Don’t leave parenting to others; you are your child’s first influence

I was recently talking to a friend of mine. We both were speaking about values and actually how it is much easier to be nice than it is to be, well, not nice.

Then it got me to thinking about how I’ve dealt with some of the juvenile delinquents who have come to my office over the past several years (33, but who’s counting?).

So many times, I have parents come into my office with their children who have been referred to probation for their negative behavior. I always direct one particular question to the child: “So, what has happened at home since your involvement with the police that has brought you to the probation department?”

I have had all kinds of answers: I’m grounded until I’m 30; I have to pull weeds for my grandparents and their friends; I have to go to work with my dad; I can’t drive my car; I can’t watch TV for a month; etc.

Normally, when I hear the parents are doing their job of being a parent, I feel my job is just a little bit easier. All too often, however, I hear this: “Well, we thought we would wait and see what you do first.”

Really? Your child was caught driving while intoxicated, smoking marijuana, stealing, fighting, skipping school, selling drugs, and you think it’s best to wait for Old Wayne the Probation Officer to decide what is in his best interest? That’s when I know I have my work cut out for me.

Parents need to be parents. One day at a time and one situation at a time. Stand up for your children; however, stand up to them as well.

Normally, by the time their probation is over, the kids are showing more respect to me than they are to their own parents. Respect is something people earn — but more importantly should be something people learn.

As parents, we must teach our children to respect other people.

There are a number of ways to go about this, and here’s what’s worked for me: I always try to say less than I think.

(Actually, my deep voice has helped me to get along with other people.)

I was recently having a conversation with one of my probationers about — let’s just say a mistake he had made.

I went to his house with a law enforcement officer and a couple of other people who knew him. Apparently, I used my Dad Voice, because when we came out, the three people I was with stated they actually felt a little intimidated.

I didn’t yell; I just used a deep persuasive voice. I feel how you say something counts more than what you say.

Some other advice:

You should make promises sparingly and keep them faithfully, no matter what it costs you.

Never let an opportunity pass to say a kind and encouraging thing to or about someone. Be interested in others; let everyone you meet feel that you regard him as one of importance.

Be cheerful. It’s sometimes hard to hide your pains, worries and disappointments under a smile, but learn to laugh at good stories and learn to tell them.

Be careful of another’s feelings. Wit and humor at the other fellow’s expense are rarely worth the effort, and may hurt where least expected.

A few parting thoughts: I grew up around the legal system. Bob Sebastian was not a blood relative, but I always called him Uncle Bob. When he was sheriff, he lived at the jail. My parents were very close to “Uncle Bob and Aunt Doris,” so I spent a lot of time around the jail.

From a very young age, I saw the negative effects alcohol and drugs had on people. I made a conscious decision that I was going to have nothing to do with either one. Nothing was going to control me and my actions.

I have used that decision hopefully in a positive way to lead by example to the thousands of people I’ve supervised on probation.

Alcoholics and drug-abusers can’t ever use again, or the cycle starts all over. I have told them one day at a time, and you can live without it.

I feel fortunate to have had the upbringing I did. I am glad I saw the negative aspects at a young age, because it has been what sparked me to want to set examples and try and help the people I have helped.

Now I get virtually sick when I have to address family members of victims who have suffered injury or death from substance-abuse issues.

We all need to do what we can to try and stop it. Parents, please talk to your children. Believe it or not, you are the most powerful influence in your child’s life.

More than friends. More than TV. More than celebrities. Be a positive example. People need to realize the dangers of substance abuse.

A recent quote in the Daily Reporter was from a young man charged with drinking and driving resulting in death.

He was asked a question in the bond hearing to which he answered, “This is my wake-up call. … Taking the life of an innocent person.”

Hopefully, everyone reading this article will honor that young lady who lost her life and do their part to teach others about the dangers reckless actions can cause.

Wayne Addison is the chief deputy probation officer for the Hancock County Probation Department.