Children need clear rules, curfews, and expectations at home, with very specific consequences about what will happen if they are not observed. Promises must be kept.
I've heard too many moms and dads say, "If you do this, I will kill you." And I look at the parent and say, "Shall I call the police now, since you are about to commit a homicide?" Make sure that the promises you make are kept and realistic and the rewards and punishments you give are appropriate. That has to be. How many people here who have raised adolescents can tell me right now that they do not listen to what you say. Right?
They might not always listen to what you're saying. But you want to know something that's real scary? They watch everything you do. Don't believe me? Make a mistake. It will be brought up in your face at the most public and humiliating point in your life. They watch carefully.
And that's perhaps the most difficult aspect of parenting or working with adolescents. You have to be an impeccable role model. That is not to say you must be perfect. It means that if you make a mistake, you are responsible, you are accountable, you make amends, and you acknowledge you have impacted people. That is an incredibly powerful lesson for you to demonstrate to your kids.
Think about your own behavior: What about the time the teller gave you too much change back and you took it without saying anything; what about the time you were in a hurry and parked in the handicap parking space. Things like that demonstrate that as adults we don't always do the "right thing". We often don't realize what a powerful influence we are on young people. With a good, strong, healthy sense of self, in terms of race, culture, gender, class, a student will have what it takes to say, "No!" to risky behavior. If their sense of self-respect is strong, the risks won't be worth it to them. Parents need to be knowledgeable about what's happening in their communities, not just in their own personal space, but the entire community.
They need to be in communication with schools, with the temple, with their children, with law enforcement from a preventive standpoint, and with programs—whether school related, temple related, or community related—that provide positive activities and promote healthy alternatives. Why are alternatives important? Because a typical gang kid will say, "I have no other choices. There's nothing else I can do, nothing else I can be."
And finally, parents, schools, and law enforcement personnel, need to be in communication with each other to prevent problems before they occur. I want to be able to walk into a community where, when I ask the question, "Is there anything I can do for you?" the teen leader says to me, "Not really; everybody in charge has taken care of it, and I know where I can go to ask for help, but thanks anyway."