The "Good Kid" Parent Trap
My brother is a teacher, my sister-in-law was a teacher until last year, my father spent multiple years teaching, and my wife and I homeschool our children so we are teachers too, just of a different kind. That's a lot of experience being thrown around at our family table on Friday nights when the entire family gets together for our weekly family dinner, and let me tell you, the stories you hear... well, let's just say that some of them will ruin your apatite.
In fact, just last Friday, my brother was telling us about three different phone calls that he took this week from parents who wanted to apologize (yes, you read that right, apologize) for how their children had behaved, and more importantly, for how the parents had treated my brother. It turns out that many of them work multiple jobs, and when they do have time with their kids, those kids are off playing Fortnite or Minecraft, and sometimes they're even outside with their friends.
In other words, the parents have very little interaction with their own children and barely know them.
Yet these same parents were the ones who had been calling my brother about his low marks for their children in both academics and behavior. They all said that he was wrong about their child and that their kids were "good kids." Most even went so far as to say that he was "lying" about their children because their children "told them so."
When did we start believing kids over teachers?
I'm so glad I was homeschooled until high school.
Yet when these parents were forced to spend time with their children. When they were the ones forced to ensure that learning was happening and that schooling was happening, what did they discover? Well, shockingly (to them), they discovered that my brother had been right all along, and that their "good kid" really was a problem student. So whom did they turn to for advice on how to get their kid to listen and do their assignments? That's right, my brother.
Yet, this speaks to a much broader societal reality. How many parents of criminal children are "shocked" when their child is arrested, or police come knocking on their door looking for their kid. How many times have you seen a(the) parent(s) of a criminal child stand in front of a news camera and give the same old tired line about them being a "good kid." Yet when anyone looks into their social media lives, their criminal records, their school records, or their associations, the same question always seems to surface...
How in the world did you not know?
For example, a local story I read a few years ago had a 17 year old kid beating another kid almost to death over a drug incident. Luckily, law enforcement arrived in time to prevent it from becoming murder, yet the damage had already been done. Both children were arrested, one for drug possession with intent to sell and assault, one for drug possession, assault and battery, and attempted murder.
BOTH parents reaction when speaking to the press? "He's a good kid."
It's almost scripted.
Yet it's also a lie, and a parental fantasy. And what really fires me up is that when you attempt to point it out, you get told that you're "victim shaming." I'm sorry, but neither of those children in this story were victims, they were criminals, and yes, their patterns of behavior and known criminal issues ARE relevant to the situations in which they found themselves. A police officer responds differently to a person who is unknown to them versus a person who is a known offender whom they are keeping an eye on. To not do so would be beyond absurd.
In the past, the "victor" used to write the history, except in today's world, the "victim" gets to write the history. Because someone got killed, we are told that we can't talk about who they really were or what their behavior was like. We're told that we're speaking "ill of the dead" so to speak. Yet where were all of the concerned family, friends, and community members when this person was alive and following the wrong path? Where was the professional help? Where was the tough love where the parent calls the police on their child's drug stash in hopes of getting them into rehab and getting them the help that they need? Where is the friend who is willing to bring their friend's behavior or social media posts to their parents so that it can be dealt with? Where are the school psychologists when children exhibit signs of accepting and belonging to criminal culture? Where are those pastors of their local churches, that they get dragged to, who come out and lament what a tragic loss it was to their community when the child is clearly in serious danger and in need of intervention? Where is the cousin, brother, sister, aunt, uncle or some other family member to take the gun from the kid, smack them upside the head, and tell them that if they ever see them taking pictures like that again or playing with a dangerous weapon for a photo that they'll smack them again?
No, all we get is these people (ex post facto, of course) telling us that they were "good kids" who just "made a mistake." I mean, "who are you, you heartless monster, to not remember that you make mistakes too?!"
Yes, good kids do make mistakes, but good kids don't LIVE in those mistakes. If they do, then they're not good kids.
Here's a thought, instead of looking for all the ways that your kid is a "good kid" and trying to be their friend, how about you look at the worst of their behavior and try to figure out how to curb it or fix it BEFORE it grows consequences? That way they actually WILL BE a good kid and won't end up in situations where this is happening to them.
Situations like Elijah McLain are so very rare. It's VERY RARE when you see a legitimate good kid have something like that happen to them. It's almost always a "troubled" kid, and they almost always have a criminal background, and they're usually not making a mistake, they're engaging in a repeated behavior pattern. So no, they are not "good kids" just making a mistake, and people are not wrong for pointing that out. You should have known it before hand and have dealt with it.
Natural consequences of chosen behavior are not a societal failing, they are an individual and familial failing.
This is something I hope ends up coming out of this COVID-19 pandemic. I pray that parents, who were legitimately oblivious to their children's bad or criminal behavior, found out about it and dealt with it appropriately; and that those parents who were choosing to look the other way dealt with it because with the kids being home it was their problem. If they didn't, then it's not society's fault, it's not the school's fault, it's not the teacher's fault, it's yours, and you child's.
Schools exists to teach educational facts. Parents are there for moral guidance and instruction on how to navigate the world. Conflate the two at your own risk, but don't get mad at the school because your kid turned out to be a criminal, that's on the parent, wholly and completely.
So stop saying, "they are(were) a good kid." Good kids don't regularly do bad kid things even though some bad kids might regularly do some good kid things.
Let's be honest about our children. That's the best way that we as a country can actually help them.
Let's ensure that they are, actually, Good Kids.