News & Press
Gabrielle M. Abbate: It’s okay if your child ‘hates’ you
Wednesday, April 23, 2014 Source: Providence Journal
BY GABRIELLE M. ABBATE
Rhode Island is a state with some of the world’s greatest parents — parents who have the confidence to understand they don’t need to be the “cool” parent, who don’t need to be their child’s best friend. We have parents who do the right thing every day, even on days when their children tell them they “hate” them.
And to those parents who have no clue? It’s okay if your child “hates” you. Good parents know two things: Their child really doesn’t hate them but is simply trying to manipulate them; and when they are temporarily hated it is because they did something to protect their child.
We’re tired of apologies. We’re frustrated with parents who host parties and then serve alcohol and drugs to their children’s friends when they don’t even know if that friend is a diabetic, is taking an anti-depressant or has a medical condition that could be life-threatening when mixed with alcohol.
How is it that these parents and adults disregard their moral responsibility and even the financial liability of creating a dangerous environment that may eventually ripple out onto our streets as drunk and drugged driving fatalities, alcohol poisoning, drug overdoses and other serious injuries? Their unreasonable fear of alienating their children and doing the right things leads them to do very dangerous things.
In the end, they rarely win. No one does.
Few parents would let their child participate in a sport without protective gear. Yet these same parents offer them brain-altering substances. They fail to appreciate the reality of addiction. Talk to most addicts and many can tell you the exact moment in their teens when they took their first drink. Today their story is one of addiction or struggling recovery.
Many in our society are trying to get guns out of the hands of young people, to keep them safe and out of harm’s way. We lock up guns in our homes, but we seldom lock up alcohol. We invest billions of dollars in our educational system but lack the common sense to keep young people safe for learning with well-developed brains. We applaud parents who hide poisons, plug up electrical sockets and put safety gates in front of staircases to protect young children. But how does it happen that we become so overly confident with their safety at age 12 to 18 that we deliberately introduce them to dangerous substances and dangerous environments?
These questions beg a more fundamental one: When should a parent or a community abdicate the safety of a child? When the child is 5? 10? 15? Yes, children want to become independent of their parents. They want us to step away. That’s the natural order, something they should desire. But their choices are not always in their best interest. Whether they are 3 or 16, we owe our children protection and safety. It is their right to receive them and believe that they have them.
There are fundamental things parents can do to help eradicate this growing problem:
- Just as teens face peer pressure to drink, some parents feel pressured to serve teens illegally. Responsible parents should serve as support systems for those who are incapable of resisting the urge to succumb to their children’s desires.
- Recognize that “controlling” your children’s consumption of alcohol or drugs is a fallacy; you are setting your children on a road to substance abuse.
- Understand that when you don’t protect children, you may face stiff sentences, damage to your personal and professional reputation and hefty fines. As bad as those consequences may be, even worse is someone’s dying or being seriously injured because of your irresponsibility.
- Know that Mothers Against Drunk Driving and other prevention and treatment organizations are resources to help you understand what is at stake, and arm you with the strength to make better, more responsible decisions.
- Parents can get professional help — counseling — to help them cope with the pressure of raising teens who claim to “hate” them.
British blogger David Bly once said: “Your children will become what you are; so be what you want them to be.”
This commentary piece isn’t filled with statistics that support why we need to remain vigilant. The Internet is filled with credible research. We encourage parents to look at the numbers and look in the eyes of any child and solemnly pledge to protect him or her.
Gabrielle M. Abbate is executive director of the Rhode Island chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.