Youth crime is a price we pay for breakdown of the family

Raise your hand if you did something stupid when you were 7 years old.

OK, put ’em down, put ’em down. Just as I thought. Everybody has.

Since I only have so much space for this column, I’ll tell you about just one personal incident. When I was 7, I took apart my mother’s antique Mickey Mouse watch. I did not know how to put it back together.

When the whole scheme was discovered, I thought I was going to be taken apart, until Mom thankfully put herself back together. I was grounded for a while – a period of time that finally ended this past October.

WHAT KIND OF trouble did you get into when you were 7?

Hopefully nothing like the kid from Philadelphia.

Last month in that city’s Juniata Park neighborhood, police say three home invaders burst into the apartment of a 51-year-old woman, trashed her home and beat her with sticks, stones, a jump rope, a plunger and a potted plant. That was before they robbed her and left her screaming in hysterics.

You might see where I’m going with this. The oldest of the three suspects is 12. The youngest is 7.

Read that again: Philadelphia police tracked down, and believe they have found, a 7-year-old home invader. This isn’t Dennis the Menace scaring a lady with a rubber snake. This is assault and battery, property damage and theft.

Way back when I covered the cop beat as a reporter in Statesboro, the youngest suspect I ever wrote about was 12. He was a kid whose parents had split up, and one day he decided to take his uncle’s truck to go see his estranged dad. In Savannah. He almost made it, too, until Savannah police pulled him over on the Chatham Parkway.

But that’s not what I wrote about.

WHILE THE KID was waiting to be arraigned for that road trip, he decided to go on another one. This time he sneaked out of class at the rural elementary school he attended, and borrowed a school bus. Some adults can’t handle a bus. This kid managed to make it several miles, to near the center of Statesboro, and finally was stopped by a cordon of police cruisers – but only after he rammed a detective’s car.

When his court date arrived, I had to see what this kid looked like. Remember the kid from A Christmas Story? The kid who played Messy Marvin in those old chocolate syrup commercials? Dead ringer – and he was wearing what had to have been the smallest orange jumpsuit they had in the supply closet, and it was still baggy on him.

Such stories range from the horrifying to the vaguely comical, but you and I probably have read or heard far too many stories about kids getting into serious trouble. They don’t all involve 7-year-olds, but most stories share at least one trait: The kids are miles away from their parents.

And by “miles away,” that can mean physically and emotionally.

A LOT OF FACTORS are at play. Just look around. Households with two married parents aren’t nearly as common as they used to be. Men and women with kids aren’t acting like moms and dads. Too many kids are left to wander or fend for themselves, with no guidance from responsible adults, and with sadly predictable results.

American culture is getting cruder. Folks are getting ruder. And who has time to attend church?

In fairness, there are kids who emerge unscathed from broken or unconventional homes to lead happy and productive lives. There are some of those surprising stories out there.

But the reason those stories are so surprising is because the kids had to fight such astronomical odds.

So what should we do? Improve the odds.

We have to fight for a society that promotes a stronger family unit. When people a generation ago bemoaned the decline of family values, skeptics snickered. Well, it’s a generation later. Who’s still laughing? Certainly not the Philadelphia woman who got brutalized by a trio of grade-schoolers.

Being a parent means loving your child, and guiding your child. Explain to your child not only what’s right and wrong, but why. Being a parent means including a child in your life whose needs you put ahead of yours. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re rich or poor – spending time with your child doesn’t cost a dime.

But please, if your school-age child takes the bus, make sure he doesn’t actually take the bus.

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allhans 09/01/12 - 11:29 pm
"All the laws and legislation

"All the laws and legislation in the world will never heal this world like the loving hearts and arms of mothers and fathers. If every child could drift to sleep feeling wrapped in the love of their family – and God’s love -- this world would be a far more gentle and better place."
Mitt Romney RNC Tampa, FL 10/30/12

specsta 09/02/12 - 01:33 am

There have been broken families since the dawn of time. Look at the number of orphans caused by war and disease, by enslavement and by hunger and starvation. This myopic world view of the perfect two-parent family is a typical Ozzie and Harriet mindset. It is not even close to reality.

Most children who are orphans or come from single-parent homes do just fine. The real problem with this American society is the fact that we worship children. Instead of exposing kids to real-life and real situations, they are coddled, soothed, and exalted as perfect little angels who can do no harm.

In this American society, they are all winners. Each kid has equal abilities. They cannot think for themselves, but must be told what to think and how to think, lest they harm themselves. Kids must be protected, at all costs, from anything that could bruise their little egos. Kids must be medicated with Ritalin and other drugs if they even dare exhibit behavior that shows independence and strong-willed thinking.

Kids must be helmeted, air-bagged, safety-capped, vaccinated (or not, depending on your beliefs), seat-belted, allergy-proofed, not spanked, fear strangers (stranger danger) and eyes shielded from anything that could be too upsetting to their sensitivity.

And the result is a generation of selfish monsters around whom the world revolves and owes them everything.

So it is not surprising that a child might think that it is okay to steal from another child if it benefits HIM. Because he is the center of the universe.

In the old days, children were taught to respect adults. Any adult, not just their parents. They played hard, took their lumps and bruises, rolled with the punches and knew their place as a child in an adult world. No adult ASKED them what they would like to do - they were TOLD what they were going to do and that was the end of the story.

They were spanked and survived and learned about actions and consequences. They were loved yet knew that the world didn't owe them anything. They weren't afraid of their own shadow and could hold a conversation with a stranger without fear. They didn't need any ADD medication because they had a recess and the boys weren't punished for being boys.

So, if anyone is at fault for the sad state of children today, it is the adults and this society, who have chosen to worship the little monsters instead of raising them to be men and women. Broken families have nothing to do with it. That is just a scapegoat.

seenitB4 09/02/12 - 06:28 am
Thanks Joe

That was a great article......

southernguy08 09/02/12 - 07:15 am

Careful Joe, according to that icon of intellect, Chris Matthews of MSNBC, just mentioning such things is "racist." I don't like Newt Gingrich, but I had to applaud when he mopped the floor with that idiot Matthews during an interview at the RNC convention. MSNBC will lose all 12 of its viewers if it continues to keep Matthews on.

soapy_725 09/02/12 - 09:10 am
If you want to defend the American family....

you had better point your guns toward Washington DC. State intervention into the sanctity of the traditional family and home is at the root of this evil. Destruction of the family unit is a part of every Communist/Socialist manifesto. It is the corner stone of "state enslavement".

Our government has been on a course of removing children from their natural parents and their faith for decades.

But who are we to say? Look at the word "normal". People say, what is normal? TV will enlighten us this fall with "New Normal". A single family mom who is embracing a homosexual couple in her residence. We didn't say home because that word has lost its meaning. Where we stay is more relevant. Stable, committed relationships are "old news".
Good is bad and bad is good. Normal is whatever you choose. There are no absolutes. Fathers are non existent. Boyfriends and uncles now reside as male role models. Street dogs educating street dogs.

America has swallowed the lie of "situation morality" hook, line and sinker. What ever is right for this moment. Right may be to kill, rape or steal. And we ponder, what has happened to our youth?

A sick, Godless society is what has happened.

movingforward 09/02/12 - 12:18 pm
Kids of 2012

I agree with Joe... . This is the generation of entitlement who believe their parent should put aside everything including mortgage payment, utility bills etc to provide them with a cell phone, car, name brand clothes, a pair of $200.00 tennis shoes and money to party with because they want them. Spare the rod spoil the child. It is time for parents to wake up and understand they are the parent not the child. It is the parents who need to take back the power that they have so easily relinquished to their child by giving them everything they want. Parent understand you are not doing your child a favor, you are setting them up for failure and on a road to criminal activity.

Patty-P 09/02/12 - 07:52 pm
Completely agree with specsta

Completely agree with specsta and movingforward. Parents have lost their influence and power due to the absurd new rules of our society.

KSL 09/02/12 - 08:22 pm
I do too. And I think it is

I do too. And I think it is the first time I do. Well expressed, specsta.

KSL 09/02/12 - 08:29 pm
The only thing I would add

The only thing I would add that spec might not agree with is that the presense of the government safety net has eroded the tendencies of extended family stepping up and providing a strong family unit and at the same time, making certain that bad behavior will not be tolerated. The government tolerates it.

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