Parents, community need to set the bar higher for youths

By Jenna Miller, Guest Columnist

Recently, I took my kids to a city playground in Little Falls. While we where there, there were also three teenagers (a girl and two boys) at the park having inappropriate physical contact on one of the park’s picnic tables. With a sick heart, I went over to remind them that they were in a public place and tried to explain that they were created for real love, in God’s image, not for cheap experimentation.

Who is to blame for this kind of behavior? Well, obviously these young people are responsible for not respecting the right kind of boundaries for public behavior. They are clearly in the wrong for fooling around in a way that demeans themselves, each other and anyone else who was there that afternoon.

I say that the community and culture in which they are growing up also bears some responsibility. Who do I mean?

• Anyone who condones this kind of behavior by remaining silent when they see it happening or excusing it by calling it “teen hormones” or “free expression.”

• Anyone who passively or actively accepts or encourages the elements of our culture that sexualize children from a young age, including revealing clothing, advertisements, movies, television and other media.

• Anyone who excuses the increasingly common, alarming practice of “sexting” over phones.

• Anyone who doesn’t set a good example of self-control, good humor and modesty, in both their behavior and in their dress. Anyone who buys revealing clothing for their children without thinking about what it represents.

• Anyone who buys into the idea that teenagers are just little adults who no longer need good guidance or supervision, even though their brains are not fully developed until they are much older.

• Anyone who opts to give young people heaps of free time instead of real responsibilities that will train them to be worthy adults.

• Anyone who would rather be a “friend” to a young person, rather than a responsible adult, telling and giving them what they want in order to be liked.

• Anyone who believes or teaches the myth of “safe sex,” including the promotion of a false sense of security via contraceptives, does not give young people full disclosure about the dangers of non-monogamous sexual contact, does not give them hope that they can be strong enough to resist temptation and the push of their own hormones and does not encourage them to practice the abstinence that will protect both their health and their hearts until they are ready for a monogamous marriage.

• Anyone who ignores the value of stable marriages in a community.

We too often in our culture equate freedom with the ability to do whatever we want. When this freedom is used to pursue our own pleasure at the expense of what is best for others, or even what is truly best for ourselves, it cannot be good. If we reinforce to young people that they are incapable of controlling their impulses and should indulge in pleasure-seeking behavior for its own sake, we are teaching them that they are not better than animals.

As parents and as a community, we would do better to encourage young people to understand courage, sacrifice, chastity, generosity and true joy. It is a high bar to set, but it is better that they know their true value as a human person, than to settle unquestioningly for what “everyone else is doing.”

They are truly capable of self-control in the midst of tempting and difficult circumstances. Then, they can experience true freedom, within a life of sacrifice and love.

Jenna Miller is a resident of Browerville.