ON A PERSONAL NOTE /By Maramis
I know we’ve probably heard it all, and from every angle and at least ten times a day, if not more. But news is news and the uninformed sometimes fall into traps or get caught up in the very situations that make the news. And sadly,
children are not considered very much when it comes to presenting the news — or worse yet, in how adults get themselves entangled in being the news.
Under the best of circumstances, it is not easy raising children to be the best adults they can be, what with life hardly being anything like it was portrayed on the Andy Griffith Show, Father Knows Best, or shows of that ilk. A child of today is lucky to have two parents, and even luckier if those two parents have never been, and/or are not now, incarcerated.
Many of today’s parents — or where the bio parents are not in the picture, the relevant caretakers or guardians — are drug abusers, whether that be prescribed pills, street drugs, alcohol, or even the now-legal-to-use cannabis (although cannabis, depending on the person and the amount used, can be more soothing than activating). Drugs of any kind contribute to the mindset of the parent/s in even speaking to their children, let alone in how they reprimand them or teach them the better way to act. There is no question that drugs affect the brain and even otherwise mild-mannered parents can “take things out” on their children when under the influence. Innocent and confused young children may stuff their feelings down until some episode brings it out, and the scene is ripe for the beginnings of violence or rage.
True, many parents are not in that above category and truly try to be the best role models they can be, but can they be? Are screaming
parents, with or without drugs or alcohol, good role models? Are depressed parents, whether from the news, worry over getting sick (these days with COVID-19 or any other health issue), worry over having no job, no money, no prospects and no foreseeable future, or
any number of other worries, good role models? Are absent parents, whether because they didn’t or don’t take their job and responsibilities seriously, or through no apparent fault of their own — are they able to be good role models? Do they even know what being a good role model means?
Some parents have their children first and then discover that they are not fit to be parents of any kind; they may pawn their children off on others, regardless of whether those others are fit to have children in their care. Or they may just make the television set the official babysitter while they drink, withdraw to their rooms, or sleep. All the children learn is what they see around them or on TV.
Imagine being a child of five, or 10, or even 15, and seeing all that real violence on TV; what must they be thinking? Yelling, screaming,
attacking each other, burning cars and buildings, throwing rocks, being gassed (even if they don’t understand what that’s all about yet), people ending up dead. There’s just so much for their minds to take in when there’s no caring adult there to turn the station and/or explain what’s going on. And even with anything close to an explanation that makes sense and is true, that is just too much for a child to have to take in. Nor should they have to.
Then imagine if one of their own family is involved in that violence! We want to teach our children to stand up for what is right, but does that mean that we teach them to lash out and hurt others, burn their property, or take whatever they can before destroying their business? They will be learning from us, the adults around them, whether we think we are teaching them or not.
If we, the adults in their life, have always treated all people with respect or dignity, no matter if they were door-to-door salesmen, street-sweepers, strangers passing by, doctors that we take our children to, the neighbors across the street, or the shopkeeper on the corner, the child will not grow up thinking that some people are less valuable than others, and that being white is more valuable than being black. Children not only learn what they are taught with words, they learn what they see and what they feel.
If you want to raise a child who will be a bully and think he (or she) is better than those around him, don’t teach him differently. He will pick up your habits and your mindset. If you really think you’re better than your black neighbors, your child will likely follow suit
and may one day even grow up to be a power-hungry police officer who has the opportunity to inflict harm on anyone that comes across his path, especially a black suspect (because of how he was raised to think less of blacks) and may find himself acting out without thinking, as often happens, and then we will find that the sad saga of George Floyd continues in the next generation.
We cannot stop the kind of thoughts that led to a Derek Chauvin’s feelings that kept his knee on George Floyd’s neck by outlawing chokeholds. Laws do not stop lawlessness and violence toward other human beings. That begins by not learning those inclinations as a
child and then not furthering them by being free to do so because no one stopped you when you were young enough to be stopped. We must not ever think violence in a child is ever “cute” or not worth making an issue over it. Children will do what they can get away with, what they think will be approved of by their peers or even their adults, or what seems to profit them in some way with little chance of being stopped or punished. We only have one chance to teach them when they are young.
When will parents and adults in general learn that children are watching us, in person, on TV, and learning by observing what must be
okay to do because it’s apparently okay for them.
We cannot get away with that old saying, “Do as I say, not as I do.” Which do you think will win out?
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Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.