Mother Takes Daughter To Brawl – Fighting Juvenile Behavior in Parents: A Youth Worker’s Manifesto

Posted on October 18, 2008


This video on CNN depicts a graphic glimpse into some parenting styles of our current era.

screen capture from October 18, 2008

screen capture from October 18, 2008

There are some provocative quotes that are worth comment and consideration:

– Some people should just not be parents…We wonder why we have problems in our society with our children, but we have parents of the year like this.

Perhaps the above quip is a bit overstated, but the sentiment is possibly correct. However, as you will see in the following comments, what seems to be neglected in this brief (and newsy) exchange, is the question, “How did this mother get to understand this kind of parenting “style” (if we can call it that) in the first place?” If we’re unable to answer that question, then not only will unfit people who ought not parent exist, more of them will emerge in society.

– You know you’re in trouble when your mom has turned into your fight promoter.

A quote that I thought was appropriately provocative. Also, I see parents who are the opponents in the fight against their children. Either is trouble.

– I think this is indicative of a broader cultural phenomenon in which women are being treated more as objects, and they’re even starting to come to see themselves as unworthy of any kind of elevated dignity.

This quote reminded me of a post I was going to write on Rabbi Shmuley’s article, “Where Have All The Gentlemen Gone?” ( link) In the article, Shmuley suggests that the Women’s Liberation movement, at the extremes, actually enslaves women to an objectified existence rather than freeing them (this idea illustrated in the issue of pornography). The article is worth reading, in light of this news story, and others. May it help us see that there are higher, more dignified, more life-giving ways to live life, but it comes at the price of carefully understood and practiced morals. And though morals are often seen as confines to a fuller existential reality (kill-joys), perhaps illustrations like these will help us to see that the pursuit of unconstrained and ultimately (and infinitely) liberated living is illusory and deceptive, debasing, demoralizing, and consequently, dehumanizing.

– Could it be that some of these mothers are living vicariously through their daughters?

This is where I get impassioned. If we don’t intervene, and if we don’t value the raising of our children correctly, with dignity, respect, honor, love, security, etc., and if we continually exemplify individualistic values into adulthood and not turn to remember the ways of our own youth by valuing the upbringing of the next generation, then we will implode into our own insecurities, our own emptiness and see our children as the only avenue left for justice in and for our miserable lives. (I’m sorry for the long sentence, but again, impassioned). I see parents do this all the time, “If you disrespect me, I’ll…” “Don’t you dare talk to me that way.” “Who do you think I am?” These and other statements that I constantly hear from parents are evidence that parents are themselves broken, hurt, disillusioned at life, and are raising their kids as advocates of their own egos. And instead of valuing the personhood of their children, believing that they can be better than they while instilling positive and communal values that will help them be positive contributors to society, they default to personal hurts. Ultimately, children learn that life really is all about them, because their upbringing was all about their parents. As they are then stripped of their own personhood, 20 years later, the cycle continues (which consequently, after doing the math, seems to be the age at which this mother had her daughter, 19 years old. That piece of information may be telling as well.)

– Treating kids like “friends” is a mistake that parents make on a lot of levels.

I actually have some disagreements, philosophically, with this statement. If the “friendship” is one that was exhibited in this graphic video clip, well then of course. However, if we’re able to redefine “friendship” as a communal interaction that values each other as dignified human beings, then I wonder if seeing children through the eyes of friendship could not help some parents recognize that they are raising kids, who will eventually one day act and behave more like peers than like children. In other words, it prepares them for the kind of life that they will soon live. I had one parent completely balk at me saying, “But I’m always going to be mom!” Yes, and this suggestion is never at the dismissal of the parental role and the parental reality. It is, however, at the suggestion of a new how in the parent-child relationship. I’m suggesting adding a new perspective and ethic to the never-changing reality of parent-child.

– Where’s the father? I don’t have lots of optimism that he’s involved, and if he is, he’s probably not any good. Idiots tend to find other idiots.

Again, the perpetual cycle continues itself. They even mentioned it at the end of the video, that this 12 year old girl will most likely see the criminal justice system again in her life. If it’s true that idiots tend to find other idiots (which is seemingly true given the way and process of modern courtship and mate-identification), then our solution is to stop raising idiots, and start raising decent adults. This starts by treating the child with more dignity and respect, to honor their existence, to believe in their potential, to uplift their character and speak into their lives integrity, love, charity, compassion, etc.

– To what extent is this mother too far gone to be trained to parent her kid in a responsible and decent way. You hate to see a kid to have to be separated from a biological parent, on the other hand, you hate to see a kid being raised like this.

The dilemma here is a good one, and one that I won’t even try to answer for this family. I will say, however, that I chose this last quote to exhort us all to believe that no one is “too far gone”. This is the hope of the work that we all do as youth workers, social workers, family ministers, teachers, and judges (and others). Never give up hope. NEVER. The work we do is important, and at times it seems disillusioning and discouraging. But the alternative to continuing the work is frighteningly worse.

We must never be afraid that we will lose the battle. Rather we must always be fearful that we’ll lose our will to fight. Believe that this fight for better child-rearing is worth it.

I’ve been working on a book idea entitled “A Youth Worker’s Manifesto: Why the Critical Value of Youth Ought To Matter To Everyone” (or something like that). In it, I want to bring together all the great pieces of writing and work from all the various disciplines (sociology, anthropology, psychology, and even the sciences), couple them with the standard vocations of youth work (social work, youth ministry, teachers/educators, parole officers/law enforcement, and parents) and craft a clarion call to the value of working with and raising our youth. It’s in its conceptual baby stages right now, but here are some scattered sentiments that I’m hoping to share with the world one day:

To my friends and colleagues that work with young people and families: you are making a difference in the world, and you truly are turning the tide of humanity. The way in which future generations will see life, the standards by which they make decisions, the values that are exemplified in their habits and rituals, will all be determined by the shaping of each and every one of us in their lives right now. Cherish every moment, think carefully about each word, and never, absolutely NEVER underestimate the power of your presence in their lives. And receive joyfully the responsibility of that presence as a commission by God and of past generations, to steward this reality well. What we’ve inherited from our past is not a benefit to our better lives, but rather a responsibility to pass on that trajectory to our children.

The consequences of youth work are great. What we do, or do not do with our young ultimately determines the kind of future both we and they experience. We are always one generation away from losing our the fabric of our society, and because of that reality, we must stand beside our kids, uplift them, encourage them, and yes, commission and challenge them to see life as a community of people, and a community of events of which they are key contributors.

And do not look down upon them because they are young, but realize that they have the ability, the potential to actually set for us the example of how life ought to be lived; in their innocence, in their compassion, in their raw sensibilities. Honor the lessons they are learning by applause. Shape the character of their hearts by your example. Teach them that you too are willing to be humble, that you are willing to learn and grow for the rest of your life; that no one “has it all together.” And witness their amazing ability to gravitate towards the highest values of life such as compassion, love, and self-sacrifice. Believe that these values are not so challenging that we must shove it down their throats and prove to them their existence. Believe that these values are already in them, and it is our beautiful responsibility to call it out of them, to elevate that ethic in their lives, to encourage and support the decisions they make towards those values.

And cease to be surprised. I believe that being surprised at true and real acts of love and compassion tell us more about how far we’ve strayed away from what is intrinsically within us. Surprise and awe at Mother Teresa tells us not about how amazing Mother Teresa is/was, but tells us how we have denied that part of ourselves for a lower form of existence. And I find that those who engage in so called “amzing” and “honorable” activites, are themselves “un-surprised” at the work they do. They simply realize that there is no other way to live life to the fullest. It just makes sense. So, let us cease to be amazed at amazing people. Let us become like them. Let us sacrifice our lives for the children like Janusz Korczak, respect their presence like Fred Rorgers, believe in their future like Geoffrey Canada, and allow them the fullness of life like Jesus of Nazareth. May we cease to be surprised anymore at the works of great people, and the results of great children. May we simply accept amazement as a common reality, and follow in the footsteps of those who have gone before us, and do our due diligence in contributing to the life that is.

Posted in: Culture, Life