How to Keep Your Kids Out of Prison
I know what you’re thinking: “My kids will never have to go to prison!” I certainly hope not. However statistics tell us that in today’s society, it is a very strong possibility. The Pew Report of March 2009, titled “One in 31,” tells us that the population of the American corrections system is now more than 7.3 million, or one out of every thirty-one U.S. adults (including those who are on probation or parole).
This means that for every classroom of 31 students, we can expect one of those kids will end up in prison some day. Moreover, recent studies indicate that children of inmates have a 70% chance of ending up in prison. These are not the kind of odds we want our children or grandchildren to face.
What is causing such a rise in our prison population? There are multiple reasons. We are living in difficult times. A society focused on acquiring more and more things trickles ideas down to our youth, creating in them the desire to have what others have. Since some of these young people from less affluent homes fear they will never obtain the niceties of life legally, they resort to robbing and stealing to get what they want. Drugs are readily available, and peer pressure exerts its influence. It’s also factual that many of our youth have been led to inappropriate behavior through the violence and sexual immorality portrayed in movies, television, and their music.
One of our greatest concerns should be: “How do we protect our children from becoming sexual predators?” Really? Yes, it is a real issue, and it’s partially related to the problem of breakdown in our families. Many children are growing up without a father’s presence. The result has been an epidemic of gangs, alcoholism, drug addiction and sexual perversions among our youth. More on this later.
So how can you help keep your kids out of prison? One way, Mom and Dad, is that you must communicate love to each other and to your children. Family breakdown leads to much of the moral decay we see all around us. Parents who have been deceived into thinking that they are loving their children by giving them everything that money can buy have forgotten that what they need most is to see parents who love each other, and who spend quality time with them. Men especially need to better communicate love to their wives and children. Work at it, guys. This action will do more than anything else in protecting your children.
To give you some insight on this issue, I quote excerpts taken from an article by Armstrong Williams, titled “A Fathers Responsibility,” which was published in the July 2002 issue of Home Times, a newspaper in West Palm Beach, Florida:
“The fact is, that from one’s parents, a child learns what love, anger and affection are. A child learns how to navigate and express his or her emotions. A child can also learn spousal abuse, dishonesty and drug addiction. Men who abandon their duties as a father to pursue drugs or some other vice not only show a lack of their own self worth, but also display to their peers their inability to cope with the duties of life. Many mothers, through no fault of their own, are forced to raise children on their own. Likewise, the mere presence of fathers does not guarantee the best home environment.”
Possibly the biggest threat to our children is that they might not be taught how to properly deal with their sexuality. It’s normal for children, as they come into puberty, to become aware of their sexuality and begin to experiment. Parents, you must accept the responsibility to educate your children how to handle this gift. That’s why it’s important that parents understand the boundaries that God has given for a healthy sex life, and to impart this knowledge to their children early in life. Inaction sets them up for a life devoid of real love and satisfaction.
It is equally important that parents role model a healthy sex life to their children. Fathers, do you watch improper television programs or have pornographic magazines lying around the house? If so, you may be setting your children up for a fall. It’s not just hard-core pornography; magazines like Playboy or Hustler, or even Sports Illustrated, with their swim suit edition, falling into a child’s hand at the wrong time in their life can set up a pattern of lust that could lead them into sexual addiction. I believe the greatest threat to our children in today’s society is pornography.
Ever since the sexual revolution came on the scene in the 50’s and 60’s, pornography has gained a foothold in our nation. Under the guise of “freedom of speech”, greed-oriented men have inundated our land with all kinds of filth in print, and through the media of film. What started out as a trickle has become a flood of perversion, and has created an epidemic of sexual addiction among men and boys.
Teenage girls have been influenced to feed the passions of young men, as they have been brainwashed into believing that they should make themselves sexually attractive in order to be accepted. Television especially is playing a major role in influencing our youth. Just check and see what your kids are watching on the boob tube. Even watching programming that’s pretty much void of sexual exploitation or innuendo’s is not entirely safe. Their associated commercials also all-too-frequently use sex to sell their wares.
Mom and Dad, the media has certainly made you aware that in today’s culture your children are at risk of being sexually molested. But, you may not realize that they are also at risk of themselves becoming a sexual offender. It is estimated that 50% of youth between thirteen and eighteen years old will commit a sexual crime before their eighteenth birthday. We are hearing reports of much younger children, some as young as ten years of age offending.
Realistically, most of these youth offenders will never be arrested. But for those that are, there is a good chance they will go to prison. This means they will carry the label “sex offender” for the rest of their lives. They will have to endure all the hardships of housing restrictions, being on the sexual registry, and all the other conditions and stigma with which sexual offenders must cope.
Think back to when you were entering adolescence. Remember the confusion you had when those hormones kicked in? If you had a struggle back then, consider the culture our youth are living in now. Sexual suggestions are thrown at them from every angle. Television programming gives the impression that sexual immorality is to be desired. The lyrics in their music add fuel to the fire. Then there’s internet pornography and contemporary “romance” novels. How would you have dealt with all that?
What little sex education most of our youth get is not only wrong; it encourages them to be sexually active. The public schools tell them: “You will probably have sex, so here, take these condoms.” What kind of a message is that sending? I recall my teenage years, when sexual fantasies bombarded my thought life much of my waking hours, and hormonal reactions created wrong desires. Since that was over 60 years ago, imagine the struggle youth have in today’s sex-saturated society.
So, Mom and Dad, how ARE you going to keep your kids out of prison? Well, honestly, it’s going to take as much or more wisdom on your part than it took to raise them from birth until now. More than with toilet training; more than when monitoring and medicating their health; more than while shopping for their clothes and properly nourishing them at the table. More wisdom than it took to get them ready for school, and to encourage them to do their homework and insist they share in the housework.
There comes a time in many children’s lives, especially during their teenage years, when they start walking a tightrope between socially acceptable and unacceptable activities. Have the wisdom to be alert to danger signs, and keep gently pressing them in the right direction. You must freely shower them with compliments and abundant love, monitor their TV and movies time, and be wisely involved in helping them choose friends that won’t lead them astray. Take time to communicate with them; be willing to listen to their joys and problems, and be ready to give straightforward advice about sexual issues and other pitfalls. Join the PTA. And, most important of all, be wise enough to be the kind of role models that will help them to safely make the leap into a happy adulthood.
When he’s not writing a book or a commentary, Dick Witherow is Executive Director of Matthew 25 Ministries, a ministry to those in prison, and to those just released. http://www.matthew25ministries.org. Dick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org