Thursday, January 21, 2016

Our Children's Moral Compass

Monday was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and both my husband and son were going to be off from work and school. So on a whim and some bad craving for good dim sum, we all agreed to go on a quick trip to Atlanta, GA. Yes, we’re that kind of people when it comes to food. We were willing to drive 3 ½ hours to satisfy our palate. My husband rushed to the computer and found us a hotel room just outside of metro Atlanta to stay in for the night.

That evening, after satisfying our appetite for both authentic Chinese food and modern Scandinavian furniture (aka IKEA)both of which we don’t have here in Nashvillewe headed to our hotel and settled in. We promised our son though that he’d be able to swim with Daddy for a bit before bedtime and so we all headed to the pool level. The boys hit the pool while I hit the gym, just adjacent to the pool area. There was not a single person in there and I loved that I can use the treadmill without being self-conscious. I took note of how clean everything was and promised myself I’d give the hotel good reviews. But merely 5 minutes after I had ended my walk and had stepped out back into the pool area, feeling self-satisfied and relaxed, a group of young teenagers arrived and managed to kill my zen as they decided to make the gym their playground.

There were five or six of them, boys and girls, and they were clearly not there to work out. One girl started messing with a treadmill until she gave up because she clearly didn’t know how to control the speed. Two others then messed with the cable and pulley machine, pulling and then slamming the weights carelessly. Then I noticed they also brought in food because crumbs were everywhere and there were juice boxes thrown on the floor. And by the way, signs of ‘NO FOOD AND DRINKS ALLOWED IN THIS AREA’ were everywhere. There was screaming and laughing going on and after they probably got bored, they decided to grab the yoga balls and throw them at each other and across the room. They kept hitting the glass to the point that it almost sounded as if things were about to break all around. The screaming and banging was completely out of control that I had obviously become annoyed at this point. It wasn’t so much the mere noise that got to me but the sheer irresponsibility that I was witnessing. I was just about to go to the front desk to report these kids when a hotel staff finally came and kicked them out. Of course my thought bubble at that point was "It's about time! Thank God!"

I don’t know where those kids’ parents were. I don't know where those teenagers came from, what they were thinking (IF they were even doing that) or what made them decide that what they were doing was even remotely acceptable. 

The one lingering question in my head was, "What kind of upbringing do these kids have?" I know that one can't blame everything on the parents, just as a child turning out to be successful can't be solely credited back to the parents. But I do know from being a parent myself, having my Sociology background and mere commonsense, that one's socialization experience from the family profoundly shapes one's character. 




Do these kids not have any limits? Or are there too many unreasonable limits that they're rebelling?

Are they not taught about the destructive power of groupthink and peer pressure and how important critical thinking and having a backbone are for battling irresponsible actions and poor decisions in a group?

Do the parents not talk about being considerate, the ability to think of others or the next person? When they were little and played with toys, did no one instill in them the importance of taking care of those toys, and even more so when the toy didn't belong to them?

Do these teenagers not know anything about Integrity? In elementary school, I remember being taught that 'integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching'. I didn't even know that came from C.S. Lewis at the time but that belief has stuck with me through the decades. 

I obviously don't have the answers to all my questions but I believe that the Universe has been kind enough to bring this to my attention. By no means is my parenting perfect. I know my child isn't, and will never be the perfect, one-hundred percent well-behaved child independent of the circumstance he finds himself in. But little by little I find myself witnessing or hearing about situations where character is the single most powerful defining element in how the situation turns out. 

As parents, we certainly can't afford to take for granted any opportunity we have in trying to strengthen our children's moral compass. We need to be effective leaders in our families, not only as enforcer of rules but most of all, to ensure that our children will choose well and do what is right even without us, our constant reminders or punishment. We have to find a way to strengthen our children's core with the voice of compassion, consideration, and empathy. That voice won't always be loud, but my prayer is that it will never be drowned out. Not even in the company of unsupervised, over-caffeinated, bratty teenagers.












7 comments:

  1. It's very much like the ridiculous 'affluenza' defense we just learned about recently. I believe the kind of behavior you described is completely the parents fault. Kids are growing up too quickly these days and good parenting has become rare. It really is a shame.
    b

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    1. Yes, you're right Barbara. When I witnessed all that, I did wonder if these kids had that affluenza syndrome. It is sad. But I sure hope, for these kids' sake, that it's not yet too late. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts! I appreciate it. Oh, and I hope you're staying warm!

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  2. I'm doing the loud slow clap over here for this post. AMEN. I have the same worries and prayers. Integrity is exactly the right word.

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    1. Oh wow, clapping from you means a lot, Nina! Thank you! Let's hope our prayers work!

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  3. I've witness this kind of thing before too. Its like they are just daring someone to tell them to stop. It can be very scary and things can go wrong very quickly. I'm glad you're okay.

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    1. Exactly, Rena. I knew it wouldn't be smart for me to interfere because they would question my authority in the situation. I'm glad the hotel sent a bigger guy to deal with them, one who clearly won't take sh*t from any of them. Whew! Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  4. As a mother of teenagers, I hope my kids are doing things like this. But, I know I did some dumb things that weren't representative of 'being raised right'. So, I know at some point my kids are going to do stupid things too. So, all I can say, with a huge sigh of relief is those weren't my kids, cause we were nowhere near Atlanta. Thank god.

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