Wednesday, October 23, 2013
He’s a bad kid! The words came from an adult, passing judgment on a boy she didn’t know. I corrected her. He’s not a bad kid. He’s a good kid who made some stupid decisions, but he’s still a good kid. She pointed to his stupid decisions and relentlessly insisted he was a bad kid! In sticking up for him, I found myself raising my voice and angrily gesturing. I actually started shaking, I was so mad and the boy isn’t even my kid! I wanted to point out to her the stupid shit most teenagers pull from time to time and how we are called not to label them for their stupid actions. This woman, who works diligently with multi-cultural issues such as inclusion and acceptance, was labeling a child she didn’t know based on gossip. Her judgment rattled me for the rest of the afternoon, but also got me thinking. What exactly is a “bad kid”? There are extreme examples, like school shooters and such. But what about everyday examples? What separates the Ornery Kid from the Bad Kid? The Stupid Decision Maker from the Purposeful Instigator? The Peer Pressure Caver from the Willing Participant? What gives parents that gut feeling that we don’t want our children hanging out with THAT kid? Furthermore, what separates the Judgmental Mom from the Gut Truster Mom? Honestly, if most of us knew exactly what our own children were texting and tweeting and chatting and drinking and doing outside of the prying eyes of parents, we might condemn them, too. I’m not saying all kids who make stupid decisions are blameless. I’m also not excusing poor behavior because everyone else is probably doing it. I guess I’m simply empathizing with those my friend calls “Bad Kids”. I would not want to be a teen in today’s world. The pressure, temptations, justifications, opportunities, disturbing role models, and mixed societal messages have magnified a million times compared to earlier generations. When otherwise good, decent young people fall into some of that muck, I don’t think our first reaction should be to label him “Bad” and spread his dirty secrets. After all, we adults have created the muck, isn’t it our obligation to help teens avoid it or help rescue them when they don’t? Don’t misunderstand; I still believe there are young people who are bad influences. I’ve witnessed good kids go down bad paths, led by some pretty bad kids. There are people of all ages out there who give me that gut feeling. But I think it’s fair to say that there are some kids out there who give me the opposite kind of gut feeling. There really are good kids who make stupid decisions. And apparently, there are good adults who say stupid things. I guess that doesn’t necessarily make them bad adults.