I am captivated by the situation in Oklahoma, because it is so rich with food for thought for parents. Take out the fraternity element, and the specifics of what was said. That way, you can move beyond denials like “MY kid would NEVER say THAT!” or “That’s why MY kid will NOT go Greek.” To get stuck there is to miss the bigger picture, and a chance for some REAL conversation with your teenagers. Here are some thought-provoking starters for some really crucial conversations. I hope this will help you and your teen process this really ugly situation, and make something positive out of it.
Our actions have consequences far beyond ourselves.
Think of all the groups impacted by the behavior on this video? Possible answers: the fraternity; the school; the football team lost a top recruit; 2 people lost their jobs; all of their parents; the high school that the ‘ringleader’ attended, was bombarded with negative press; Christians; (you get the idea.) Think of all the groups YOU represent right now. How would you feel if something like this happened in an organization you are part of?
Live and act with integrity and respect for others. At ALL times.
Should people be able to say and think whatever they want, as long as it’s ‘in private?’ (Emphasize that bad behavior is bad behavior, whether it’s recorded or not.) What’s the difference between harmless ‘goofing off’ and hurtful, hateful actions? (This is NOT specific to Oklahoma’s situation, which is a slam-dunk case of hate speech. Again, think big picture.)
Honor ANY organization you represent by your actions and your words.
Who are your heroes? Who is someone you look up to? What is it about them that makes you respect them? Who do you think looks up to you? How would you feel if someone told you they really admired you, and you had no idea you had an impact on them? We never know who’s watching us, and what our words and actions mean to them.
Silence is NOT enough. Stand up, and speak out against bad behavior.
Do you think EVERYONE on the bus was singing? For the ones that were not singing, what is their role in this situation? Can you imagine what it would be like to be surrounded by your friends, who were REALLY out of line? Why do you think they didn’t speak up? Why is the fact that they didn’t so important? Have you ever been in a situation when you could have spoken up, and didn’t? What did that feel like? What can you do to speak up in future situations? (This is really hard. Mob mentality is so powerful. Don’t settle for the answer they think you want.)
Your family loves you, no matter what. NO. MATTER. WHAT.
Think for a minute about what it must be like for these young men to go home to their parents after this. What do you think their parents said? Can you imagine how that would play out in our home? If you screwed up in a really big way, how would you feel about coming home? (This may be a tough one to get through. LISTEN, parents.) Talk to your child about the balance between unconditional love, and facing the consequences of our actions.