“I’m bored.” The two words parents perhaps loathe most. Whether the child is four or fourteen, those two words can send the most sensible of parents into an emotional frenzy. “When I was your age, I was out working.” “When I was fourteen, I didn’t have time to be bored.” Now, my son has rarely used those two words, but watching and reading about the so-called “flash mobs” invading Philadelphia’s South Street and weeks ago at the Gallery and Macy’s downtown, I think back to my teenage years. There was no time to be bored. Ever.
We didn’t have cell phones, instant messaging and social networking, but we had telephones. My mother would scream at me to “Get off the phone.” I would spend hours on the telephone, if she let me. I had so many activities before and after school and worked from the time I was 14, I never had a chance to be bored. If I dared utter those words, my mom would find me something to do around the house pretty darn quick. I did plenty of chores as well. I remember scrubbing woodwork and ironing clothes.
I was never allowed to hang out at the mall. That was probably the closest thing to “flash mobs” from my day. A lot of kids would head to Roosevelt Mall and just walk around doing nothing but being seen. I don’t recall hearing any problems from those days of hanging out, but there seem to be so many more kids today. The social networking, cell phones and word of mouth is viral.
I happen to agree with what Police Commissioner Chuck Ramsey and Mayor Michael Nutter have said in their subsequent news conferences following the South Street incident. Parents must be responsible for their children. I can’t imagine NOT knowing where my son is. I can’t imagine him putting himself in a situation where mobs of kids are doing absolutely nothing but ranting, running and mobbing into shops and restaurants.
Commissioner Ramsey is right: if your child says he or she doesn’t have anything to do, it’s YOUR job to find them something to do.Parents have to stop throwing up their arms and give kids some tough love. No threats – only action when the kids wander off without telling you what’s going on. For parents with small kids, this is YOUR teachable moment. Reign in your kids now, and they’ll never be bored. Teach them activities and volunteerism. Be an example – volunteer yourself and take the kids with you. They’ll never be bored.