Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 30, 2003

What parent doesn't fight fiercely to protect his or her child? What mother, what father, would stand back and let their child suffer?

A good parent, sometimes.

It is a hard battle, raising children in this day and age, when you have to contend with so much more than the usual hormone-induced mood swings. Add drugs, peer pressure, television, violent video games, and all of the other perils of our time to the mix, and the result is a volatile situation, waiting to explode.

It is up to the parents and teachers and all those who care about these children to defuse that situation, and anyone can tell you, the sooner it's done, the less chance there is for the big blow-up down the line.

Recently, a mother was seen on TV, valiantly defending her only son who has been charged with murder. We understand and even admire her staunch determination to stand beside him and support him, but we also wonder at her absolute denial, in the face of many witnesses. Again, her faith in her son is wonderful, but if she maintains it when evidence proves her wrong, she does him a greater disservice.

There is that unmistakable phrase "My child wouldn't do that."

Sometimes, your child would - unless you step in now.

Children make mistakes - sometimes fatal ones. That is what they are supposed to do as they grow and learn. But if they do not learn from their mistakes, they only continue to repeat them again and again, with the results growing worse and worse each time.

Supporting your child when he has erred is commendable, but turning a blind eye to the fact that your child has erred is a mistake of your own. The most important lesson we can teach is: "Yes - I messed up. Now what I can I do to rectify the situation?"

When a child discovers that his parents will defend him - no matter what - he will promptly set out to discover what the exact limits of "no matter what' are. He does not learn to accept responsibility for his actions, he does not learn from his mistakes.

Whether you are teaching a child that murder is wrong, or simply how to say "thank you" at a dinner table, your are making his life easier and better in the long run. When you teach him to hide behind excuses, you are not helping him - you are hurting him, and we will all pay in the long run.

The best way to protect your child is to prepare him for life in this world, in this society, and working within all the rules it contains, and to teach him to find solutions, not excuses.