We are the ones responsible for our children not showing respect for police or authority figures. I know it sounds harsh, but it’s true. All of us have created this environment, where as a society, we don’t respect the authority of the police. Here is how I believe we (quietly, unknowingly) got here …
We don’t teach our children to respect authority.
When I was growing up, I was taught to respect the police, to comply with their requests, to shut my mouth, make slow moves, and find them when I need help or get into trouble.
I don’t know if we still expect the schools to teach our children these things, but WE have to take personal responsibility to teach them life lessons about how the world works. It’s our job to teach them right from wrong, what the consequences are when we don’t follow the rules or break the law, and that we have to submit to authority. I don’t always like it either, but it’s how we have to live or we become a lawless, scary society.
We have to back up those in authority in our children’s lives. We have to back up their teachers, their coaches, their bus driver, the librarian, their family members and their elders. We can attempt to “helicopter parent” every piece of conflict and trouble out of their lives. But let me warn you, as a former college media advisor to hundreds of students … all that “helicoptering” will only boomerang them back to your home/couch/basement well into their twenties or beyond.
We let them watch “Cops” on TV.
I know it sounds ridiculous. Stay with me a moment. This show glamorizes every person who is running from the police. It’s pretty much just a show about people who made the bad decision to run from the police. As adults, we know that not everyone runs from the police, and that it’s not the right thing to do. But our children don’t.
My sister was pulled over by a cop friend of hers. He decided to joke with her and played it up by acting official and speaking in very loud, authoritative tones. Then he opened the car door where my eight-year-old niece was sitting and SHE FREAKED OUT. He quickly shut the door and let them go on their way. When my sister asked her why she freaked out she responded, “Mom, when we got pulled over I was getting ready to run out the door and into that field back there.” When she inquired as to why she would do such a thing, she explained that this is what she sees every person on the show “Cops” do, and that’s what she thought she was supposed to do. My sister realized she never taught her that the police are our friends and that when there is trouble we should seek them out.
We use a nearby police officer as a threat to get our children to behave.
We teach our children they are to fear the law. There is a fine line between respect and fear. When we teach our children that law enforcement are present to punish us, we don’t teach them to respect them and that they are our friends. We need to be teaching them to run TO officers; that they are here to protect them.
So the next time you are in a store and your kid gets our of line, don’t threaten them by telling them that the officer will take them to jail if they don’t straighten up. It only enforces an atmosphere that they are to be feared.
We let FEAR and the unknown run our emotional reactions.
I believe any kind of discrimination is first rooted in fear. We fear what we do not know. We fear what is different or unknown because we don’t have any understanding. We can let this creep over into creating discrimination against people of a different skin color, political affiliation, religion or uniform.
There are some streets I’ve never traveled down before, and sometimes I can’t imagine what’s beyond the places I have only seen with my own eyes. To me, they are like black holes of nothingness … the unknown, and I fear it a bit if I haven’t seen it and experienced it for myself. Should I be afraid of that road because I haven’t yet experienced driving further down it? NO! And what about the darkness? Have you ever been afraid of the monsters under your bed or in your closet? It’s not a rational fear. And the same should be true for all these other things we convince ourselves to be afraid of. We CAN choose to be afraid or not. We CAN choose to not let fear control our lives and emotions.
We can be a part of the solution by taking action to change the conversation and atmosphere as it pertains to our feelings about law enforcement. We can be the change and make a better future for our children. We have to do better for them. It’s our responsibility as parents to fix what we have broken. And it can begin with us, today. How are you teaching your children respect for law enforcement and authority? I look forward to reading your comments.