Recently our house took on a toilet paper assault of impressive magnitude. It looked like a winter wonderland with the toilet paper covering trees and other surfaces. Our Christmas lights created a nice glow off the paper which my teens were quick to capture a photo of – Christmas card material. Perhaps you have seen such a sight?
Often times, children and teens do this to friends as a joke with no malicious intent. This generally ceases when the youth involved tire of picking up paper or someone takes things too far.
This last weekend the teens took it too far. Combined with the T.P. job was a voicemail from one of the culprits claiming responsibility and commenting in such a way that we knew it wasn’t just for fun. Fortunately in the cyber-world, word travels fast and within a short period of time we were informed of who was involved and who left the message.
What happened next provided a good learning opportunity for the teens. Upon the request of my husband, some of the kids came and cleaned up. By the next morning the apologies were rolling in. The comments from the teens were an eye-opener: It wasn’t my idea. I just went along because everyone else did it. I only watched. I only threw one roll.
How sad! Every teen who was there was a bystander regardless of their contribution. It wasn’t until they got caught that they considered the consequences of their actions.
How do we get teens to think before they act? How do we help them decide not to participate in actions that can harm another person or their own reputation? There is no magical answer to this question.
Every parent wants their children to make good choices. However, all kids will make mistakes. When your child makes a poor choice, avoid the temptation to allow him/her to blame their behavior on another person or their environment. Poor choices are just that. Turn the poor choice into an opportunity to help your youth develop good character by accepting responsibility for their actions.
As your children move into the teen years discuss with them what to do if they find themselves in a situation that could have negative consequences. For example, some kids may naturally be leaders. These leaders can empower the group to do something else. Other teens might use their parents as an escape by saying, “My parents would ground me for a month if I did that.” Eventually they will get caught.
While the youth involved in last weekend’s event can’t take back what they did. Many of them did the right thing by cleaning up the mess and apologizing. Regardless, our 7-year-old Sammie has declared, “They are all on the naughty list.”
Kerri Gray is a Marriage and Family Therapist. She teaches educational programs for parents, teachers and students through Lee’s Summit CARES. She resides in Lee’s Summit with her husband and four daughters.