Time for Some Child Control, by Kimberley Jane Wilson

A New Visions Commentary paper published July 2000 by The National Center
for Public Policy Research, 501 Capitol Ct., N.E., Washington, DC 20002, 202/543-4110, Fax 202-543-5975, E-Mail [email protected], Web
http://www.nationalcenter.org. Reprints permitted provided source
is credited.

Earlier this year, a six-year-old boy pulled out a gun at school and killed one of his classmates at a school in Mount Morris Township, Michigan. Her name was Kayla Rolland. She was a cute, rosy-cheeked blond girl with intelligent eyes. She came from an apparently normal, loving family.

Her killer did not.

No, little Dedrick Owens’s family could be called a lot of things, but normal wasn’t one of them. The family’s collective police record reads like something out of an Iceberg Slim or Donald Goines novel. His 28-year-old father is in jail – again – and his mother has demons that prevent her from coping with the pressures of keeping a job, paying rent and raising her three children. She left her two boys with an uncle. That’s when a sad story turned sordid. The uncle was a drug dealer whose home was a crack house.

A lot of foolish people tried to turn this story into a gun control issue and babbled about trigger locks for handguns. They don’t live in neighborhoods like the one that trapped Dedrick, and they know little about drug dealers.

A drug dealer, to survive in the "profession," must be totally ruthless. He must be willing and able to kill at a second’s notice. There are no trigger locks in a crack house. You won’t find tenderness, mercy or morals, either. Frankly, the safety and well being of his nephews was probably the last thing on the uncle’s mind.

A crack house is a vile place. Words cannot describe the filth and squalor. Neighbors, out of fear, did not call the authorities to rescue these children. They told reporters they saw the children, sad-faced and forlorn, sitting in front of the house as crackheads staggered in and out.

Teachers and parents also rushed to tell their stories. Dedrick, they said, was a problem child. He was hostile and bullying and once stabbed another classmate with a pencil. But no one cared enough to take the time to really look and ask what was wrong with Dedrick’s life. When the boys came to school unkempt and tired, no one called child protective services. His father knew that something was wrong, but what could he do? He was in jail.

A time bomb was left ticking. When it exploded, little Kayla died.

Kayla’s mother was one of several hundred thousand women who spent Mother’s Day in Washington, DC at the so-called Million Mom March. With all due respect andsympathy to a grieving mother, I wish I could tell her that it wasn’t a lack of unbending gun control that killed her daughter – it was lack of child control. Raising decent, moral children is hard and sometimes thankless work, but Kayla would be alive today if the Owens children had at least one real parent.

Years ago, my father told me children who were not reared by strong parents who possessed a guiding hand and watchful eyes were dangerous to themselves and to the entire neighborhood. Dedrick Owens and the two monsters of Columbine High School in Colorado are perfect examples.

There are those who hesitate to place any blame at the feet of the parents of Columbine killers Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, but not me. When I was ten years old, someone gave a copy of Mandingo. It was an extravagantly trashy novel, part Southern Gothic and part sex romp. I didn’t understand a lot of the words, but I knew it was something my parents wouldn’t approve of.

I read it in secret, and hid the offending book in my toy chest. It took my mother, who I swear would’ve made a fine FBI agent, only two days to find it. The parents of Klebold and Harris were unaware their sons had an arsenal in their rooms. That is parenting set on the autopilot, and it leads to tragedies big and small.

There may, however, be a happy ending for the Owens children. The authorities stepped in to try to save this family. They don’t live in a crack house anymore. The kids are living with an aunt. They will attend a private school at the state’s expense. Their mother, in exchange for admitting her parental ineptitude and taking a parenting class, may regain custody and get another chance to do right by her kids. There is a tiny glimmer of hope for this family. It’s just such as shame that Kayla Rolland had to die to give it to them.

The line between a good kid and a troubled one is not wide. Many times, the only thing standing between a child and disaster is Mom and Dad. So don’t be afraid of what your sophisticated friends or even what your child thinks. Guide your child. Be there. Teach them with fairness, kindness and firmness, and don’t hesitate to exercise your right to control their actions.

Practice child control. You may not get a thank you, at least not until your child has children of his or her own, but you may save a life.

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