There is no better investment of time than that which is spent working with a child. Teaching children right from wrong is one of the most important tasks for a parent and an adult. As a parent, I certainly understand the importance and role of consistent and fair discipline when dealing with my own children.

I have written articles in years past on how I have always hated to see parents tell their children if they misbehaved I would take them to jail. I have always thought this saying sent the wrong message to children for a couple of reasons.

First, we spend large amounts of time and energy trying to develop relationships with children based on trust. Telling children if they misbehave they will go to jail is simply not true. This causes the adult to lose credibility with the child when there is no follow-through on the misbehavior and the child doesn’t go to jail.

The second thing this does is it teaches children to fear officers. We want children to run toward officers — not away from them — in a moment of crisis or fear. Telling children we will take them to jail only reinforces a stereotype that we work very hard to debunk. Especially in today’s world we want children and young people to seek out officers rather than fear us. If there is any hope of changing the way people view law enforcement officers, we will need everyone’s help. This is a small way we can work together towards that end.

Every minute we spend working with and teaching a child is time well spent for the future. We have to teach children respect and courtesy by example. If my young son sees me holding the door for a lady, he learns that’s what we do. If he hears me saying “yes, sir” and “no, ma’am,” he learns this is the appropriate way to speak with people. If my daughter sees me show respect to their mother, she learns how a woman should be treated by a man. Children are learning from us all the time; the question is, what are we teaching them?

The result of not teaching children right from wrong is what we end up dealing with in law enforcement. When people follow the rules and do right by one another we are kept out of the equation. Think about how much crime involves violating the Golden Rule we were all taught in kindergarten. Ninety-eight percent of crime involves doing something to someone else that the person would not want done to them.

We run a Scared Straight Program at the Iredell County Detention Center that allows young people to see the inside of the jail. That program teaches children the consequences of making bad decisions. Let’s work together to teach children it’s their choices that put law-breakers in a place like the Iredell County Detention Center. We open our doors the first Saturday of every month to show them what happens when you make poor choices.

Please feel free to call me at 704-878-3180 or email me at for more information about this program. The next time you see a law enforcement officer in the grocery store teach your children not to be afraid by walking up and introducing yourself. Our deputies would love to have the chance to meet you and your children.

Darren Campbell is the Iredell County sheriff.

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