Monday, July 23, 2012

What we teach our children

Today in Cincinnati, OH, a 12 year old girl was made to stand outside in a busy corner holding a sign that said, "I lied to my mom." The mother publicized this on Facebook (and her page is completely open to the public. She also had posted a picture of another girl doing the same thing (except it was her dad, in this case) just a few days before, saying that she loved the idea and was going to use it.

This is another in these long string of "creative" punishments being handed to children in the name of making them into better people and keeping them out of jail. There was the mom who posted the picture of her daughter with the X over her mouth, and the father who shot up his daughter's laptop, wearing a cowboy hat, of course, and the aforementioned daddy-daughter duo that has since been photoshopped, so now it says both "I lied to my dad" and (from the dad) "I'm teaching her to be a better liar."

The unfortunate consequence of public humiliation over the Internet is that nothing really disappears in cyberspace. Prospective employers look up their candidates online, as do prospective dates. A person running for public office will have these little indiscretions put out there for all the world to see. An adolescent infraction can have far greater implications that the lesson that is supposed to be learned.

The Cincinnati Police Department got about a dozen concerned phone calls. When they arrived at the location proudly given by this mother, they applauded her.

I get where they are coming from, as police officers, because usually by the time kids get to them, the kids have been without much in the way of parental involvement. Seeing a parent doing something probably makes them pretty happy.

But what does that teach this child? It teaches her that the police are going to scoff at her problems and that there is no point in asking for help. It teaches her that her mother is so desperate for validation from a bunch of bullies on the Internet, so she needs to suffer public humiliation.

And yet, I click on this woman's Facebook page, and I see her talking about her Christian compassion regarding the guy who went on a shooting rampage at the Batman movie. That because Jesus died for their sins, she should have forgiveness in her heart for him.

Christian friends, I love you and I understand that this person does not represent you and your values.

Here's the kicker: the mother and her supporters are, without a doubt, saying that the girl brought this on herself. Unless she wrote the sign, picked the location, and just hung out there got fun, she didn't. The mother made a choice. She could have chosen to take different disciplinary action. She could have changed the tone of the interaction that led to her daughter's lying, but she did not.

I hope that this experience will open up the lines of communication between this mother and daughter, once they get to talking about this experience. I'm not feeling too optimistic--I'd bet that she just gets better at lying and stops confiding in her mother.

As to what to do about "kids these days," remember: the tone is yours to set, and the choice to model positive behavior is yours.

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