In a world that seems to be plagued with juvenile crime, I am always asking myself, “what is going on?”
The media is saturated with headline stories of children engaged in activities such as drugs, gangs, thefts, robberies, murder and so on. Juveniles seem to have become callous to law and order and have no respect for society as a whole. What happened?
As a police officer for the past 19 years, I have seen a radical change in how parents are raising their children and the outcome of it. I can remember one particular Mischief Night (the night before Halloween) when I was around 13 years old. My buddies and I were out and about. We weren’t causing any harm; maybe some toilet paper in a tree or soap on a window, nothing damaging. At one point in the night, we saw a police car driving through an intersection half a block up in front of us. It stopped and an officer shined a bright light at us to see if we were up to no good. At this point we really weren’t doing anything wrong at all, but for the thrill of it, one of us had the bright idea to just run. So, we did. We ran off through the yards and laughed as we did. That was until I got home. Apparently, the officer recognized me (I grew up in a small town) and decided to go to my house and let my father know what happened. When I got home, dad laid into me! He went up one side of me and down the other. It didn’t matter to him that we didn’t do anything. I should have never disrespected a police officer, never mind run from him. I was grounded for about a month.
Fast forward 15 years. Around this time, I had been a police officer in a bigger city for a couple of years. I was a patrol officer in full uniform. I caught a 14 year old boy throwing rocks onto an interstate at passing vehicles. I brought the boy to his house, knocked on the door and began to explain to his father what I caught him doing and how dangerous it was. I decided to tell the father that I would leave the discipline up to him. At this point the father looked at me with a very stern face and said, “Who are you to tell me how to raise my son?” As his father was saying this, the boy was looking at me with a smirk on his face.
What did this teach this young man? What are the chances that the next time a bad situation came along, instead of doing the right thing, he would do the wrong? In my 19 years of being a law enforcement officer, I have seen a resounding theme when it comes to troubled kids and kids who are breaking the law; it seems as though their parents are either absent in their lives or barely there for them.
Children should not be regarded as some type of windup toy. You cannot simply wind your son or daughter up and let them go about their way, free of direction or discipline. Children need guidance, and children need role models. I know of one young boy whose father seems to be everywhere and do everything, everything except. being present in his child’s life. His father is more interested in hanging and drinking with his buddies than spending time with his son. The boy was 10 years old when he committed his first armed robbery, He used an air soft pistol that looked just like a real gun. We found that “gun” in his room and his father had no idea the boy even owned it. Since then the boy has committed assaults, thefts, and is now associated with a street gang.
My father was always there for me, for better or worse. I am who I am because of him; a police officer, a well respected member of the community, a father who adores his children with every ounce of his being, a person who respects others and someone whom on which others can depend. His lessons in life and his advice were vital aspects of my growth. He always made time for me and spoke to me about right and wrong. He was strict but I always knew it was in my best interest. No matter how bad something was, I wasn’t afraid to come to my dad with it because I KNEW he loved me and cared about me. Maybe if I didn’t feel that way, I wouldn’t be who I am today, nor would I be the father that I am. His guidance is what I use to raise my children. His presence in my life is what I urge others to do as well. Our world needs fathers to be present for their children. As fathers, we need to be present for our children so they can lean on us for direction. We need to teach them the difference between right and wrong and what it means to be a good person. We need to talk with them every night to ask how they are doing, to hug the, and kiss them and tell them that we love them. That is that they deserve.