I sent the following letter to the Chicago Tribune yesterday. Let's see if it gets published. Here it is:
We have had a rash of violence on the city's South side. I have been deeply troubled by all the "gun violence" and other forms of criminal activity that regularly makes the news here in Chicago.
I've lived here almost eight years, and it has troubled me for almost that entire time. I'm glad that Mayor Daley's office finally recognized that "parents" have responsibilities too. Now, if the parents will believe that ONE concept.
However, I was a teenager not too many years ago (less than 30 years ago), and I grew up without all the "stuff" that many teens (and their families) think necessary for survival today. I have some things for our "society" to think about.
First, for the parents:
Telling your child "NO" and meaning it, (and being willing to enforce the consequences) is not child abuse. It is your responsibility. This is particularly important when it comes to curfews, homework, and respect. If that child lives under your roof, eats from your table, then he/she should be served notice: they will observe and obey YOUR rules. That is your responsibility.
Knowing where your child is before, during, and after school hours is not "spying" on your children. It is YOUR responsibility to know where they are, and what they are doing.
Knowing your child's friends and other relationships is YOUR responsibility...it is not "emotionally abusing" to anyone...and particularly not to your child(ren).
Knowing (and respecting) your child's school teacher is YOUR responsibility. His/her job is already difficult enough, because 9 times out of 10, they are having to teach "your child" things that you should have taught them in the first place...IN YOUR HOME. Be grateful for your child's teacher, and support them every opportunity that comes along.
Telling your child that guns, gangs, and sexual activity are OFF-LIMITS to them (and meaning it) is your responsibility. Their "self-esteem" will be in much better shape when you give them boundaries, and consequences. They need both. We do not need more "babies" having babies, and "children" raising children. Abstinence still works. Your children must know this, and you must tell them. Abstinence from GUNS, GANGS, and SEXUAL ACTIVITY (until they are much more prepared than they currently are) is possible.
For the child/teenager:
I grew up without the love and guidance of my natural parents. They abandoned me when I was very, very small. But what I did have was alot of grown-ups who cared about me enough to make sure that I got a good education, and learned how to find my place in the society. I have some advice for you too:
It is not abuse when an adult insists that you use good manners. This includes "sir, ma'am" and "please" "thank you" and " you are welcome" in your conversations. It is your responsibility to learn these things, and it is the adult's right to insist that you learn them.
You are not entitled to the same "respect" as adults because you are not an adult--yet! When an adult tells you to comb your hair, pull up your pants, and look like a "prospect" instead of a "suspect"--listen to them! We have been down those "roads" before and we see how dangerous they can be. Your self-esteem will not suffer. And if it does, you will get over it. You will be grateful that someone cared enough about you to not let you "self-destruct".
Your friends are not always right. And if they live "without boundaries" chances are they are usually wrong. Show them what an intelligent, maturing person looks like, from your own example.
You can wear cheaper clothes, and cheaper shoes, and still live! The world will not stop rotating if you have to look "normal" and "presentable."
Respect your school teachers. Insisting that you learn and not be a "thug" the rest of your life is not abuse! It is what the taxpayers of this nation expect and deserve. If you are truly being abused, make sure that you tell an adult, and then let us help you. But insisting that you "learn the lessons" and become a productive member of the society is our right...and it is your responsibility.