Become a Fan
This article originally appeared in the July 2005 issue of Baptist Times Magazine. Baptist Times is the official publication of the Council of Baptist Pastors in Detroit, MI and the vicinity. The publisher requested that I submit the article because of my extensive work with inner-city youth, as well as because of my life roles of father and mentor. I hope you enjoy it. I welcome your feedback.
When the Baptist Times asked me toi write this article, I was delighted to be of service. As a twenty year veteran and executive, with the Detroit Police Department, I am no stranger to juvenile crime, data collection, statistical analysis, charts and comparisons, and research and statistics.
However, I aim to help parents identify many of the social, economical, and societal factors that directly or indirectly impact the problem of juvenile delinquency. Large metropolitan areas experience it more, if for no other reason, because of the density of the population. But, this is a problem that plagues all communities, no matter the size or population.
Imagine for a moment that all of the solutions to the problems associated with juvenile delinquency are locked in a room. Now let your imagination visualize a key that unlocks the door to that room. Now, finally, let's assume that the name of that key is "family". If our imaginations and the assumptions were accurate, then we could conclude that family is the key to solving problems associated with juvenile delinquency.
According to the Encarta definition, family is "a group whose members are related in origin, characteristics or occupation." The reason this definition jumped out at me is because it removes the "so-called" perception that family be associated by blood or lineage. Family isn't just mother, father, sister, brother, although that is the nucleus. Family is the role that all adults play in the live sof young people that they interact with daily. Family is just like any other key. Some keys simply don't work because of some flaw or another. Others worked at one time or another, but through time, wear and tear, they stopped working altogether. Then there are those reliable keys that work consistently well.
Young people who become delinquent in their behavior have either been part of a family that never worked or stopped working along the way. A key or family that doesn't work can't unlock the door. Behind the door lies the following knowledge points that should help parents steer their child clear of juvenile delinquency.
Young people want and need strong and effective leadership. They desire, just as adults, to be given guidance and direction. They want someone ready to put them back on track when they have been derailed. Leadership requires integrity. Young people recognize integrity and gravitate to it. The greatest benefit of effective leadership is that it has the power to replicate. Through strong leadership, our young people will grow to become leaders and mentors themselves.
The fine art of respecting our fellow human beings is fast becoming a lost art. We must teach our children to be respectful of others. We must teach them to try to follow the Ten Commandments, which contain the true basis of respect. If respect is taught be the family at home, then our children will take that respect with them as they traverse into society. One point that is driven home in the Lee household is the Golden Rule, which says, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Indirectly, the Golden Rule affirms the belief that respect is a two-way street.
Despite popular belief, young people don't want parents to be their friends. They want parents to be parents. A wayward teen once told me that the reason for her present state of delinquency was the fact that her mother allowed her to go out and partty at such a young age (she started attending teen parties at age 13). Never mind the fact that she begged her mother to go. the fact is, it was incumbent upon the mother to be disciplined enough to prevail. We teach our children discipline by being disciplined; taking notice of:
1. New or secret friends. You should know everyone that your child considers a friend. When I say "know" them, I mean intimately. Know their name, telephone number, address, and their parents.
2. Poor grades. If your child has suddenly "dumbed down," it may be due to peer pressure, and a desire to fit in. Intervene immediately. Schedule meetings with school teachers and counselors to demonstrate to the child your concern. Hire a tutor, if feasible and necessary. A resounding message must be sent to the child that failing grades are unacceptable.
3. Tattoos. Gang recruitment takes place in and around schools. If your child has a tattoo, or hangs with friends that have tattoos, make inquiries about what they mean. Speak with school resource officers or local police gang units. Gang identifiers such as tottoos, can be, inherently, dangerous to the wearer.
4. Disinterest or disassociation with family. This is the big one. Family is the key that unlocks the appropriate for your child, sure enough. If your child wants to unlock a different door, they'll seek another key, i.e., family.There is no shortage of people out there willing to be a family to your child. They are not always the most desireable people that society has to offer, either. We live in economic hard times. It is during these times that predators in our society seek out our children to harm, or otherwise exploit them. To avoid this, we must make home as pleasant an atmosphere as possible, and regularly engage family members in family activities, such as board games, family dining, bowling, TV night, movie night, sports, church activities, and homework, as afamily endeavor.
Finally, this is probably the most important point of all. In our homes, demonstrations of love must be commonplace. These demonstrations come in the forms of hugs, kisses, and other endearing gestures. The most important demonstration of love should be our love for God, and worship God through prayer and service. By simply implementing these strategies, we can help to reduce the incidences of youth violence and delinquency. Ultimately, we can unlock the door to a future of productive, community-oriented citizens.
Our society is riddled with incidents of juvenile delinquency, and the dockets at juvenile court reflect that the situation is propagating. We as adults can reverse this trend by working together to strengthen our community networks, educate our children and stabilize our families, thereby unlocking the grip that this horrific epidemic has on our youth.