As adults, we always need to be careful of the messages we spout – because those messages do resonate in our young people’s minds. Even when we think our young people aren’t paying attention, they are listening to what we have to say.

For me, I can always remember my mother telling us that if we committed a crime, she would know where to find us on “visiting day.” That message was very powerful. It reinforced my restraint – as well as my brother’s and sister’s – from getting involved in any criminal activities. Years later as I raised my own children, my mom’s message was always there for me. I refined her message for my children by telling them I was raising them “to think.” Thus, if they ever were to commit a crime and get caught, they couldn’t call me up and tell me, “Mama, I didn’t think …”

I strongly feel the crime that is being wrought by young people today is in direct correlation to the messages many have heard and sadly misinterpreted. How many times have people, my generation and older, spouted messages in front of young people that if such-and-such happened, they would get their gun and shoot? We all can laugh when we watch a Madea movie and she pulls out her pistol. But in the real world, guns kill. And when our young people take those words and turn them into action, the consequences can be fatal. Like little Heaven Sutton. At age 7, she died before she really even knew life. Her alleged shooter, Jerrell Dorsey, age 26, is barely seven years into adult life.

Now the families of both the victim and the shooter are left to suffer two very different types of losses. A child who will never grow up and another one who didn’t grow up.

Last week, I applauded Mayor Emanuel for asking a valid question about how and who raised the individuals who stand in the streets and shoot. But instead of just stopping there, he went on. In an interview with CBS, our mayor said, “We’ve got two gangbangers, one standing next to a kid. Get away from that kid. Take your stuff away to the alley. Don’t touch the children of the city of Chicago. Don’t get near them.”

Huh? Did the mayor of the city of Chicago just tell shooters, thugs, murderers and gangbangers to take their guns, bullets and negative behaviors to the alley? The place I come and go all day and night as I tell myself it’s safer to park my car in the garage and not on the streets? If ever there was a message that an adult who is also the mayor should not send, it’s to send a backhanded message that young people will take out of context and then take literally.

So what occurred just this week? We have a 62-year-old man looking for cans in the alley at 5:00 in the morning, and thugs jump and kill him in a game. If I were their lawyer, I would use Emanuel’s words to defend their actions. Why, they were just doing what the mayor told them to do. Take it to the alley.

As I said, adults need to mind the messages they send. The children are listening.

If you haven’t spoken to the young people in your household, do so now. There are real penalties and prices to pay for negative behavior.

As Big Mama used to say, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Prevent the carnage before you find yourself on television crying that so-and-so is “a good kid.”