Sunday, September 7, 2008

Parenting lessons come from the strangest places

Last week I was able to have lunch with a diverse group of people, five men and a women as part of a networking lunch. The guidelines for the lunch are that you engage in conversation and get to know one another somewhat. Everyone leaves with everyone else’s name and contact information.

The people at the table were a pretty diverse group. I happened to know one of them, the person who introduced me to the lunch. He is a Small Business Owner of a shop. The others were an officer on a drug task force with the DEA, a retail clerk, a farmer, and a business analyst.

Conversation quickly centered around the officer’s experience with drugs and teenagers. With the exception of myself and the analyst, everyone else at the table had raised teenagers. Several questions were brought up about how to spot drug use amongst your kids or the kids they hang around as well as how to avoid it in the first place. In the officer’s mind, prevention starts with toddlers. Parents need to interact with your children every day as they grow up. We need to talk to them, be there for them, know them and let them know that parents are there to help them make decisions. Parents need to be very involved with their children’s lives and spend years helping them understand right and wrong and how to make good decisions and understand that decisions have consequences.

The business owner spoke up at that point to say that he had been VERY involved in his younger son’s childhood and raising him. In the end it didn’t make any difference. In high school his son was arrested for possession of MJ and then arrested a second time in a sting operation for intent to deal. He talked about many of the arguments he had experienced with his son about grass where his son insisted that he wasn’t hurting anyone, not even himself. In the end, the two arrests hurt the entire family emotionally and financially.

The officer said that in counseling that he has been part of, parents need to understand that at some point their children begin making their own decisions. Also, those decisions may go against the coaching and teaching that the parents have spent years trying to develop in their children. He went on to say that too often, he will hear a suspect say that it isn’t their fault, that it is someone else’s fault. The officer went on to say that he calls that the victim mentality. People need to understand that at some point you need to take responsibility for your actions. Just as a person from a very disadvantaged community can graduate from college in spite of only one parent and poor home environs because they take responsibility for their lives.

It seems the decision to make a poor choice ultimately falls to the individual making the choice, not the circumstances that led them to that point.

I spent most of the luncheon listening. My little girl is 14 mos old. I will spend years being involved with her life, helping her learn and grow, understand right from wrong, realize that actions have consequences. I have the best of intentions and look forward to raising her to an adult. In the end, the officer opened my eyes a bit about the fact that I can only do so much.

Sooner or later she will have to make her own decisions and face her consequences, just as I did when I was a teenager.


loren said...

Hmmm... the hard part is that most of us have made poor choices but have *gotten away* with them.

I think about the girls and how they'll grow up. Hopefully I can teach them to trust each other if they don't want to come to me.

Kimmguru said...

I totally agree with this post & thank you for writing about it. I have often though about how GG will grow up one day & maybe I won't be able to read the signs not only about drugs but any types of destructive behaviors. I am terribly bother by how things have changed so much since my years as a teen and being naive to certain situations is something I worry about. TPG is one tough cookie & I doubt she'll get away with too much but I want her to still be able to come to us with any troubles she has.