May 2008

“What can I do to keep my child out of a gang?”

May 2008
By Ranj Dhaliwal

Be it at one of my talks, book signings, forums, via e-mail, written letter or on the radio, one of the many frequently asked questions I get from parents is, “What can I do to keep my child out of a gang?”  Now, imagine having to answer that question on the spot.  I have to do it time and time again, which isn’t always the easiest thing to do, especially since I’m not a trained family professional.  Does that stop them from asking for my unprofessional opinion?  No.  They ask my opinion and what I’ve gathered from speaking to parents and youths.

Since this is a very large topic and I will have more than a few columns to discuss this serious question, this month I will briefly discuss some of the main things parents might be able to do to keep their child out of a gang.

Let’s start off by having an idea where your teens are at all times.  Children are the parents’ responsibility to begin with, aren’t they?  Most parents know exactly where their partner is, and even their car, but they have no clue where their child is.  Okay, so you can’t keep tabs on your children all the time, or can you?  If you take the time and follow some simple steps you can easily keep tabs on them.

First off, stay in touch with your youth’s teachers at school.  If you keep in constant contact with the teachers at his/her school then you will get a better sense of how your child is doing in their studies and you can get an idea of what type of company they keep during breaks as well.  How?  Mind you, in high school it is tough for any one teacher to really get to know the students due to the amount of students that go through each of their classrooms.  After some time, yes, a teacher will get to know students’ names, but if the parents call or visit then the teachers will remember your children.  If the teachers at the high schools know the kids then they will eventually see which group of youths they hang out with.  Imagine knowing that your child is hanging out with a bad group of students sooner than later?  Parents that have lost their children due to crime almost always say that if they knew their child was with the ‘wrong crowd’ beforehand then they could have done something about it.  So, stop using school as your child’s daycare while you’re at work, and make more of an effort in knowing about their lives.

We move on to the students now.  Have your kids invite their friends over.  When your children’s friends come over, ask for their parents’ number to let them know that their child is at your home.  If they were dropped off, go to the car to greet their parents and get their phone number.  Now that you have the number and have introduced yourself – use it!  Get to know your children’s friends’ parents.  This way the kids know that word will get back to you if they mess up.  Your child’s friends’ parents aren’t strangers – they are in the same boat as you.  I’m sure they, too, are worried about their child ending up somewhere in the back pages of a newspaper, under the small local news section with the title “Young Man Dies From Bullet Wounds”, so work together to keep your children out of the obituaries.

The World Wide Web can be a dangerous place as well.  Keep an eye on the content your child is viewing online.  Visit a computer technician and learn how to use the computer, and what software you will need to track their searches.  If your child is searching topics such as guns, drugs, headlines for drug related crimes or gangsters on a somewhat regular basis then you should get more proactive and speak about the negative aspects of the gangster lifestyle.  If you start the topic during family leisure time, your child may open up and speak about it.  Children normally like to speak about what interests them, and the topic of gangs will get them talking if they have been searching the online archives.

When your child is at home, make sure you have friendly conversations over dinner.  Do things with your children, so they know that they can speak to you when they are in need of advice.  I’m pretty sure you don’t want your children asking their friends for serious advice.  Be a friend to your child.  Yes, continue to be a parent to act as the provider, rule maker and disciplinary, but also be a friend and role model to your kids.

Since the community and media have made me somewhat of a positive role model for youths, I’ve been told that I should do more talks at schools because the kids look up to me.  They tell me that there are no other South Asian public figures that their children can relate to so I should spend more time in the schools and on the radio talk shows because their children actually listen to what I have to say.  I’m very flattered that the community has held me up in this regard, but I think parents should become the role models for their kids.  I do a talk for an hour at a school and hope the youths benefit from it, but I’m not going to be with them afterward.  Come on, you are with your kids daily, so you be the positive role model.  You may think your children don’t look up to you, but you are sadly mistaken because children most always look up to their parents first then look outside for additional role models.  Watch your own actions at home because your children are watching you as well.

If your children watch as you stress to live a lavish lifestyle then they, too, will follow in your footsteps, but chances are they will look for easier ways to achieve their gains.  Teach your children by example on how to control their ego, anger and greed.  If you practice being a humanitarian, seeing everyone as equals and just doing what’s right, hopefully your actions will mold the youths’ beautiful minds in doing the same.

Until next time …