We who were children growing up during the 1960s and 1970s never imagined that those decades would someday be perceived as a relatively innocent time. Yet when we compare then with now, so many differences form a virtual parade of oxymorons and character deficits.

Identity theft. Pyramid schemes. Scandalous cheating. Health care “mishaps.” Customer “service.” Elder abuse.

Every child nowadays is bombarded by images of staggering wealth, frequently unearned through honest labor — side-by-side with countless families worldwide living paycheck to paycheck, if indeed they manage to earn any paychecks at all. Parents and teachers can feel utterly powerless in the face of so much plenty allotted to so few people.

They shouldn’t.

Parents still have enormous influence over their children’s conduct, and teachers aren’t far behind. Just recently a Baltimore mom spotted her teenaged son on a network news show participating in a riot. Horrified, she chased him down, smacked him upside the head and then herded him back home. He apologized to her on-camera for having behaved so badly. This wasn’t, the mother declared, how she had raised him.

I’m inclined to believe her. Although I’m no fan of corporal punishment, that mom gave her boy a very public lesson he won’t likely forget. He now has a far better chance of growing up to become a productive, law-abiding citizen.

Four lessons we adults may be forgetting to reinforce and that bear regular repeating: First, it’s not good to be handed things. Too often it results in a sense of entitlement. If we can’t or won’t earn it, we may come to feel justified in taking it. Second, in the end, most of what we yearn for is just…stuff.

Third, psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs places safety and security at the very top of his list. That includes, of course, food, shelter and streets without violence. Not tennis shoes.

Fourth, cameras are everywhere, so it’s a bad idea to lie to authorities about where you were and what you just did.

Bottom line: Our kids must always act as if the whole world is watching. Because in today’s world, it probably is.

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