It’s 2012; yet another chance for a fresh start with a brand new year. If you are like most people, you’ve spent the past several weeks, or even months, thinking about New Year’s resolutions, with an eye on bettering yourself, improving your quality of life, and perhaps even making a few dreams come true. Here’s a resolution that I urge all of us to place at the top of our lists in 2012 and beyond: Be a healthy, supportive, and engaged presence in the lives of our youth.
Let me put it a bit more directly: It’s time for all of us, and parents in particular, to wake up and pay attention to our children. Put down the computer, cellphone, and remote control and engage with our kids. Our children may not say it. They may not quite know it for themselves, and often may even resist it. But they desperately need our love, attention, guidance, and vigilant protection. They need us to set both standards and boundaries, and to show genuine interest in who they are and what they care about. You say that kids no longer want to listen to adults. I say that many of them feel that way because adults stopped listening and paying attention to them. Show me a generation of lost children, and I’ll show you a generation of adults responsible for losing them.
And make no mistake: We are losing far too many of our children. Too many parents, busy with business, career, social life, personal issues, and self-indulgence, have delegated their responsibility and abandoned their relationships with their kids, leaving them to their teachers, coaches, peers and others–often virtual strangers who are in no way committed to their safety and well-being. And too many who are not parents dismiss our kids as none of their concern. But we are learning the hard way as a society that when our children are treated as somebody else’s problem, they too often end up on a path of suffering, victimization, and poor choices–ultimately becoming everyone’s problem.
It would be easy to point to some of the more extreme consequences of leaving our young people to fend for themselves, such as those victimized by molestation at the hand of a person in a position of authority and trust. But I’d rather focus on far less sensational, but no less damaging, ways we often fail our children. How many times have you let days, even weeks, go by without having a real conversation with your kids–one that involves you truly listening, not just talking? How often have you been less than vigilant about where your children are, when they come and go, and with whom? Are you guilty of failing to set and enforce rules and values for your kids, fearing their disapproval or criticism from others? How often are you allowing your children to make adult decisions–in effect, doing your job? As an adult, it’s your responsibility to assert authority over your children–when those boundaries are blurred or are non-existent, trouble is guaranteed.
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