Local Vocal: Children need parental involvement to become healthy adults

by Donalja Robinson

Flipping through the local news there are so many negative depictions of our young people. I often wonder where the positives are. Who highlights the young people who are striving for success? Who takes the time to speak to the student who goes to school every day, comes home and then teaches her mother or father how to read? Where are the articles stating that a parent who doesn’t reinforce their child going to school will have mandatory jail time?

Recently I was able to attend the Drop in Winston Salem. This teen event had received so much negative publicity due to the fact that a young lady was shot two blocks away after a previous event. On another occasion, several teens were arrested for unruly behavior. Afterwards, I did not label all of the individuals as “hoodlums” as some have done.

Instead the incidents prompted me to find out just what was going on. As I drove to the Coliseum Annex that Friday, I noticed one thing – no parents. Many cars pulled into the parking lot to drop off their kids but none stayed in the designated “parental” areas. I watched the Winston-Salem Police Department do their best to monitor the young crowd. I commend Director of Communications and Marketing Ed McNeal for his efforts to watch over our youth. While some moments may have been somewhat frustrating as he attempted to control a crowd of 500 to 700 youth, he excelled at providing quality entertainment and a peaceful environment.

As a mother of five, I need to know where my children are going, who they are with and what the environment will be. While it doesn’t make me popular with my kids sometimes, it does make me responsible. Too often we question why our youth are so misguided. The reason is that parents are so busy materially supporting their children that we forget about discipline, enforcement of rules and applying boundaries. We are allowing Playstation, Nintendo and Wii to be their only influences.

While our children are young we dress them in the hippest fashions, never teaching them the value of money. We do not allow them to experience real life. They are never made aware of how money is earned and then allocated for bills, car payments, clothing, food or gasoline. Instead we keep them in glass towers, hidden behind French manicures, hair weaves, MP3 players and Chocolate phones.

I don’t pretend to be the best mother nor the most experienced. I have had to attend parent-teacher conferences just like any other parent. There is one thing that I remember that most parents have in fact forgotten though. I remember the fear that I had of disappointing my mother. Even at 33 I still shudder at the thought of disappointing my 5-foot-3 mother. I can still hear the sound of her disparagement if I am going in the wrong direction.

My question is, Where have the parents gone? What happened to screening your children’s friends? Why do 14-year-olds need cell phones? What is the purpose of purchasing a Corvette for a 16-year-old child who just learned to drive? We need to go back to the basics. As parents, we need to truly get back to the premise of family. Children should be steered in the right direction. If they didn’t need adult guidance then babies would come into the world as adults.

This isn’t just directed towards the parents. This is directed towards the community. I read an editorial recently that stated, “It does not take a village to raise a child, it takes a parent.” I tend to disagree. It takes an entire village. I thank God for the teachers who called me when my children were not acting in accordance to my rules. I am thankful for the coaches and community folk who tell me how they respond when I am not around. It is because of them that I can reshape and remold because it is proven that a child will try anything while adults are not around.

Parents, set aside time with your kids. Turn off the television. Forget the iPods, MySpace and video games. Do something that forces you to get to know your children. If you want to deter them from the negative images, become the most positive one that they can have. Stop using material things as a pacifier for failed marriages, division within the home and too many hours at work. Instead, schedule time to teach your children the realities of life. Teach them to value education. Teach them to fight for a cause. Speak to them about the things that are affecting our communities. Even more so, teach them to love who they are – beyond the superficial.

Donalja Robinson lives in Greensboro.