positive and productive solutions.  When our attention is negative...well, we teach them skepticism, hatred, and mistrust.  If we are not present - actively present - in the lives of our children they will get the attention they crave from somewhere.  Usually, we are not the ones that get to choose where they get that attention.  It could be from a teacher, someone at church, or from the gang member down the block.

My post today is not meant to be a lecture.  I do not pretend to be a guru on how to raise children.  I have children of my own; good children who are accomplishing a lot of positive things in life.  It's not easy raising children.  It requires what the Bible calls "dying to one's self."  It requires putting the long-term good of that child above the short-term things that I sometimes want to do.  Not that it's all work.  I love my children, and love spending my time doing the things that they enjoy.  I may not be good at everything they do, but if I'm there, I can see what they do, and I begin to understand why they take pleasure in their activities - singing, sports, music.  And, I can appreciate their accomplishments in a deeper, more meaningful way.  That is huge reward in and of itself.

If you have a child in your life - whether he or she is your child, a step-child, or just a child that you have influence over, then today do our society a favor.  Tell that child why you appreciate him or her, and share something with them about your life as you engage in theirs.  Tell that that you love them.  Tell them with the words, and with your actions.  That child's life, your life, and our community's life will be better for it.