Thursday, April 20, 2006

Parental Impotence

Why are some so absolutely convinced that parents can affect their children's behavior when it comes to drug use or smoking while at the same time are so absolutely convinced that parents are incapable, incompetent and impotent when it comes to convincing their children to abstain from sex?

The contradiction, of course, is glaringly obvious. You see it all the time; public service commercials crowd the airwaves: “Parents, the anti-drug”, “talk to your kids about not smoking” or driving drunk. These messages are admirable and I agree with them completely. Society’s youth can be swayed and should be warned about the dangers around them, of vice, of temptation. They should be warned that their actions have consequences, possibly severe, even life-threatening. Over and over they tell us that we can influence our children; all we need to do is talk to them, be firm and take action when necessary. So why do these same people say that no matter what we do, we can’t stop them from having sex?

Clearly there are dangers inherent in drug and alcohol use, of the long-term effects of smoking. But sex has dangers too, so why the inconsistency? Why is the truth being hidden? Why are today’s youth being lied to? Sex does have consequences; many are harmful; some are deadly.

There’s a flashback commercial airing currently that depicts a mother’s dismay over not saying something “anti-drug” when she had the chance and now her son is “so stoned” and “didn’t get the job he deserved”. And another which prepares parents for the inevitable confrontation when they actually try to exert some parental pressure.

Why don't I see spots telling kids that sex can lead to broken hearts, pregnancy, abortions (and the accompanying guilt and increased risk of breast cancer), sexually transmitted diseases and AIDS? Incurable, deadly diseases. Are these not legitimate dangers? As every parent knows, NOT objecting to a behavior is tantamount to approving of it.

(I do have to laugh that the producers of these commercials actually believe their messages are an inspiration for parents to finally take action; if they’ve been so pusillanimous the first 15 years of their kids’ lives, I doubt that they are likely to receive a sudden serge of intestinal fortitude from a 30 second spot – but, you never know).

Regardless of their presumed efficacy, the message is out there: “Parents! Use your parental influence to mold your impressionable children and protect them from earthly dangers, such as drugs, alcohol and cigarettes!”

(Of course, we’re going to give them condoms without telling you because they’re going to have sex whether you like it or not and there’s nothing you can do about it, so you might as well let us encourage them by showing them how to use condoms we give them, (with taxpayer dollars), not tell them about the negative consequences of having sex such as pregnancy, abortions (and their negative psychological and physical effects), sexually transmitted diseases, some of which are incurable and can kill them, and the fact that condoms don’t work, OK? Thanks.

Oh, and by the way, we’re also going to tell them that the real secret to happiness is “stuff”, so we’re going to tell them that they’re not cool and won’t be happy if they don’t have the latest clothes, iPod or bling-bling, and they won’t be truly fulfilled unless they are rich, famous, thin, pretty and just like Britney!)

So, you tell them not to smoke – and we’ll tell them everything else!


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