Smith: Parent alert: Don't let your kids run wild

photo Robin Smith

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a parent is "a person who is a mother or father; a person who has a child."

Yet, that word parent isn't just a noun. It's also a verb.

The same reference book defines "to parent" as "to be or act as the parent of" a child.

Reading further, the use of the verb conveys the various facets of parenting, such as love, provision, discipline and oversight.

In reading various news accounts over the last few days, it seems the action verb "parenting" has been forgotten by too many.

Last week, Dalton, Ga., police officers were suspended without pay for two days, received written reprimands and ordered to complete 40 hours of community service in the area of youth programs after using profanity on a school bus carrying middle-school students.

The account involved rowdy middle-schoolers who refused to follow the requests of their bus driver to "stop hollering and screaming." After pulling her bus over and 15 minutes of pleading for less noise, the driver phoned the dispatcher of the bus service, explaining the safety risk.

The call resulted in two policeman being video taped using intimidation and anger to make their point. A mistake on their part.

Following complaints by parents, the Dalton police disciplined the officers.

In an almost identical incident in Florida, a bus driver pulled over to deal with unruly middle-school kids who refused to stop screaming and jumping in their seats. The driver, as must be protocol, contacted the dispatcher of the bus service and awaited the arrival of police.

During that time, most likely from children alerting parents via mobile devices, parents arrived before law enforcement did.

In comments from the Orlando bus driver, he painted a picture of chaos inside the bus with kids "out of control" and parents on the outside verbally attacking the driver.

This incident ended with a window smashed out by a parent who removed his child from the bus in anger, with "charges pending."

In both news accounts, these were middle-school aged children, between 10 and 14 years old. The conduct displayed is the conduct learned and reinforced in the home and, apparently, defended by parents.

Who holds the responsibility for the behavior of a child? Who teaches respect? Who teaches discipline?

I'm sure there are all sorts of reasons offered by many parents and children, but there's really no excuse. Decent conduct and respect is not a high standard, but an expectation.

It seems that gone are the days when discipline at school involved just that ...discipline. And time was that discipline triggered greater punishment at home, in the effort of, don't miss this, parenting.

While we ponder the best curriculum, the class size, the mastery of computer and foreign language skills, along with the best school lunch menu, a child who is not taught respect by parents will fall short of his or her full potential in any area of life.

Billy Graham has made many searing spiritual statements in his devoted life of evangelism, but one hits the nail on the head with children: "A child who is allowed to be disrespectful to his parents will not have true respect for anyone."

Will parents teach, live and show respect? Or will they raise bullies and narcissists who fail in life because of a crucial chartacter flaw?

Robin Smith served as chairwoman of the Tennessee Republican Party, 2007 to 2009. She is a partner at the SmithWaterhouse Strategies business development and strategic planning firm and serves on Tennessee's Economic Council on Women.