"Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys" was a popular country song in the late 1970s. I'd like to hear a song titled something like, "Mammas Don't Let Your Kids Run Around Like Banshees in Public."
Mammas and daddies, however, are doing just that -- they are letting their children run out of control.
This society has raised up several generations of undisciplined children, kids who are allowed to bite, scream, kick, whine, demand, break stuff and do whatever else they want to do. We've created a self-perpetuating cycle of such behavior.
No wonder we have an epidemic of bullying that when goes unchecked, leads to school shootings. People do not learn how to relate to others or to master their impulses, and when they grow into adults, they run around shooting other adults when they get overwhelmed by life.
Before my young readers fire off an angry email, let me say I'm not condemning all young people. Not every youth is this way. There are a lot of wonderful, respectful young people out there, but they do have an increasing number of destructive peers.
I do not have a child, but one does not have to be a parent to realize permissiveness is not the answer to rearing a well-balanced child. That infant who starts off as a sweet angel will eventually grow into a little monster unless his or her parents do their job and instill a sense of discipline and responsibility into him or her. I'm not talking about committing child abuse, but of using proper sense to bring the proper response to bear.
Before I celebrated my fifth birthday, I threw a couple of three-alarm temper tantrums at stores because I just had to have a riding Batman motorcycle toy and some other toy I cannot even recall now. You can bet my embarrassed mother let me have what-for -- one of the few times I needed to be disciplined. Children are not going to learn how to behave respectfully unless their parents teach them.
I worked in retail until recently, and I frequently saw children running amuck, playing with expensive crystal goblets like they were toys and bouncing on display beds that were not meant to be used as trampolines. The parents were either on the other side of the store, or worse, were standing nearby but not paying the child any attention. Most of the time, when one of us clerks politely said something about this behavior, the parent would give one distracted admonition to the child and otherwise continue to ignore the hellion.
There was one stand-out parent during my retail career. A lady brought her cute little curly-haired girl, about 3 or 4, to the counter to make her apologize for grabbing a clearance toothbrush holder and dropping it, thus chipping the finish. The shy, scared girl apologized, and the mother offered to pay; I said that was unnecessary. I thanked the girl in a gentle tone to try to reassure her that everything was going to be okay, and thanked the mother for her consideration.
A couple of friends, who have three young children, have a great way of instructing them on proper behavior. Anytime one of the youngsters comes home showing off some wild behavior or word they learned at school, Jim or his wife Holly will calmly say, "That's not how our family does things." That simple sentence lets their children know that while other kids at school are raising Cain, that behavior will not be tolerated at home.
Jim and Holly's children have found a wonderful balance of being active kids who are extremely creative and playful but are respectful to other people. More children would display this wonderful balance if their parents would just make the effort, and our society would be blessed for it.
Jason Reynolds, staff writer for the Times-Gazette, wants to hear your stories of good and bad behavior you have noticed for a possible mention in this column. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Reynolds has observed a plethora of both good and bad behaviors over the years, and tries to rise above the bad to be a better person, with mixed results.