By Jim “Pappy” Moore
Over the decades of the 70s, 80s, 90s, and 00’s I had occasion to deal with serious problems which cropped up in the lives of teenagers. The common thread was that each one was a child of privilege. They had good parents who tried to raise them right, and parents who provided very well for them. They came from good homes, from parents who had strong moral values. And yet, with everything going for them, their children somehow found ways to screw it all up.
Imagine yourself the parent of a fairly decent teenager of middle school age. Your child seems like a good person, and usually projects to you those qualities. Now imagine you get a call and your life changes because of it. Your child was arrested shoplifting at a store, which store pressed charges and now your child is in juvenile court. Or, your child is arrested for vandalism for senselessly destroying property at a public venue, or after hours at a school. Or, a parent comes to you and shows you horrible bullying on social media by your child against some helpless, undeserving teen victim. Or, you get a call that your child participated in a physical attack upon an old person.
You are appalled. You do not know what to think. How could this happen? How could your child do these things? How could your child hide such behaviors from you? How will you face your friends, your co-workers, the people at church, the relatives of the victims your child acted against?
What will happen to your child with the law? What will their record of misconduct do to your child’s current life and future opportunities? Will it keep them out of certain schools? Will it stop them from entering certain professions? Will it affect their ability to join the military? These consequences are real problems which decent parents face every year whenever a teenager suddenly commits acts the parents never saw coming.
The emotional, mental, and economic toll on the parents is significant. Where did they go wrong? Why didn’t they see it coming?
Sometimes there are simply no tells which would alert a parent to the direction a child’s development is taking. Other times there are clues which often appear in the home. If a child gets away with bullying younger children at home, it’s only a matter of time before they do so against other children. If a child gets away with vandalizing the property of others, neighbors for example, it’s only a matter of time before they escalate their misconduct and get into some really serious trouble. As a parent you have to keep your eyes wide open for signs from your emerging adolescents which indicate a propensity for personal violence, for petty larceny, or for vandalizing others during emotional outbursts.
Simply put, your job is to be aware of things your pubescent is doing which might indicate a lack of proper social duties toward others. These things tend to arise in homes of privilege, where the children grow up with more than their parents had on their way up. To some extent, they arise in the homes where children live a good life, full of getting and having things they want.
Why do they turn mean? Why do they find pleasure in being rude to others? It is difficult to say why it occurs, but one theory is they have too much without working for it. They see themselves as better off financially than others and therefore believe they are better than others.
I have observed it happening a number of times. I get a call. It’s from a client or other acquaintance. Their child has been arrested. An ugly truth has become known about a child in middle school or high school. Mom and Dad’s life changes immediately. It is a grim business getting a teenager out of jail after he or she has spent all night there. Even grimmer when they have to stand before a judge and own up to whatever misconduct they committed. Grimmer still when they are marked for life as a juvenile criminal.
Be aware of what your children and grandchildren are doing to others. If they are bossy, belligerent or bullying toward others in the family, that’s an indicator they could be headed for a ride in the backseat of a patrol car and unpleasantness for the whole family. Catch it while it is still a family matter. You will be glad you did.
Copyright 2022, Jim “Pappy” Moore. All rights reserved.