steffanie rivers

Steffanie Rivers

 Amy Winehouse’s father wants drug and alcohol awareness lessons added to the national curriculum in the United Kingdom, because he said there are ‘legal highs’ that can be dangerous. Judging from that statement alone Europe’s overwhelming amount of drug addiction, drug-related crimes and drug related deaths among young adults might be due to their ineffective approach. I’ve heard the stories about open recreational drug use there. Consequently their carefree attitude about this issue obviously has led to more experimentation in the UK than in the United States. But regardless of the location drug use or “experimentation” is a learned behavior that first should be taught and corrected by parents.

I’m sure we can agree that more knowledge about drugs and alcohol is better than less knowledge on the subject, and children constantly are learning through formal training and by observation. Still countless studies confirm that parents, more than anybody else, are the biggest influence on a child’s behavior. That includes their teachers and their peers. The trouble is some parents either don’t realize their power and defer to someone else or they have such poor parenting skills they expect somebody else to pick up the slack and do their jobs.

Yes, everybody has the gift of free will. So yes children test boundaries and make mistakes. But access to information is not the problem. Parents who refuse to act as role models for their children: That’s the problem. I don’t smoke because my mother didn’t smoke. And I don’t drink alcohol because my mother didn’t drink alcohol – at least not in front of me. ‘Do as I say, not as I do’ was not her constant refrain.

So when I hear stories such as the one about the 41-year-old husband and father of a teenage girl who left his wife and daughter to shack up with an 18-year old girl who – until a month ago – was a student in his class at a local Modesto high school that both girls still attend – it’s apparent that some people underestimate the value of role models in the lives of children.

James Hooker, the name of the sorry example of a father, husband and teacher, said he and the girl, who is only a few years older than his own daughter, wanted to “follow our hearts.” Nevermind the humiliation his daughter must face everyday at school. Nevermind the commitments made as a husband, father and role model for his students. What ever happened to honoring those commitments?

Mitch Winehouse has it all wrong. Whether or not drugs are illegal is not the issue. Their body and mind altering side effects: That’s the issue. Public schools have enough of a challenge teaching children the basic reading, writing and arithmetic. Teaching children how to behave starts in the cradle and there’s no better teacher for that than mom and dad.

Steffanie is a freelance journalist living in the Dallas, Texas metroplex. Send comments, questions and speaking requests to [email protected].