What's the solution for youths who live on the street? HEY, let's pop that old broad, cop the bread and blow some smoke. Yeah man, let's do it!" Did you understand what you just read? Or should we interpret it for you? "Let's rob the old lady, take her money and buy some marijuana." Tragically, dialogue like this and the criminal aftermath occur thousands of times each day in teeming urban areas, especially in the United States. Even more tragic is that most of these crimes are committed by "children" from 8 to 18. No wonder Isaiah prophesied what he did about our day: "Children are their oppressors" (Isa. 3:12, Revised Authorized Version throughout). Misguided children are turning our inner cities into war zones of crime and gang violence. But this installment is not about child crime, it's about how to rear crimeless children children who will not become statistics in prisons or morgues. Straight children can be reared in a crooked environment!
It's not easy trying to point children in the right direction when everything around them pulls them in the wrong direction. Yet that's the way it is in too many neighborhoods in the inner cities. The average child in the inner city lives with his mother who is probably unskilled and unemployed. His father has long since left the family. There are often three or four brothers and sisters who share the three-room government subsidized apartment commonly known as "the projects." He or she grows up in the graffiti garnished, broken-glass-littered streets. In too many cases, one could say that the inner-city child is reared in the streets and by the streets and the streets are cold blooded ruthless teachers. The streets teach children to survive by being cunning, devious and violent. The street "faculty members," in the United States for example, are characters who carry names like Apple Jack, Baldy Locks, Superfly and Fast Eddie. These infamous role models are themselves graduates of the streets with graduate work in the " big house" (prison). Many have master's degrees in the gruesome fields of dope pushing, pimping, robbery and murder. They are there eager and ready to pass on their seamy skills. These "professors of the streets" hang out on every corner dazzling their aspiring young pupils with the trappings of "success": fine rags (flashy clothes), a bad ride (luxury car) and a head fix (high on some form of d rug). This is what the inner-city child is conditioned to believe is "making it " real success in life. Since repetition is a good teaching technique, this street life-style is reinforced minute by minute and song by song by the sounds that blast from the "box" (large portable radio). This mechanized repetitious teacher of the streets hypnotizes and programs the mind with the lifestyle and values of his or her human street teachers. The constant reinforced curriculum is inescapable: easy sex, easy money, easy high, and being a "player" (ghetto Romeo). Yet, despite all these negative factors, it is possible to rear straight children! Whereas the details we have just described are more typical of American cities, the circumstances and the solutions are universally relevant. Thousands of parents in the inner cities are successfully meeting the challenge. They are rearing children who, in spite of their environment, are responsible, respectful and successful young people. They are proving that just because you live in the ghetto, the ghetto doesn't have to live in you. Here is what you can do to rear your children above the shaky shambles of the streets and set their feet on solid ground.
Responsible Parents: Good Children
Parents, let's face it. If you want your children to turn out right, you must be right. You must be what you want your children to become. Children are great imitators. As little tots they dress up in our clothes and play Momma and Daddy, "acting" like us. As they grow older it becomes more than just playacting they live out the role of their parent or parents. If you cheat the bill collector and lie to the government, why should you be surprised when your child robs somebody? If you use profanity, why should you be shocked when you hear your child using filthy language with the children in the neighborhood? If you are having an illicit affair, how can you say anything when your daughter comes home pregnant, or your son has impregnated somebody else's daughter? It doesn't have to be that way with you and your children. Maybe your parents did not know any better, but by virtue of this article you now do! With God's help, you can break the cycle history does not have to repeat itself. Your children can be better than the generation before them. But you can't just talk that talk to your children you must walk the talk before them. You must live a better way if your children are to see a brighter day.
Commitment to Win
You need a total commitment, a crusader fervency to win your child's heart and mind. You are in a battle with the negative forces around you for the control of your child's mind, and victory's price is unrelenting commitment. What's more important than your child's life? The time-consuming soap operas on television? The time you spend with friends? The extra time you spend doing your own thing? No! Nothing is more important for a child's life is a terrible thing to waste! Children are our future and we have the responsibility to commit our lives to make them and their future better. Perhaps you do not realize the awesome importance God places on your rearing his children. That's right, they are his! God has loaned them to you to develop for him. King David wrote: "Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is His reward" (Ps. 127:3). What will God's heritage be in your children? Will it be a ruined life in prison, death at the end of a needle, or college and a productive successful life? Your child's life is in your hands, and God holds you accountable. Make a commitment give your all to win the battle for your child's life.
Exposure Equals Influence
Who has the greatest influence over your child? The answer lies in whoever has the greatest amount of exposure with your child. If it's the negative elements in the streets, then your child will be influenced to go the way of the streets. If it's your positive example in the home, then he will be influenced to go the way of you and your home. You must sacrifice doing "your thing" to do the things necessary to positively influence your children. Make exposure time with your child or children a top priority. Let nothing and no one rob you of these precious moments. Let your children be exposed to you as a person. Let them feel and see all that you are and all that you stand for. Our children learn best through association with parents. Our values are passed on to our children every second we are exposed to them. This is why God said: "You shall teach them [God's values] to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up" (Deut. 11:19). Some single parents by themselves may find it difficult to provide enough positive parental exposure for their children. If this is your situation, turn to respectable members of your extended family for help. Grandfathers and grandmothers, uncles and aunts can provide support in the rearing of your children. Single mothers, especially, need the firm hand and masculine influence of a man in guiding teenagers. The young evangelist Timothy was probably reared by his widowed mother. Yet through the positive exposure and influence of his extended family, in his case a grandmother, Timothy became a profitable young man (II Tim. 1:5). If the whole family works together, children can be reared successfully. Guide your child in the selection of his or her friends. Do not just tell your child whom to associate with. Teach him how to select associates. Help him analyze the behavior of others and the end result of that behavior. Help him understand that "he who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed" (Prov. 13:20). There is another "friend" more subtle and more negative than some of the other teenagers that hang out in the streets. If you allow your child to be exposed to this "buddy," his influence will negate everything good you've been trying to teach your child. Your child is probably already spending most of his waking hours listening to this destructive friend. Who is this character? The music beat that blasts 24 hours a day out of the "box" (large hand carried radios known on the streets in the U.S. as "ghetto blasters"). Many inner-city children are addicted to this music. The addiction is often stronger than heroin and potentially just as destructive. The constant exposure to this music reinforces the negative lifestyle of the streets. It influences children into believing illicit sex is fine, getting high is cool, and life in general is one big party. Jesse Jackson, the leader of a black U.S. coalition group PUSH, out of concern for the progress of inner-city youths, once stated: "Music is important to the formation of children's attitudes because it's such a big part of their culture." Jesse Jackson's comment applies to all races and to all types of music definitely to that kind of music that has negative effects. Expose your child to the best in all types of music. Help him or her to evaluate music based on its effect and the values that the music projects. Check out what your child is listening to. Remember, exposure to bad moods in music will influence your child to be bad and exposure to good moods in music influences your child to be good. Expose your child to positive role models. Everyone in the community is not a dope pusher or mugger. Lift his or her head high to see the positive examples of those who have really made it. Point out the ones who lived in the ghetto but did not let the ghetto live in them. Praise the ones who walked through the streets, but who did not stay in the streets. Point out the ones who went on to become businessmen, doctors, engineers, successful people in every sector of society. Expose your child to the great and he will be great.
Respect for Authority
Why do teenagers disrupt classrooms and terrorize whole schools? Why do they rob and then beat to death old people? One of the major reasons is a lack of respect for authority. Respect for authority is the most fundamentally important principle a parent can teach a child. Without respect for authority a child cannot learn from God, parents or anybody else. He will become a rogue. Parents, start early teaching your children to respect you. Deep down inside, children want to respect authority, but they need to know who is in charge who has the authority. Their way of seeking that authority is by challenging you testing you to see if you really mean what you say. And when they seek, when they test, let them know in loving firmness that you are indeed in charge! Teach them that your "yes" means "yes" and your "no" means "no" with unwavering consistency. Train them to speak respectfully to you. Whatever happened to "Yes, sir" and "No, ma'am"? That might sound old-fashioned to some, but it's like a breath of fresh air hearing those words flowing from the mouth of a young person. These words reflect an attitude of honor and respect for authority. The apostle Paul instructs children: "'Honor your father and mother,' which is the first commandment with promise: 'that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth'" (Eph. 6:2-3). As a child honors and respects his parents, so will he honor and respect others. He will respect his teachers and grow in knowledge, understanding and wisdom. He will respect the laws of the land and develop his or her talents in school, rather than going on to prison. A respectful child can acquire the skills to enable him or her to grow up to be a straight successful adult, no matter how crooked his environment may be.
Teach the Children
The word of God is the foundation of all knowledge. By teaching your children about God and his principles of living, you will be giving your children the best education possible. First help your children to develop a personal relationship with God through prayer. Encourage them to talk to God about their problems, their hopes and their dreams. They will soon discover that they have a friend that "sticks closer than a brother" (Prov. 18:24). Your children need God with them as they face the many difficult challenges of life in this crooked society. There are threats from addicts, gangs, molesters and muggers. There are temptations from peers, pushers and prostitutes to go the wrong way. But if your child has God as a friend, all these things can be overcome. Then teach him the living principles contained in the Bible. Make the word of God relevant to life and the daily situations a child faces. If the Bible says to do something, explain the why and the how of it, and the blessings that come from doing it. Then show him the other side of the coin: the consequences that come from disobedience. Let him see in the wrecked lives around him what disobedience produces. This will help him consider more deeply the end results of his own actions. As he lives by the revealed principles of God, he will enjoy the happiness and success in life that will lift him above his peers. Also, we have a monthly magazine entitled Youth, specially written for teenagers. This magazine makes the laws and principles of God understandable and livable. It helps youths solve problems God's way. And it's free of charge.
Get Him "High"
Getting high on drugs is a popular pastime among many teenagers today. To some it's an escape it's a way to feel good about yourself when everything around you seems bad and hopeless. You want to get your child "high," to give him a high that will give him a true way of worth a high that will really make him feel good about himself and his future a high that will last? We are talking about the high that comes from accomplishment. Young people have drive and energy they want to accomplish. But that drive and energy must be channeled in the right direction. Encourage your child to think about what he wants to be when he grows up. He may change his mind several times while he is growing, but the important thing is that he has a goal to aim toward. Help him set and achieve intermediate goals as well things that he can accomplish now. If your child is busy accomplishing, he will be less likely to get into trouble. Help him discover his abilities and talents by allowing him to try different things he expresses an interest in. Whether it's art, music, study or sports, give him the opportunity. He will stick with the things he does well in and, with a little bit of encouragement and praise from you, he will excel. The more he accomplishes, the higher he will get and the better he will feel. And the better he feels, the better he will live. And though we use for convenience the masculine pronoun, we mean to apply these principles equally to every girl. Yes, you can rear your children to be outstanding among young people. If you begin utilizing the principles outlined in this article, your children will be beacons to the rest of the community. They will give the neighborhood a foretaste of how children and old people will live together in happiness and peace in the streets of tomorrow's cities. Look at this beautiful picture of children and old people living and playing together in tomorrow's inner cities: "Thus says the Lord of hosts: 'Old men and old women shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each one with his staff in his hand because of great age. The streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets'" (Zech. 8:4-5). So start now rearing your children the right way and remember, only you can rear straight children in a crooked environment. The final installment explains the truth about day-care centers.