Don’t ignore the value of teachable moments

Jenny-Byxbee-greenwich-voicesThe more I’ve worked as the town’s youth services coordinator, the more I’ve become an empathetic parent and the more I’ve become aware of all the outside influences that exist around our children.

Knowing how to parent is never easy and what works for one child isn’t the same for another. I don’t know about you, but I need a village. My children did not come with a manual and I have relied on so many others as well as local agencies to help show me the way to help them be their best selves.

However, there are some situations that I’ve come across that I feel are not debatable because it is the law. You have to wear your seat belt. You have to wear a helmet when on a bike. And little ones must be in a car seat until a certain age. It’s illegal to serve minors liquor. It’s illegal to drink under the age of 21.

Now I’ve heard all the arguments about rites of passage and what we did when we were younger and that once the drinking age was 18. But whether you agree with the laws or not, they are still the laws and they are enforceable. And if you break the law there can be consequences.

Beyond the judicial consequences, not learning from one’s mistake can lead to lifelong consequences. In this day and age it’s harder to be a young person and recover from mistakes in a time of email and Facebook. Everything can be and is out there for the world to see.

Yes, growing up is about making mistakes, but as adults and as a community it’s vital to help our children learn from them and establish a moral compass for them to follow.

It’s been my experience with the Juvenile Review Board that children in all areas make bad choices from time to time. Bad choices happen regardless of who you are or where you’re from. But a child’s resiliency depends so much on our abilities to help hold them accountable for their choices both good and bad.

There will come a time (as much as it terrifies me as a parent) that we cannot protect our children from the world. We need to find those teachable moments and help our children be resilient and better off for the experience.

Our children are always looking for behavior to model from teachers, coaches, parents, and “the village.” If they know the law says no using a cell phone while driving but see mom doing it, it sends a message that obeying laws is negotiable. If we park where the sign says not to — it’s the same thing. If we tell them to be home by 9:00 p.m. but offer no consequences when they come home at 10, then they learn very quickly that rules don’t matter. And, of course, when they get older and we tell them it’s OK to drink at 18 when the law says you have to be 21, we are reinforcing a sense that laws don’t really matter if you disagree with them when, in fact, the law is the law.

If you find you’re in need of help working through a teachable moment with your child, we have amazing local resources available to all, including Kids in Crisis’ 24-hour emergency hotline, 203-327-KIDS, Family Centers at 203-629-2822, Child Guidance at 203-324-6127, and by connecting with the 2-1-1 info line or Community Answers at 202-622-7979, to name just a few. There is also some great information available at Drugfree.org/Parent, Parentsfurther.com and Setttherulesct.org.

We are in this together.

 

Jenny Byxbee is the youth services coordinator for the United Way of Greenwich. She may be reached at 203-869-2221 or [email protected]

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