Considering the news of late, I urge everyone to start, sign, and submit petitions to add Parenting 101 and 102 to our public schools’ curricula. The classes can be made available to high school sophomores and juniors, with a stipulation that students must pass both classes with a minimum grade of B+ to graduate.
Graduation requirements have been known to include more than the mastery of book knowledge. North Carolina State University required me to pass a swimming test to be eligible for my BA in Speech Communication. Therefore, I don’t believe requiring parenting classes of our nation’s teens is asking too much.
The classes I propose would have absolutely nothing to do with sex education. I believe everyone pretty much has the gist of that material. Rather, we need to provide guidance as to why it is ridiculous to have your child arrested and sent to a juvenile detention hall for stealing your toaster pastry.
A mother in Charlotte, N.C. recently did just that. Her son took "her" pastry. She had him arrested to teach him a lesson. Had the child stolen a neighbor’s car, shoplifted a DVD, or brought home a baggie full of the devil’s lettuce, then yes, I could see having him arrested to teach a life lesson.
But it was a high-fructose corn syrup saturated breakfast pastry designed to be "cooked" in a toaster. And, the alleged breakfast item had already been purchased by a household member and placed in the home. But the pastry was hers, and he took it, so she called Charlotte’s finest and pressed charges.
Had it been a case of breakfast larceny in my home, I hope I would have been a little more creative and realistic about the punishment. I’m thinking I would have banned my child from breakfast pastries for a month. Also, I might have docked junior’s allowance by the amount of my precious pastry.
My youngest was less quick to judge the parent. He suggested that if the pastry was strawberry or blueberry filled and iced, then the parent overreacted by having her son arrested. However, if the pastry was of the s’mores or cookies-n-cream variety, then the mother was doing what had to be done.
The next time my child snatches a decadent truffle from a box of chocolates given to me as a gift, I’m going to remind him of his stance on the issue. Of course, I won’t actually have him arrested to prove my point. At his age, he could be tried as an adult. Surely truffle larceny carries a tougher penalty than toaster pastry larceny. I’d prefer he spend his late teens and early 20s in college rather than the big house.
The spotlight on the breakfast larceny mom was dimmed when another mom flushed her newborn down the toilet. The story now being spun regarding how this could have innocently happened provides for riveting reading. Regardless of the hows and whys of the situation, it highlights the intensity of parental responsibility thrust upon us from the beginning.
Parents don’t get a how-to handbook when the baby arrives. They do get lots of unsolicited advice from their parents, in-laws, neighbors, and strangers at Wal-Mart. It is time we arm our young, new parents with the ability to honestly say, "I’ve got this. I received A’s in Parenting 101 and 102."
The classes could cover everything from appropriate discipline to early childhood growth and development. The students could research and debate the pros and cons of corporal punishment. They could also brainstorm ways to avoid toaster pastry—or, heaven forbid, truffle—larceny.
Of course, there would be a downside to requiring teens to pass parenting classes. My son, for example, would interrupt me as I was dishing out a punishment with, "Now, Mom, are you sure this punishment is appropriate? According to chapter 5 in my Parenting 102 textbook, it does not meet the definition of a logical consequence. I don’t think I will internalize a solid life lesson and become a productive and well-adjusted citizen if you take away my access to the Internet for a week and confiscate my smartphone."
Those high-achieving, witty teens can turn on you from time to time. But I still believe requiring parenting classes is the way to go. So please, start a petition in your community. Let’s give the parents of our future grandchildren a solid foundation.
Without the parenting classes, it is entirely possible we will end up with juvenile halls packed with alleged toaster pastry thieves. And who do you think is going to have to take care of the ex-breakfast-cons when they are released? Based on today’s trends, I’m guessing the grandparents.
Arm tomorrow’s parents with knowledge. Reduce juvenile delinquency. Let grandparents spoil, rather than raise, their grandbabies. Join the movement to add required parenting classes to our nation’s high school curricula today.
Micki Bare is a columnist for the Arkansas News Bureau and the Courier-Tribune in Asheboro, N.C., and the author of Thurston T. Turtle children’s books. She and her family live in North Carolina. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.