Catty Ax Lady wrote this post about her observations while at the mall. I started to comment, and at about the 4 millionth paragraph decided I just needed to post about it.
So here it is, my response to her post....
Kids these days ARE SCREWED UP!
First, the fashion statements they make. While I don't like most of them, I suppose I can't say much since our parents felt the same way about our clothes, and their folks felt the same about theirs. I do believe that there is such a thing as age appropriateness, though. Little girls do NOT have to look like mini-hookers. I think parents who let their kids out of the house looking like this are nuts. Still, I don't think that (barring truly inappropriate dress) parents should be overly picky. We DO have the right and responsibility to choose what we will spend our money on, but if your kid wants to wear all black and chains so be it. I, personally, have allowed Big Sprout to wear some AWEFUL outfits (not offensive, just not "matchy") because that is what she likes and what she is comfortable in. If she is okay with wearing sweatpants with a sparkly dress top, then who am I to say no? If, however, she came out of her room in some hoochie-mama outfit with the skirt up to there and the top down to here, you can bet those clothes would disappear real fast. I just choose my battles. To me, being covered and clean is the real important issue. If she wants to wear purple and green together, that is her business. The kids at school will laugh at her soon enough, and then she will wear something a bit better (hopefully). I WILL make suggestions, and if it is an important day (visiting family or going out somewhere nice) I will tell her that she can't wear something. But for every day? Knock yourself out, kiddo.
When it comes to their hair and makeup the reality is that parents really can't do too much. I have seen too many bedroom "haircut and dye parties" done without the knowledge or consent of the parents too many times to think there is any way to stop this. You can ground your kids after the fact, or punish them in your chosen fashion, but the hair is what it is and will take longer to revert to it's former style than your punishment possibly could last.
Makeup? Please! Every one of us gals remembers sneaking our eyeliner and such to school so we could put it on AFTER mom did the "hoochie check" in the morning. Yeah, we had to hide it, but I am betting all of us did it at least once.
Now for the serious stuff. The sad reality is that (in MN, at least), kids have all the rights and parents have all the responsibilities. Having had some experience with this (don't even get me started) I can tell you that parents cannot legally force their children to go into drug treatment, couselling, or take drug tests. Parents cannot legally force their children to come home. Parents cannot use physical force on their kids at all without risking jail time. Parents cannot legally lock the door after curfew if their children are not home. Parents cannot legally kick their kids out of their homes when all else fails. Parents cannot legally do ANYTHING if their kids are truly defiant. Especially if said parent works, and the kids have to be alone for any length of time. Teens are too old for daycare centers (they won't take 'em, I asked), and unless you can afford to hire someone who is strong enough to handle teen troubles, you are SOL. Often, even the police are no help. Trust me, I know. Grounding doesn't work for teens, as they often will just take off anyway and you can't really stop them without sitting on them (which is, as above stated, illegal). Taking away privileges and even keeping things under lock and key does no good against a determined teen, as I know a couple who became master lock-picks.
Kids have the right to privacy with their medical matters, only one parent needs to be made aware of issues or approve treatments (a real problem if both parents aren't on the same page after a divorce). Kids have the right to a warm and welcoming home, no matter that they destroy personal property, swear, get violent, bring drugs into the home, lie, steal, get verbally abusive, etc. Trust me, I know. Kids have the right to refuse treatment for their addictions and couselling for their issues. Kids have the right to behave like barbarians with no repercussions.
It is their parent's job to pay the price of their behavior in the form of paying court-ordered damages and their share of any court ordered time in jouvenile centers or rehab programs, as well as court-ordered psych testing and counselling.
This does not, however, let parents off the hook. See, I have been through it all, and though I know I and DH made mistakes we have hopefully learned from them.
I have come to the conclusion that raising kids is much like training an elephant.
Have you ever heard how they train elephants to stay where they are supposed to? It starts when the elephant is very young and small. They use a heavy chain to tie the elephant to a sturdy tree or stake. I am not talking about a cruelty thing, it's like picketing a horse kind of. Anyway, the young elephant is not strong enough yet to break the chain or uproot the tree (or stake or whatever). The elephant learns that when it is tied, it is stuck. Then, as the elephant gets older (and let's face it, what could stop an elephant that REALLY wanted to do something), even lightweight rope is enough to keep it from wandering. It never occurs to the critter that it could break the flimsy rope, because in never could when it was young.
See the parallel here?
When your kids are young is the time that you must be the strongest parent. When they are small enough that you can move them away from the things you don't want them to touch, when they are little enough that you can remove them from the room when they are throwing a tantrum, when they are small enough that you are their world, this is the time to teach them that your word is law. This is when the foundation is built that will either hold up or collapse under the stress of the tween and teen years. If kids are taught young to respect their parents, if they are "brainwashed" about what appropriate behavior is, if they are taught good morals and ethics early on, then I believe they will be more likely to survive the tween and teen years without becoming druggie-jailbird-crackwhores.
Now, I am not sure exactly what the best way to do this is. Kids don't come with instructions and every one is different. I missed out on the formative years with my steps, and I think that is part of why I failed with them in the teen years.
I rely heavily on my memories of how my parents handled raising me and my brother, cuz I think they did a really good job. Not that Bro and I are perfect, but we knew at least that we had to respect our folks to their faces. Yeah, we did some things we shouldn't have. Yeah, we broke curfew. I admit it. But my folks managed to instill the basic moral strength we needed to survive without too many scars. We both always knew that they loved us, that they loved us enough to punish us for screwing up, that they loved us enough to forgive us after.
I only hope I do half as good with Big and Little Sprout.