Cool Parent or Good Parent?

Gothic attire (Source: Wikimedia Commons)What’s more important: being a cool parent or a good parent?

The Argus Leader reports on a survey from “The World’s Strictest Parents,” another mindless “reality” show, which found South Dakota parents are the least strict.

One permissive behavior mentioned in the article was that of minors tattooing their bodies…with their parents looking on.

From the Argus Leader:

But times change. Chad Kirschenmann, 35 and father of newborn daughter Isabel, sees it in who walks in at his Ink and Iron Tattoo shop.

“I have been tattooing for about eight years,” he said. “The first seven years, I don’t think I tattooed anybody under 18. In the last year and a half, people under 18 have been about 40 percent of our business.”

He doesn’t think parents are pushovers, but old stigmas about tattoos are fading. Anyone 16 or 17 must have a parent’s OK. He won’t tattoo anyone that age unless the parent stays to watch, but more are doing that.

“Every parent wants to be the cool parent,” he said.

Every parent wants to be the cool parent.  I fear he’s all too right.

Why do I fear he’s right?  I see the evidence every time I go anywhere around town.  While there are plenty of good children out there (some that make me wish I had been so responsible and mature at that age), there are far too many who show the signs of having mostly raised themselves.

Go into a mall or any other place you’re likely to see young people.  You’ll find hordes of young people wandering around looking like Gothic undead, many with surly and belligerent attitudes.  Too often when served by a young person at a fast-food restaurant or check-out lane, instead of the courtesy and positive attitude that was once the mainstay of American commerce, you receive, “Yeah,” “Uh huh,” “I dunno,” “Sure, man” and even worse communication.

Drive around and too frequently you will have near-misses from distracted teens with cell phone and hand glued to the ear.  Along with that has in recent years come the disturbing practice if “sexting,” with children saying things to each other that most adults once didn’t, and sending nude photos and videos of themselves to others…that get passed around to who knows how many people.

Unfortunately a majority of teen age girls today look more like hookers than young women. T-shirt sizes on most seem about three sizes too small, with butt-cracks hanging out of low-riding jeans and makeup that once was found primarily in the red-light district.

As a former law enforcement official who spent as much or more time arresting juveniles as adults, and who can still see that trend growing deeper, the “cool parenting” thing is getting more and more children inducted into a life of crime at an early age.

Parents, our job is not to be a “cool parent.”  Our job is to teach our children about what is right and what is wrong, and model upright behavior for them.

Contrary to pop-culture wisdom, children cannot properly raise themselves.  Children cannot be sent away to an amoral public school to interact with immoral classmates all day, run loose in the afternoon and early evening, then spend 30 minutes (or less) with their parents as the busy day draws to a close…and expect to receive any preparation whatsoever on how to be a good or responsible person.  Children cannot “figure it out for themselves” or “figure out their own set of values” (that is, unless you’re comfortable with them settling on the lowest common denominator…and the miserable life that comes with it).

Even with great, committed parents, children can still go wrong.  With uncommitted, disengaged, “cool” parents, children will almost certainly go wrong. Unfortunately some adults are children-gone-wrong themselves and are mostly oblivious to the dangerous legacy they pass on, but most are not.

I value my relationship with my children, and I value the friendship I have with them, especially my 12-year old daughter since she is old enough for me to communicate with on a deeper level. But I love her too much to put our friendship before my responsibility to teach her right from wrong, and to hold her accountable when she does wrong.

It’s no wonder the Bible says that a parent who doesn’t discipline their child hates their child: failing in this area is certain to put your child at a disadvantage for having a good, productive life.  And in too many cases, the consequences can be bloody.

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