Column: Children deserve to learn love, respect

Been watching television and listening to the news, and yes, it gets depressing. The item that caught my attention was the mother and father of the Michigan school shooter both will spend between 10 to 15 years in prison, for buying the gun that the student used to kill fellow students in his Michigan high school. This case is the first of its kind in recent judicial litigation, with parents being held responsible for their children.

This is upsetting, what seems to have happened between parent and child that a parent would buy a gun for a secondary student as a birthday present and just hand it to him to play with? The profound issue here is the lack of communication between the parent and the child. At fault is a lack of parental direction on several levels. The child needs guidance and needs help in understanding respect not only for others but also for understanding he has a deadly weapon in his hands.

We are told, unfortunately, that young people, particularly teens are suffering from anxiety and various psychological dysfunctions. There is a rise in teen suicide, which is most worrisome in the culture. What is producing these problems? We are now aware medically that the human brain does not mature until 25. So young people are very much in development over the high school and college years. One of the plagues of adolescence is they do not know who they are, and thus try on many different personas as they mature. Many of these personas are given them by social media, magazines and advertisements on all kinds of platforms. They are bombarded with what they should be, dress and believe. Even their biological identity is added into the mix. One of the realities of the current youth is that they are a powerful group as consumers; thus, selling to them is a primary motivation of the current economic culture.

I ask where are the parents? Where is the guidance, where is the love and respect? Respect for the child and the parents.

There have been in the past, some reasonably simple guidelines on raising children. Stability in home life is important and there are many different ways of doing this. But above all, children need to be loved. Love does not mean buying everything a child wants; it means you participate with your child in living.

Children are part of a group. Family is the first community a child will have his or her identity. It is the first place they will learn the skills necessary for joining the larger community of life itself. They need to have interaction with the family, say chores that are significant to the family’s function. They need to be part of the parent’s lives, talked to, and incorporated into the group. Many children today are reduced to a drawing on the refrigerator or a parent sitting in the stands at a ball game. The world of the parents and the child hardly touches unless it’s a birthday party! Children have their personalities but they must realize that there are rules that must be observed. They are all part of a community, and thus they must have respect for their person, their parents and others. It is the early years of a child’s existence that give them the tools to mature as a healthy adult. Respect for others and themselves comes from the home.

The fourth commandment is “Thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother.” What is this honor but respect? Your parents are your mentors and your guides in life. Parents have a responsibility to raise their children to a healthy maturity. This is not all strictness and judgment but a constant love of the child and his or her future. Every parent has differing ways to do this, but communication is fundamental to the outcome. Yes, you can give ballet lessons and piano lessons and take students to Little League team practices, but it is not so much the enrichment and activity of the child as much as the communication of ordinary concerns. Above all, sharing love, sharing chores, sharing dinner. Love is a precious gift for the child and the child is a gift for the parents who love the child, a circle that reaches into the future.

If there is a guide for parents, St Paul wrote it for us:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)


Kathleen Carlton Johnson, Ph.D., is a hospice chaplain.


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