I raised three very active, very busy boys. From the start they were involved in a myriad of extracurriculars including sports, art classes, music lessons etc. You name it… they did it.
We had a rule – If you started something, you finished it. It didn’t matter if you didn’t like the coach, if you weren’t playing, or even if you decided the activity wasn’t for you. You had to finish. This didn’t mean forever, just until there was a logical break point. Why? Because you don’t quit on friends, on teammates, on your coach, or on yourself. You give yourself an opportunity to improve and perhaps enjoy the activity more. You complete your commitments and stay true to the team.
Another family rule was that if you don’t like something, you do something to make it better (not just complain). Leading by example led to child-related activities every evening. I wasn’t thrilled with the Tiger Den Leader so the next year I volunteered and was Den Leader for six years.
And so the story goes… When no one volunteered to coach baseball, I became coach and held that position for 11 years and so on. It was, at times, challenging to fit it all in, but I’m glad I did. By following my own rule of “doing something rather than complaining,” I became a better person, and I believe, created stronger relationships with my boys. It’s not always easy to see life’s frustrations as opportunities, but when we do, we can make a big difference.
As prosecutor people ask me if kids are getting worse, if crime is increasing. They ask why “we” aren’t doing something to fix societal problems. The answers are maybe, maybe, and I don’t know. No one has all the answers, but maybe if we want positive change, those aren’t the right questions.
For example, people like to romanticize “the good old days.” Things were “so much better when I was a kid.” So let’s turn those concerns around and ask new questions – What are you doing to make a difference today? What was done in “the good old days” that you could do today?
Now, I know that everyone is busy; probably much busier than when I was raising my boys, but that doesn’t change the fact that all kids need attention, guidance, and positive role models. We have to understand that we cannot expect someone else to fix the problem. We cannot look fondly on the “good old days” when people did “XYZ” and expect it to magically happen. We have to step up and become part of the solution.
At Tyre King’s funeral the pastor asked the community to “stand up for what is right”and make changes that benefit a ‘generation of kids who are totally out of control.’ He said, “They need discipline, to learn respect, and attend church.” These words speak volumes – we cannot expect children to self learn what our parents taught us.
Getting involved is key. I was attending a breakfast honoring Martin Luther King, Jr., and one of the speakers was asked how can we make a difference. His answer was beautiful in its simplicity – Teach a child to read, and teach the child to love to read.
Get young children involved in something they love – be it music, sports, math, chess, cars. It doesn’t matter what it is. What matters is giving them the gift of a passion, keeping their minds engaged and busy. The more a child is involved in school and community, the less likely they are to get into trouble.
So the next time you’re wondering what is wrong with the younger generation, remember you can be the difference. Parents, family, friends, neighbors, coaches, teachers, and anyone else willing to get involved – it’s your opportunity to be a mentor, a positive force in someone’s life. If you take the time, I promise it’s just as rewarding for you as it is for the child, and they will always be thankful to those who made time to care.