(Originally published: Huffington Post-Two Tales Involving 350 Kids, Entitlement and Lessons in Parenting and Life)
Let me get this straight.
Three hundred teenagers break into the vacant vacation home of a former NFL player, ransacking the home while drinking and partying the night away. The home, located in Stephentown, New York, belonged to former New England Patriots and LA Raider player Brian Holloway, who now helps charities and is a motivational speaker. Police say they found walls spray-painted, windows broken and floors scratched by beer kegs and soaked with urine. In addition, a granite eagle statue that was part of a memorial for Holloway’s stillborn grandson was stolen.
And, the teens were not afraid to hide their crime as they unashamedly posted photos on Instagram and Twitter.
Yet, rather than pressing charges, the former football player wanted to give these kids a chance to make it right by offering them a chance to clean up the very place they ruined, in order to prepare the place for an upcoming charity event. He re-posted the photos of the kids partying away in his home, asking them to return to the place for a clean-up party. He wanted to help them go in the right direction in life.
Wow, awesome. Great guy.
Wrong, say some of the parents of the teens, who were allegedly outraged that Holloway would post the photos of the teens on his website. One mother even threatened to sue him for posting the photos; photos, mind you, that the kids had themselves splattered all over social media.
Here, Holloway is trying to help the kids by offering a way for them to make good, and a parent threatens a lawsuit?
As a parent, I’d be so on my kids to have them take Holloway up on his offer. But, as it stood, only four out of the 300 kids showed up for the clean up event. Where were the other 296 kids? Where were the parents, insisting that their kids go?
Wow, are these parents raising entitled kids or what? What ever happened to basic, common sense parenting and parents who admit, realize and understand that their little Johnny is not perfect?
It’s time to go back to Parenting 101 class. Or Etiquette 101. Or Tough Love Parenting. Or something.
What kinds of kids are we raising when we do not teach them to own up to their faults, that in this case, actually included committing a crime? Do we think our kids are perfect and unable to do wrong? How is this parenting style impacting them as people, as young adults, as human beings in the long run?
Fast forward to another public case of teens gone wrong and the consequences they faced for their actions.
A coach of a high school football team in Utah decided to have his players own up to some bad behavior recently, players whom he said had “lost their way.” Matt Labrum, the head coach at Union High School in Roosevelt, Utah, benched all 50 of his players last weekend because of character issues.
He said they had bad grades and attendance, and a few of them had been known for cyber-bullying. The players were being benched was a way to teach them a lesson in character quality.
I love Coach Labrum’s message: “I think football molds character. We want to help our parents raise their sons. We want to be a positive influence. We want to be an asset.”
He held a team meeting with his suspended players, giving them a letter he wrote titled, “Union Football Character,” explaining what the football players needed to do to earn their jerseys back.
The letter said: “The lack of character we are showing off the field is outshining what we are achieving on the field… It is a privilege to play this wonderful game. We must earn the opportunity to have the honor to put on our high school jerseys each Thursday and Friday night!”
Coach Holloway told his team they needed to participate in community service projects as a way to earn back the right to play football.
So, instead of team jerseys, the 50 boys donned working t-shirts to tidy up a retirement center; instead of carrying footballs down the field, the boys clutched trash bags and picked up littered grounds around town; and instead of hanging out in the locker room, they hung out with residents of a retirement center.
I am convinced that the best parenting ideas do not come from a book. We learn best through story and real-life situations. And we parent and teach some of the most important life lessons to our children in the midst of circumstances, where we learn from real-life. I believe we teach humility and respect and etiquette by requiring it of our kids. And modeling it.
When it was reported to us by the school that our older son years ago said an unkind thing to a girl when they were in grade school, my husband took my son to the store and had him buy a flower, which he then gave to the girl he hurt, as a way of apologizing for his actions.
Some may say that was a bit extreme, as a simple sorry would have sufficed. Sure, probably. But, my husband was trying to teach a life lesson, and sometimes a physical act works best.
Our children will make mistakes. They are not perfect, and we need to own up to that. Heck, we are not either, right? That is OK. It does not mean we, as parents are bad people. It just means our kids are human and like all human beings, they too need to own up to their mistakes.
One of the most important responsibilities of a parent I feel is to teach our children integrity and how to say sorry. It is amazing the healing that takes place in our lives and the lives of others, as human beings, when the words “sorry” are communicated.
Sorry I hurt you.
Sorry, I did not mean it that way.
I apologize for hurting your feelings.
I don’t know what I was thinking. Please forgive me.
And, then, teaching our kids to make up for what they did wrong.
Especially when that opportunity is handed to them on a plate.