Our View: Children need more than a sermon

June 17, 2011 12:16:00 PM



It''s become an often-expressed sentiment. 


Still, it''s no less true: Children today are facing harsh realities we wouldn''t have imagined even a decade ago. 


Peer pressure is a stronger, less conquerable force, amplified by texting, tweeting and social media like Facebook. 


In Mississippi, an inordinate number of children are being raised in single-parent households by mothers working multiple jobs to make ends meet. 


Even in two-parent homes, less time is spent on parenting.  


Children lash out. 


Pent-up aggression and, sometimes, violence learned at home makes its way to the classrooms and the streets. 


For children whose home lives are unhealthy, school and community programs are where we can begin to reclaim our youth, where we can show them there is a better way of life. 


Thursday, well-meaning community activists tried to instill those ideas in students at Columbus Middle School, with a Stop the Violence youth summit. 


The motivational talks, though well-intentioned, likely will not have a lasting effect; they probably sounded better to the adults than the students. 


How many sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders really will change their way of thinking after hearing thread-bare phrases spouted during an hour-long assembly? 


We challenge these community leaders to join forces and create more substantive programs that can impact these young lives. Those same students preached to about role models and violence would get so much more from a change of scenery --away from the environment that has helped create problem -- such as a summer-long program or, better yet, a week-long camp in which children, with guidance from positive role models, could experience the outdoors and engage in an interactive dialogue that would better equip them to withstand the challenges they face. 


It''s in these types of settings where children can open up about the troubles they face and also are responsive to mentors and new friendships. 


Maybe a camp isn''t the solution we need to break through the thick shell kids can build up and to show them how to make positive choices. But it''s one of many options bound to be more effective than just talking at them. 


Building positive behavior in children starts at home. When it doesn''t, schools, churches and the community are left to either pick up the slack or likewise fail our youth. 


And, they need much more than a pep talk.