Many of us have heard about, in some way have an opinion on, or have commented on the rape case in Steubenville, OH where two young men were just sentenced to at least one and two years in the juvenile detention facility for the rape of a classmate. Investigators put together what happened that night through a series of text messages; painting a scene that should give all of us pause and challenge us as parents and community members about the conversations we are having and not having with our kids.
We live in a world that is too often preparing the worst and not the best for our children. This incident in Ohio speaks to parenting issues, abuse of alcohol, valuing athletes over morality, the use of social media, sexual abuse, and the inability to be unpopular and right. How do we talk to our children to prepare them to not just survive but thrive in a world that has traps around every corner?
1. Be more afraid of your kids being un-equipped than you are of the issues that make you uncomfortable. They are going to get if they don’t already have bad information about stuff your afraid to discuss. Make sure they have good information to balance the foolishness they get from everywhere else.
2. Be more proactive, finding consistent spaces to have conversations about sex, alcohol, friend’s behavior, relationships, and social media vs. reacting to stories on the news or actions from your kids.
3. Tag team em’. Raising healthy kids is not something you can do successfully alone. Single parents, this is not a jab. Even the best single parents know that the help of a teacher, aunt or uncle, family friend or other helps us get the messages into our kids heads that need to be there. They may not receive from me what they do from you.
4. Empower your girls to protect themselves AND not be predators. The young lady that was rapped was drunk to the point that she doesn’t remember what happened to her. She should have never been in the position to be taken advantage of. While this doesn’t excuse the brutality of these boys, lets prepare our daughters to not be physical or emotional victims without sending them out to take advantage of boys in the name of getting over.
5. Teach your boys to both protect themselves AND others. I was most disturbed that people talked about how sad it was that these young men’s futures (mostly football) were ruined. What about this young lady’s future. Lets talk to our boys about becoming MEN, not dogs, players, and pimps in the name of never getting played. Help your boys embrace their emotions as they protect themselves and the women in their lives. MAN is something that we seldom talk to our boys about unless it is walking out cultural machismo. Responsibility, Character, Sacrifice, Legacy…….those are MAN words.
6. Listen more than you talk. Our kids will tell us what is going on in their lives if we would sometime just listen without responding at every pause; and hear them instead of waiting for our time to talk. They want to talk to us, even when it seems lie they don’t. However, at some point they will shut down if they feel talking to us is useless. LISTEN to your babies.
7. Social Media. Talk to your kids about the permanent nature of what is on-line. The young lady in Ohio will never be able to get those pictures back. Naked on the floor, surrounded by people she thought were her friends. But what about those who post pics online and say things that are inappropriate. We must talk to our kids about the reality that they can negatively affect their future before it starts by using social media the wrong way.
8. Give them GOD. Character, the desire to do right when no one is watching is what all our children need. It is what prepares them to deal with the worst the world has to offer when they are alone.
The real truth is that the entire situation in Ohio was avoidable if REAL PARENTS were there in the first place. That type of party does not happen when parents create the right environment. Best believe, that good parents cannot control every environment, but it is a shame that the media has seldom reported about the whereabouts of the parents THAT night. All of the kids involved have suffered, and all of them made poor decisions. That is the message to our babies. ONE bad decision can affect your life forever. Lets talk to our children without ceasing, equipping them with the tools to make the best decisions they can.