Since I have had the fun of being stuck at our daughter and son-in-law's house, I have taken advantage of the opportunity to question him concerning kids and gangs. Here are some of the things I learned:

If a child is to resist joining a gang, he must have a nurturing mother IN THE HOME, who is emotionally available to him. He must know that she loves and respects him and is concerned for his needs. He must have a strong father IN THE HOME, who is more intimidating than the gang members. He must know that his father is strong enough, not only to keep him in line, but to protect him, and he must have a fear of incurring his father's displeasure. Not a very fashionable reality, to be sure, but then, truth and fashion rarely have more than a nodding acquaintance.

The fashionable father, who is supposed to be more feminine than masculine, is not strong enough to give boys a solid sense of security and the social and moral direction they require. They desperately need a strong male role model, but, too often, what they get is a sensitive, squishy-soft, Mr. Mom sort of guy.

Last evening, I listened to a young woman whose older sister horribly destroyed her life and, then, committed suicide. She explained that her sister's diaries describe how she always tried to push their father into a position where he would be forced to show strength, rather than, as she described it, always be the "good guy." He never did. We have known him for many years, and he is an unusually sweet man and an unusually unwise father, and his entire family has paid the price of his lack of willingness to be as tough as they needed him to be.

Even when a child has had the influence and training of two good parents, he needs something else - a sense of right and wrong, of good and bad. There must have been a sense of moral responsibility instilled in this child, to give him the strength to resist the tendency to go along with the crowd. It must, also, give him a capacity to feel guilt, which our son-in-law says is essential; without it, he will still be at risk.

Strong spiritual faith, contrary to the protestations of many in the social fields, is of great importance, for a child must have a sense that his parent's teachings of right and wrong are tied to something... something both real and eternal. Without that, instead of struggling to avoid destructive behavior, he only struggles to avoid detection.

One young man has told me that, because of his trying financial problems, he wouldn't hesitate to sell drugs, to get money, if he didn't know how wrong, how deeply immoral it is. He says he knows many law enforcement officers who sell drugs, and he sees no reason why it should be anymore illegal for him to do so, than it is for them. Nevertheless, his childhood teachings, of right and wrong, are such a powerful deterrent, that he resists the temptation to solve his money problems, by preying on other people.

he home training that keeps this young man from selling drugs, for a living, is the same training that keeps teens out of gangs, but, in the 90's, effective home training is something of an endangered species. Parents are abused on one side, for neglecting to train their children; on the other, they are threatened if their training doesn't fit the criteria of the modern social pattern, and that modern social pattern is, too often, an unmitigated disaster. It has given us gangs, perpetual welfare, unwed mother and fatherhood beyond our worst nightmares and a level of violence and criminality that is destroying the very society that spawned it.

I remember during my many years as a school girl, a number of my teachers taught me that my parents were old fashioned. I was taught that if the things my teacher said disagreed with my parent's teachings, my parents were wrong, because my teacher was better educated and knew more than my parents. Actually, none of the above was true, but, as a child, I had no way of knowing that. Neither did my parents know that their rightful position of mentor to their own offspring was being undermined by a few arrogant, unprincipled teachers, and, unfortunately, neither did I; I was just a child and didn't understand what was happening.

Often teachers quote Socrates' lament on the social conditions of his day (2400 years ago); in addition to bemoaning the lack of respect children showed their elders, he described most of the social conditions with which we are currently struggling. His lamentation is used as proof that, socially speaking, things have always been and always will be the same as they are now. Wrong! If history were well served, those who quote Socrates would mention that a few decades after his statement, Greece fell and has never amounted to a hill of beans, from that day to this. Their society simply rotted from within, and they lacked the strength to resist the predation of their neighbors. History is not kind to America's modern thinkers. Gangs are not a new phenomenon; they have been around for millennia, and they have always been caused by the same social conditions. Children need to be nurtured by loving mothers; strong fathers are a necessity, not a luxury. Children must learn the difference between right and wrong and be capable of feeling guilt. If we cannot provide those few things for our children, it really doesn't matter what we do provide, because an extinct society has no needs.

Until next time,

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