I received this in an email today from one of our owners and thought it was worth posting (with their permission and with the names removed, of course):
"Outside my window today, I saw two pre-teens kicking a soccer ball at one of the lamp posts (actually one was kicking and the other was serving as lookout and cheering him on). They were diligently making it their goal to knock the light fixture off the top, and they kept trying for some time, stopping only when cars drove past. After a few tries, they succeeded to knock the fixture loose but not bring it all they way to the ground. I thought they would stop at that point but they continued, and I thought, “THAT is exactly the kind of stuff I did as a kid NEVER thinking about the natural consequences of my actions.”
So, I walked outside and went over and gave them a gentle nudge. I told them that it looked like they were having fun, and the last thing I want to do us ruin anybody’s fun. However, as an adult, if I decided to have fun in this manner, should I be successful at damaging the light, I would at the very least go to the front office and offer to pay for my damages. I told them that before they threw or kicked the ball one more time, they must first decide if they are willing to accept the consequences of their actions. I left, and watched them as they hung around the lamp post for awhile, deciding what to do next. They watched me walk into my house and then stared at my windows to decide if was still looking at them. Then, finally, they left, probably unhappy that I had managed to take all of the FUN out it by asking them to be accountable."
As a child, I remember that some of my life's greatest lessons came from grandparents, neighbors, teachers and sometimes even strangers. The same lesson might not stick if delivered by a parent, because of the natural authoritative tension between teens and parents. Really, I don't know of a single parent ANYWHERE who wouldn't welcome a neighbor having a friendly chat with their children about being responsible, so when you see one of our kids goofing off in ways that might be destructive or hurtful, talk to them, and share your hard-earned adult perspective with them.