True story: A man heard some pounding noises coming from the empty house next door.
He knew something was wrong because he was renovating that house for his father-in-law.
He went over and found four kids vandalizing the place. The kids used hammers to bash out windows, shatter mirrors, pound gaping holes into the walls, splinter doors, bust up sinks and a toilet and smash lights. They spray-painted the walls, doors, windows and ceilings, and poured paint everywhere. The pictures are a nightmare.
The man took the hammers away from the kids and, in an exhibition of extreme self-restraint, locked the kids in a closet and called the police to come pick them up. More than $40,000 worth of damage was done by four kids ranging in age from 8 to 10 years old.
How on earth could a quartet of 8- to 10-year-old boys dare do something like that?
Well, they were pretty sure they could get away with it. How do I know that? Because their parents are suing this fellow for traumatizing their kids.
You heard right. Oh sure, the parents admit their kids shouldn't have done what they did. But they maintain the owner of the home was out of line for locking their kids in the closet. One of them even filed a complaint that he'd grabbed their kid by the neck, thus frightening him.
If that doesn't appall you, then it's time to turn in your parenting license. There's no room on this planet for that kind of entitlement-producing behavior. I'm talking about the parents here.
Kids are born to adults because adults, with all their experience and wisdom and maturity, are supposed to help kids grow up into respectable, contributing members of society. This is not an easy task. But when adults decide to have children, they sign up to teach character-building class -- for life. It ain't easy, but it's required.
I don't have to look far to find examples of parents who raised their kids well. When she was a young teen, my mom and her sister were taught to take care of each other while their parents were out making a living. It was the Depression, so they did what they did to survive. Her story is stunningly tough. And that kind of challenge in her early life helped her develop into a strong, empathetic, wise woman.
Same for my dad. Nine people in his family meant a lot of mouths to feed. They grew everything they ate. The most mischievous thing he ever did was hook up a homemade motor to the clothesline to surprise Grandma when she hung the clothes. His experiment was highly successful, landing him in the cellar so he could have some time to ponder on his behavior. He, too, grew up with a strong sense of right, and a deep sense of caring for those around him.
The thought of wantonly destroying a neighbor's property would have horrified them. It horrifies me. Which means my parents' aversion to blatantly disrespectful behavior has been passed on to me. And you'd better believe I'm passing it on to my kids.
I wonder what those boys think of their parents. Right now I suspect they're caught up in some kind of frightened relief as their parents shield them from the consequences of their choices.
But I wonder if they'll still think that way in 10 or 20 years when they've grown up a bit, and maybe had a kid or two of their own. Can a kid really respect a parent who shuffles away the consequences of appalling behavior? I don't think so.
Consequence is a painful tutor. Painful for the person going through it, and painful for those who love him as they watch the process. But the end product of consequence that's been met is growth and wisdom. Remove a person's consequence and you rob him of some mighty opportunity for improvement.
I hope those kids grow up to question their parents' choice. Because the worst thing that could happen is that they end up raising their own kids the same way.
Meanwhile, I want to know where they live. Because until they grow up (the children AND the parents) I don't want to be the neighbor next door.
You can contact D. Louise Brown at email@example.com