Keating: Parenting Is Under Challenge

February 23, 2021

by Maryann O. Keating, Ph.D.

The South Bend Tribune reported on a horror in Indianapolis that began with an argument that plays out in nearly every American family with a teenager: a battle over staying out too late (“Police: ‘I love you’ were father’s last words.”) It appears that an angry teen, in trouble for leaving the house without permission, fatally shot his mom, dad, two siblings, a pregnant teen and her unborn child. An extreme case, but it highlights a serious parental dilemma. 

Dr. Koplewicz, medical director of the Child Mind Institute and author of “The Scaffold Effect,” writes that parents should see their role like a scaffold, supporting the structure of a building as it rises. The author maintains that the most important thing parents can do is to provide routines and schedules. Household routines, such as waking up at the same time every day, eases a child’s anxiety, particularly during times of uncertainty.

How can parents maintain order in a household when every fiber of a teen’s being argues for independence? It is only possible if parents’ preferences are given priority in scheduling activities for teens. 

Surveyed parents indicate that they want their children to be good and to be happy. Happiness includes allowing a child to discover meaning and purpose through social activities. Parents and, if truth be told, organizers aspire to retain some influence over teens. 

Parents generally are grateful to organizations offering worthwhile age-appropriate activities. In some cases, parents like to be included . . . sitting apart, of course, at Friday night football.  

The South Bend Alive grant program recently awarded nearly $350,000 in total to community organizations. The Office of Community Initiatives manages these grants ranging from $5,000 to $25,000 to provide alternatives to violence for the city’s youth.

 In March 2014, the South Bend Youth Task Force (SBYTF) was founded as a group led by area high school student partnering with adults to act as an advocacy program. The SBYTF works directly with the mayor’s office to design and carry out advocacy issues affecting youths.  

Unfortunately, traditionally sponsored community activates have been crowded out due to budgetary, regulatory and liability constraints in addition to the pandemic. Thus, social capital acquired through years of sponsoring such activities has declined. 

The times may be right for new types of activities and the intentions of organizers are admirable. However, their personal attachment to each adolescent is generally less than that of a parent who cannot rest until all family members are in for the night. 

Each family has its own rules, which should be respected both for the sake of the teens and ultimately the community. Parents, hang tight.  

Maryann O. Keating, Ph.D., a resident of South Bend and an adjunct scholar of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation, is co-author of “Microeconomics for Public Managers,” Wiley/Blackwell.


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