mother serious talk with daughter

More Questions (for your teenager) from Steubenville, Ohio

In There's a Stranger in My House by Dr James Wellborn

The previous column presented questions to generate a conversation between you and your teenager about issues raised by the rape of a teenage girl in Steubenville, Ohio.  The questions continue.

Responsibility

  • Whose fault is it when someone is attacked?  What if they were saying really insulting things to the person who attacked them?  What if they were walking around in a dangerous area but minding their own business?  (It is always the attackers fault though people can invite problems by putting themselves in a risky or dangerous situation.)
  • Do people who put themselves in dangerous or risky situations deserve what they get?
  • What should you do if you were trying to help take care of a girl who was very drunk and she kept resisting or pushing you away?
  • If you feel pressured into doing something sexual and you do it, is it your fault?  Why?  Is the person who pressured you to blame at all?  Why? What would you do if you were in that situation?

Courage

  • What could you do about a guy trying to take advantage of a girl who was drunk?
  • What would you do if you saw someone taking advantage of a girl who was too drunk to know what she was doing?  How do you think the guy would react?
  • What would happen if you stood up to a guy who was talking about doing sexual things with someone who was too drunk to know it was happening?  How would you do it?  What do you think other people would say?

Safety

  • How do you keep yourself safe at a party?
  • What are the signs of a party getting out of control?
  • How can you tell if someone is a good and honorable person? (i.e., know them for some time, someone you trust knows them really well)
  • What would you do if you felt uncomfortable at a party? Were threatened by someone? Were being pressured by someone? Someone didn’t take “no” for an answer?

Cruelty

  • When is it OK to call a girl a whore or slut?
  • When is it OK to call a guy a fag or gay or weak?
  • How do you think a girl who had sex feels when people say things about her later?  Do you think she likes it?  Do you think she deserves it?  Would you do that?
  • Why do you think someone has frequent sex even though people will think less of them?
  • Have you heard nasty rumors about someone you know aren’t true?  How do you think that made the person feel?  What do you think you should do?  What did you do when you heard them?

Humiliation as humor

  • Why do people make fun of mentally handicapped people?  A person who has a physical deformity?  Do you think it is right?  Have you ever done that?
  • Why would someone laugh even though they are the butt of cruel humor?  Do you think they really find it funny?  Have you ever done that?  What would you do if it was you?
  • Have you ever laughed when other people are made fun of, humiliated or embarrassed?  What is funny about that?  How do you think the person feels?  How do you plan on reacting in the future?

Media and Music

  • Would you be concerned if the police looked at your texting history right now?
  • Would you get in trouble with me if I read your texts, Facebook posts, pictures?  Do you think I would approve of them?  Let’s read through a few of them right now.
  • Get the lyrics to your top 5 most played songs.  What do you like about those songs?  Do these songs reflect your personal values?  Show me 5 songs on your playlist that reflect your personal values.
  • Who is your main character on the video game you play the most?  What are the values you use to determine what that character does, who they kill?

There are no right answers to many of these questions.  Most of them require your kid to draw upon the morals or personal values they use to guide their decisions and actions.  A number of them create the real bind most of us are in between what you do behind someone’s back and how you treat them to their face.  Thinking about these questions is very important in helping your kid be aware of how their behavior affects others and how it reflects the values they are going to live their lives by.

If you are surprised or even shocked to hear what your kid has to say about how they think of and treat others, better this way than to have it rear its ugly head in the form of police at your door.  Typical teenage (and human) insensitive, rude and disrespectful behavior can careen out of control in the wrong circumstances and under the wrong influence to become criminal acts.  It is useful to catch the mild forms of cruel, callous and mean spirited tendencies in time to teach your kid the personal values you expect them to have as a human being and as a member of our society.  Don’t put it off.  Don’t ignore it.  It can lead to disaster.