My wife and I are raising six of my nieces in our home, and the one thing we’ve made clear to them is that we aren’t their friends or buddies. As long as they are under our care and guidance, we are parents, they are the children, and our rules are the only ones that matter.
This isn’t hard for me at all because it is the same way I was raised by my parents. It’s not about being hard and controlling, but establishing the clear boundaries: We’re grown, and will act accordingly.
That’s why the actions of Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler are so troubling. He is in hot water after a photo surfaced of him at a teen party this summer in Delaware where it was clear many of them were drinking alcohol.
In one image, a young man is on a table dancing with a girl and she is bent all the way over and is grinding on him.
When initially asked about the photo, Gansler was unequivocal: not my kids, not my problem, saying he was only there to speak to his son.
Now think about that for a second. The highest law enforcement officer in the state of Maryland, and a candidate for governor, made clear he had no intentions of doing anything or saying anything about the underage drinking going on at this beach house.
It wasn’t until he was roundly criticized that Gansler changed his tune, saying he should have sought out the chaperones of the party to inquire about alcohol at the party.
Talk about weak leadership.
This is the fundamental problem with many parents today. They are isolated, operating in their own world and unwilling to stand up and take control.
How many times have we heard stories of young folks getting drunk at parties, driving under the influence and dying in car accidents or killing someone else?
When it happens, we all cry, experience the pain with their classmates and shake our heads at a life lost too young.
Yet, all it takes is for someone to stand up and say, “Enough is enough!”
I recall as a teen my brother and I asking our parents to go to a party. They wanted to know who was hosting it, who their parents were, what time it started and what time it ended.
My dad drove both of us to the party. He didn’t drop us off and go back home to watch TV. He parked the car, came inside to make sure there were adults present, asked whose house it was, if they would be at the party the entire time and if alcohol would be served. He then asked for their number just in case he needed to call.
His attitude was simple: These are my two sons, I’m entrusting them into your care for the next few hours, and I have no plans of handing them off to another child.
This is what parents are supposed to do. My siblings and I do the exact same thing today with our children.
Too many parents call that being old-fashioned. They shun such hands-on involvement. Yet, my mom and dad never had to contend with their kids coming home high or drunk and didn’t have to pick any of us up from the police station.
As an adult, if I’m in a restaurant with my wife and nieces and some youths at a nearby table are cussing out loud, I’ll go to them and say, “Tone it down out of respect for my family.” If a kid is a bit out of control in church, I’ll say a few words to him or her, even if their parents are sitting there.
Am I about discipline? Absolutely. But I’m also about standing up and making it clear that unruly behavior is unacceptable.
If more parents would act like they are supposed to, we might have fewer kids today acting a fool. The Bible says there is a time to put childish ways aside. Maybe that’s a lesson a lot of adults need to remember.
Roland S. Martin is an award-winning CNN analyst and the author of the book “The First: President Barack Obama’s Road to the White House as originally reported by Roland S. Martin.”