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The “Keep Your Kids Out of Trouble This Summer” Checklist — Help Them Understand ‘The Grand Illusion’

Thu June 13 2013 8:31 am
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Adult-like powers released by an adolescent mind, and magnified by the technology of an Apple iPhone and the reinforcements of a social media army are a major challenge to parents. The bottom line is whether character can overpower the self-centered, self-absorbed, ego-centric, celebrity driven culture that exists today.

I recently covered a story about new police technology in a new police SUV for Schaumburg Police Department. Children at a school in Schaumburg got the chance to take a look at license plate recognition technology on a regular police squad car, and also new technology such as remote video in four directions on the Ford Explorer SUV.

It immediately was obvious that the children had no interest whatsoever in the technology, or the police, or their police cars. What were they interested in? Getting their faces on the news — being in front of the camera.

That was a big surprise for me, because I am used to people at crime scenes and fire scenes avoiding the camera. Some even accompany their avoidance of the camera with threats, even when I am not trying to photograph any particular individual. But these kids wanted to be in a picture at all costs. When I moved to get an angle with one or two kids looking at the police car laptop, suddenly there were 15 or more children squeezing their faces into the frame. After the shot, many immediately asked, “How did I look?” or “Did I look cool?” or “How’s this?” while posing with any of a variety of standard Facebookoid poses.

What also shocked me was how frenzied they were for news fame. I wasn’t representing Fox News, CNN, ABC 7 Chicago, or the Chicago Tribune. I was representing The Cardinal — — something never heard of, not surprisingly, by an adolescent in Schaumburg. But it didn’t matter to them. Their teachers had to disperse them from the area in front of the camera — constantly reminding them to focus on the police demonstration — not the “paparazzi”. I apologized to the teachers for distracting the students. Sure you could just say, “Come on its just kids having fun during their last days of school” but I can’t help but think it’s something deeper. Nothing critical intended to the individual children or their parents or their teachers, but a recognition of a symptom of major problems with our society worth mentioning.

While going through a public doorway, I once realized that there are two kinds of parents in this world. Those who think their kids deserve an endless parade of privileges, and those who teach their children character to respect others and look out for others.

Going through the lobby doorway of a public building, some parents look at you with the expression “let my little prince or princess go through the door first, and bow while you’re at it (OK maybe that’s too much reading in to the situation, but you get the point).” Those are usually the kids that are playing some kind of game of tag or some other nonsense while their passing through the door.

Then there are another set of parents that teach their children to be courteous and respectful to others that are going through the door. They might even tell their child to hold the door for an older person — shocking.

The first set of parents are the Celebrity-Consumerist parents. The parents must feel it is their duty to protect their children from all boredom, effort, pain, and suffering at all costs. Life is defined by them as an endless stream of video games, movies, parties, and shopping. Their children develop a sense that by priority it is their right to have fun — or YOLO — you only live once.

The second group of parents are the Character-Conscious parents. They view sports participation or music lessons or school clubs as methods to build character and keep kids out of trouble. They view effort and even suffering as a normal part of life — not something to be avoided at all costs. Some go overboard and are a little too hard on their kids, but they help their kids become responsible adults, not perpetual adolescents.

While the Celebrity-Consumerist camp may seem perpetually happy as perpetual adolescents, their lives can come crashing down — and there are statistics to back this. Crashes, suicides, poisonings (overdoses), and homicide are the leading causes of death for people age 15-24. I am sure you’re thinking, there have been some overdriven children in the Character-Conscious camp that have committed suicide or have overexhausted themselves to the point of serious harm or even death. Yes, you have a good point. After you read the checklists below you can add your comment.

Here are two checklists to stay out of the Celebrity-Consumerist Camp and avoid a tragic summer.

First the Fundamental Checklist — follow the pillars of character counts.

1) Trustworthiness
Be honest • Don’t deceive, cheat, or steal • Be reliable — do what you say you’ll do • Have the courage to do the right thing • Build a good reputation • Be loyal — stand by your family, friends, and country

2) Respect
Treat others with respect; follow the Golden Rule • Be tolerant and accepting of differences • Use good manners, not bad language • Be considerate of the feelings of others • Don’t threaten, hit or hurt anyone • Deal peacefully with anger, insults, and disagreements

3) Responsibility
Do what you are supposed to do • Plan ahead • Persevere: keep on trying! • Always do your best • Use self-control • Be self-disciplined • Think before you act — consider the consequences • Be accountable for your words, actions, and attitudes • Set a good example for others

4) Fairness
Play by the rules • Take turns and share • Be open-minded; listen to others • Don’t take advantage of others • Don’t blame others carelessly • Treat all people fairly

5) Caring
Be kind • Be compassionate and show you care • Express gratitude • Forgive others • Help people in need

6) Citizenship
Do your share to make your school and community better • Cooperate • Get involved in community affairs • Stay informed; vote • Be a good neighbor • Obey laws and rules • Respect authority • Protect the environment • Volunteer

[From The Six Pillars of Character Counts]

Second, the Practical Checklist

1) Set rules about iPhone or other smartphone usage — particular as it relates or compares to engaging with people on a real face-to-face.

2) Remind and enforce no texting and driving. Kids are doing it. Not only are they doing it, but they are doing it in ultimately the worst possible ways, including while riding bicycles down a sidewalk with oncoming pedestrians, while making turns in intersections, while accelerating from a red light without looking at cross traffic.

3) Review general reckless behavior. Speeding. Riding while standing in the sunroof or hanging out of a window. Driving under the influence. Three drivers crashed their cars into stationary objects this weekend and were lucky enough to run away (if you consider that lucky — well as opposed to being killed or paralyzed). Crashes are the number one cause of death of people age 15-24 in the United States.

4) Watch the culture. Don’t be stupid. If your kid loves 2 Chainz and his music, there’s a fairly good chance your kid might be open to pot and Promethazine and Purple Drank or sizzurp.

5) Consider tracking your vehicle that your kid uses if there are a lot of warning signs. You can get a Delphi module available from Verizon. If the GPS shows that your vehicle is located on Central Avenue near the Eisenhower Expressway or Austin and Lake or K-Town, you have might have a kid with a drug problem. Many heroin purchase happen on the way to Chicago near Interstate 290.

6) Suicide watch. Teach kids how businesses take advantage of their consumerist tendencies, and remind them that their value is in what they do, not in what they own or consume, or how many friend like them on Facebook. Spoiled kids can end up feeling empty by the time they are teens. If they feel they don’t match up in fame or material possessions, or if the “whole game” and the “games people play” seems like overwhelming BS — well just remember the suicide rate among young people in the United States is directly proportional to family income. Suicide ranks second or third as the leading cause of death among people age 15-24.

Are you wondering why your life isn’t like what you see on TV and in movies and magazines and such?
You want to know why?
’cause that’s all bulls&%t
Don’t you go believin’ movies and TV and rock videos and all that crap …
Come on ….
All that is, is somebody else’s fantasy.
You know what I’m sayin’

— Dennis Young (The Grand Illusion)

The Grand Illusion
With today’s economy, there is not a lot of glory in traditional jobs. Many are looking at life like the lottery. With college becoming outrageously expensive, many parents might be inadvertently encouraging a valueless celebrity culture — going for the the athletic scholarship or the music scholarship can put selfishness in overdrive. It may be considered to be the only shot at college. It’s really become quite a balancing act.

Mark Bostrom

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