Children Need Our Guidance

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Did you see the article in the Free Lance last week about the
rise in misbehavior at San Benito High School?
Did you see the article in the Free Lance last week about the rise in misbehavior at San Benito High School?

I confess, I don’t spend time around the high school. And the school-age children I know personally are a pretty level-headed, respectful bunch, although not without their lapses in judgment ranging from the wardrobe malfunction to the illegal consumption of a controlled substance.

And the teens, high school to college age, who gather at the coffee house where I work can be pretty annoying. The girls cluster together talking on their cell phones or to each other so that when it’s their turn to order they don’t know what they want or seem mystified, as if they’ve never seen the menu before.

The boys cluster at tables and, for example, play a betting game with the artificial sweetener packets that requires the loser of each round to consume the contents of the packet. At least that wasn’t as messy as the straw-wrapper distance shooting contest.

On Friday and Saturday nights, when they start to gather in twos and threes, more for the socializing than the coffee, it has the same ominous feeling as the twos and threes of birds clustering in Alfred Hitchcock’s movie “The Birds.”

But really, a lot of this is simple high-energy rudeness.

Once in a while we get a few who are so stoned they can barely order, and ask if they can have a straight cup of chocolate syrup. This is a glimpse into the kind of problem the Free Lance article discussed.

That, and the violence. I never see the violence, at least not in the children.

What I do see are parents being harsh and disrespectful to their children, even little children.

I see parents who say “no” repeatedly, then eventually give in to determined whining.

I hear meltdowns by children who sound demonic but are probably just frustrated by on-again, off-again parenting and lack of structure and routine.

I can imagine how that kind of frustration could turn into violence when it has had a dozen or more years to build up and when we are surrounded by images of violence as a way to solve things.

I’m not talking about violent video games. I’m more disturbed by TV pundits who pretend to be running “op-ed” shows but really preside over adrenaline-pumping interruption fests.

I’m not imagining that children watch these and then decide to go knife somebody.

More insidiously, I think we all watch them, along with the family-from-hell talk shows, “investigative reports,” and even ridiculously hyped reality shows and bogus contests. Eventually, we begin to forget what’s OK and what isn’t. Not to mention what’s real and what isn’t.

Or for that matter, what has consequences and what doesn’t.

And if we can’t remember, how are our children supposed to know?

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