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The Tentacle


September 18, 2003

What’s To Become Of Potty Mouth Kids?

Bethany Stevenson

Two weeks before school was scheduled to start, I was driving down Jefferson Street. Fifty feet before an intersection, three 10 year olds were crossing the street quite dangerously and causing traffic to swerve around them.

As cars were aptly avoiding the perilous situation, the boys were yelling at the drivers using the "f-word" and other choice epithets with such rhythm and ability that it was obviously not the first time they had cursed someone.

Later that week, while downtown, another group of 10-year-old boys were standing on a street corner yelling similar obscenities at drivers as they passed. In both situations my mothering instinct to protect my own children took over as I hurriedly rolled up the windows to soften the impact on the innocent ears within my car, the ears who do not hear such filth, ever.

In contrast, just the week before, I had spent the whole week volunteering with boys the same age. Not once did I ever hear such filth come from their mouths. The worst of the language problems was trying to steer away from bathroom jokes that normal 10 year olds thrive on.

I was at Cub Scout Day Camp. You know, where kids pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States, promise to serve the community, their family, their country and their God, and learn first aid and safety, proper archery and gun use and safety, nature, crafts, and generally have fun.

Why is there such a sharp contrast between the boys mentioned wandering the streets and the ones serving the community? Why do the wanderers have so little respect and act so against societal norms? Why do the scouts have respect and conform to societal norms?

After watching several more weeks of the boys who I put into the "wanderer" category, I realized these boys were either left alone all day while parents worked, or the parents cared so little that although they were at home the children were left to their own devices. They spent their time wandering the streets, wandering the shopping centers, just wandering with their friends.

Unsupervised, and without guided, directed activities from parents or mentors, these kids are left to their own imaginations. It is easy to assume they can watch media of whatever rating they choose, play video games of whatever rating they choose, and choose friends of whatever character might appear most readily available.

It is possible too that their character traits come from homes where parents speak and act very similar to what was witnessed on the streets. But we have not witnessed anything to confirm or deny this.

Now, the Scouts are in families where activities are supervised, planned, and guided. Never left for long to their own devices, the amount and quality of media is closely monitored, and the type of friends is closely watched (most even help less fortunate kids rise to their greater potential.) Through the variety of activities they are involved with, they serve the community, learn about respect for adults, the laws, and the government, and form ideology towards religion.

It is possible too that these kids have parents who provide examples of these things as well.

So, what is the end outcome? Do the kids who are left to their own devices end up being menaces to society? Are the Scouts perfect adults? The jury is still out, but my own thoughts are that if I owned a business I wouldn't want a disrespectful potty mouth working for me; and that if my daughter brought home two possible husbands, one of each, I would definitely pick the one who served the community and respected the government.

My own 10-year-old son has only heard the "f-word" because of those nasty boys. He works hard to earn his Scout advancements, learns the Boy Scout laws, strengthens his body through his gymnastics work; strengthens his mind through the books he reads; and strengthens his spirit through his church work. He still loves the Hulk, Spider Man, Sponge Bob, his bike, his skateboard, his scooter and playing basketball in the driveway. But the path he is on leads him in a direction so far from the path the boys who wander the shopping centers and yell curses at those passing by.

I have given up on being able to save every wayward child. I am only one person. Being with the hundred or so boys at camp was a fabulous experience, seeing see so many on a good path.

But there are so many people working in so many good programs like the YMCA, Boy and Girl Scouts, Church Youth Programs, and other programs, that we can reach them all if parents can just help kids to be involved.

Of course, it does take volunteers, too. The best justification to be a volunteer is to eliminate a night of TV each week to spend with first your own kids, then a second night of TV each week devoted to helping a group of kids. TV is not that important, but the future is.

By keeping the wanderers off the streets, we can improve the path of our city, our state and our nation. By giving our kids direction and guidance we give them an example of hope and good for their lives.



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