I don’t know if Tucson’s own Jon Justice has any children. If he does, I’m guessing they are not yet teens, because the parent of teenagers would be far less likely to comment as Justice did on this morning’s show about how grandparents (and parents, for that matter) can control teenagers all the time.
He was criticizing Tucson City Councilwoman Regina Romero for questioning a proposal to hold parents or guardians (including grandparents) of repeat taggers criminally liable for the graffiti these taggers stupidly throw up around town.
Anyone who has followed my writing knows I’m a hectoring scold when it comes to ineffective, lazy, do-nothing parenting. However, as someone who has survived the raising of four teens (three of whom are law-abiding, self-supporting young adults and one who is still in college and paying only half her way in the world), I can attest that even the most proactive, supervisory parenting cannot guarantee a kid won’t get involved w/ the wrong crowd. Does involved parenting LIMIT those chances? Absolutely. Is it a guarantee? No way. Why? Because you’re dealing with teenagers, who have the impulse control of a binge eater and the attention span of a goldfish.
Justice was going on (and on) about how parents and grandparents should take the “necessary action” to prevent their kids from tagging. Problem was, he never specified what this necessary action might entail – at least not during the 30 minutes I was listening. Does he think a rowdy teen, who has already proven through his actions that he could care less about the law, will just straighten up and fly right because Grandpa says so?
Should grandparents/guardians try to raise the kid well? Absolutely. Will grounding him or taking away his privileges keep an already troubled kid out of trouble? Probably not. I knew a woman who nailed the windows in her daughter’s bedroom shut and locked her door at night so the living-on-the-edge 15 y/old wouldn’t sneak out in the middle of the night. Guess what? The girl broke the window and left anyway.
Were these the most effective parents I knew? No – they’d spoiled the girl rotten when she was in elementary school and, once the monster was unleashed, they’d lost control. But it is an example of how parents can try hard with teens and still fail. The solution to troubled teens (and teens causing trouble) starts way earlier than the teen years and involves a lot more than saying, “No, you can’t.” Especially, IMHO, if you’re a senior citizen. I wonder if Justice was 65 or 70 and could remain fearless when faced with a strapping 16 y/o boy with a surfeit of attitude.
Before I had teenagers, I, too, saw things as very black and white: Parent does A and teen does B. That certainty flies right out the window when you’re in the thick of raising teens. Still, if the radio talk show host seriously believes punishing parents/grandparents for the criminal actions of their adolescent charges will cause those guardians to take the “necessary action” to stop the tagging, perhaps he should offer some solutions and suggestions as to what that action might be.
(A funny aside: Talking w/ one of our sons once about graffiti I said, “I just don’t get the point.” He explained taggers think they “own” a piece of property when they tag it, adding that he knew one who, pointing out his work on a freeway overpass, said, “That’s mine.” To which my son said, “No, dude, that’s still belongs the state.” Maybe what we need is education for taggers to understand the concept of “ownership”. :-))