The recent riots in Baltimore created an unlikely hero, seen and praised by millions - the mom who was captured on TV rushing out into the streets to discipline her 16-year old son for participating in the violence of the day. She's been hailed as a Hero Mom and typified as an example of what a parent should be. While her actions were certainly important and worthy of praise, there's another aspect of parenting to consider - that of how we influence our children. Positively influencing our children will have significant impact on the future needs to control our children.
For us divorced fathers, this is vital. Though we're not with our kids nearly as often as we'd like, they still watch us. They observe how we behave whether we're with them or not. They listen to our words, they pick up on our emotions and feelings, and they will - to varying degrees - follow our example. When they see us lash out at authority, we teach them to lash out at authority. When they see us react with bitterness and spite to their mother or others, they learn to treat others with bitterness and spite. And even when they see us passionately fight for our rights, however justified that may be, they may learn that their own rights are more important than those of others, since many are too young to understand the dynamics of divorce and custody. In this case, they need to know that we're fighting for their well-being, more than we're fighting for our own rights.
Many chose to participate in the violence in Baltimore and elsewhere. Others did not and chose to participate in the rebuilding of their community rather than the destruction of their community. What's the difference between those two groups? Many things, for certain, but foremost among them are the examples they see in their parents.
Yes, this mom was certainly a hero for stepping out into the violence to parent her son. But equally heroic are all the other unseen parents who, by the example they set, influenced their children to not only make a better choice, but to work to be a positive, rather than a negative, influence. By this example we see the character of these parents through the actions and choices of their children. Our children are more than a physical reflection of us - they reflect our character as well.