It's night time.
Suddenly, you hear loud pounding coming from the home next door that you are renovating for your father-in-law.
Your wife calls 9-1-1 while you go to investigate. You find four neighborhood boys ages 8 to 10 going to town on the walls with hammers. Besides the holes in the walls you see broken windows and graffiti demeaning to women spread on the walls. You grab a hammer from one, threaten to harm them with it if they don't stop what they are doing, and then you order them into a closet. In the process of getting them into the closet, you grab one by the neck leaving a mark that disappears hours later.
You wait for the police.
The kids are arrested on burglary and criminal mischief charges.
After their parents complain you are charged with child endangerment.
The reason? The parents say you should have sent the boys home and then called the cops. You should not have yelled at them and threatened to bash in their skulls.
The child endangerment charges, though, aren't enough for the parents. Since you traumatized their precious boys they think you should have more charges slapped against you.
Welcome to the new frontier of American parenting skills.
One must treat little Johnny with kids' gloves even if he is caught in the act of wantonly destroying neighbor's property to the tune of $40,000. After all, harsh words can leave emotional scars.
The incident in New York state speaks volumes of the lowering of standards we have for acceptable behavior and the increasingly higher threshold we have for the steps one can take to protect your property.
One mustn't get angry when you come across hellions who are apparently given no parameters that are enforced by mommy and daddy when it comes to civilized behavior. Kids will be kids.
Actually, the people who should be charged with child endangerment are the parents of the boys. They apparently had no idea where they were at night and obviously didn't teach them how unsafe it is to enter a stranger's house. Then there is the question of wielding a dangerous weapon although they get a pass in that one because it wasn't a gun. But how can society overlook their disrespect for women? It just isn't politically correct for males to do that even if they are only 8 or 10 years old.
As for the kids being traumatized, let's get real.
Fear of consequences is a good thing when employed properly. It can teach respect and encourage self-imposed parameters. In proper amounts, fear is the cohesive that holds society together. Without it, society becomes "Lord of the Flies" where impulse behavior - especially in young people - takes over.
Child endangerment laws were born out of a concern of parents and others abusing kids physically and emotionally to such a degree that it leads to serious damages. It can be done in little doses over time or in one big blow up.
But is it child abuse to corral four boys into a closet who presented themselves as prime candidates for a modern-day sequel to "Lord of the Flies" due to their wanton and uncivilized behavior?
A few years back when Safeway was still Pak-n-Save, we entered the store greeted by ear-splitting wailing. It was still going on non-stop five minutes later. We went to the assistant manager. She explained that she had approached the customer and was told point blank by the mother of a kid of perhaps 6 years of age who was throwing a temper tantrum to mind her own business.
Like an idiot, I penned a column on the encounter. I noted the mother acted like nothing was going on and went about her business while her little darling irritated everyone else in the store. I noted she did not either take her son outside when he wouldn't stop nor did she make any effort to tell him to stop. She just went on as if nothing was happening. I noted if I had done something like that growing up we'd immediately be taken outside and sternly given a dressing down.
The column prompted the woman to respond. Her defense was that it was a different day than when someone my age was raised. She had to worry about being turned into Child Protective Services and that it wasn't right to strike a kid. She also added that she didn't see why she should be inconvenienced and stop her shopping just because her kid was screaming at the top of his lungs.
No one was talking about her hitting her kid. But what they were talking about was how she was allowing her son to inconvenience everyone else in the store with his ear-splitting screaming.
For the record, my dad never hit me when he disciplined me. All he had to give you was the look and add sternness to his voice.
That comes when a parent establishes expectations of behavior and then enforces it not by physical force but through consequences and actions that show they are displeased with you.
Taking you out of a store making it clear you as the kid are not in control is one way. Doing something unexpected such as sternly raising your voice - assuming you don't do it on anything but a rare basis - is another way.
True child endangerment is not giving kids the parameters they need to be a part of a civilized society.
This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Courier or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.