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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
Nickhere BS: Youth Crime, Seriously what can we do ? (78* d) RE: BS: Youth Crime, Seriously what can we do ? 13 Feb 09

My wife worked a long time in Montessori schools and she maintains that kids are never too young to learn about consequences for their actions - the idea being to help them stop and think before doing something. Even very very young kids can have this concept imbued. She used to give the example of the 3 year old boy who didn't want to do music class when the other kids were doing it. No problem, he could go and play in the games room while the music class was on. Halfway through he decided he wanted to do the music class after all. He was told that the music class had already started, he couldn't go in now because the teacher had already explained the lesson and the kids were on to the practicing part and it wouldn't be fair to ask the teacher to start all over again for his benefit while everyone else had to wait patiently (in words a 3-year old would get).

Well he cried and cried but there was no changing the situation, he had to accept he had had the chance to do the music lesson and would have again but this time it was too late. Next time round he gave far more thought to whether or not he wished to skip the lesson and was far readier to accept it as natural when he wasn't allowed to interrupt it halfway through.

This was an important lesson to learn young that would stand to him in later life as he faced bigger decisions. It seems to me that people tolerate far too much s*** off kids on the basis that "ah, they're too young to understand" and wait until they're characters are already formed before trying to teach them basic rules for life. No one is too young to start learning respect for others and children often have a better sense of fairness and justice than adults, if adults would just learn to 'exploit' that (by which I mean appeal to kids sense of fairness in order to discipline them)

There's no one single cause or solution but I believe part of the problem is the non-hegemonic realtivistic society we've created. By which I mean we adults can't agree on the 'rules' even among ourselves because our societies have grown too large, complex and individualistic and grown-ups all want to be free to 'do their own thing' This freedom comes at the cost of sending a very mixed message out to the younger generation who realize the rules are often arbitrary. Adults don't back each other up and reinforce each other's authority as they used to - instead they squabble among themselves. Society presents a less hegemonic face to kids and so kids learn the rules are full of loopholes to be exploited. If everyone gives you a ticking off for the same thing, one tends to back down and realize one is out of step with one's society. Being social animals, we operate also on feedback from the society in which we live.

Another problem is the centralisation of power in the nanny state. It takes more authority from the hands of parents and instead redistributes it to dozens of state-agencies. This only serves to undermine parental authority in the eyes of kids even further. They realize quickly enough (as apparently did the 10 year old girl above) that beyond the strata of authority represented by their parents and adults, there was another strata represented by the state and its organs, that as often as not, stymied parental authority or could be exploited against it. One cannot have responsibility without authority. Some of the worst social failures of societies were those where the state tried to aggressively supplant and undermine the parents' authority - such as China during the 'cultural revolution' and Khmer Rouge Cambodia.

Let me quickly add that I am no grouch - I'm very fond of kids though I really dislike bad manners in them (and in adults too). But if I had thrown bottles etc., like that, I could have looked forward to at least a slap or two from my outraged mother, if she once established that that's what I'd really done. And I have to say that the very few times I'd done something to deserve harsh criticism or even a slap, I knew I'd stepped way over the line. I had to learn there are some things you just don't do...

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