Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Turning a blind eye to vandalism!! Do we fear our youth?

It is very interesting that this article on the BBC News site was published this week. The reason being that an incident happened last Wednesday night in Horsham town centre that highlighted this very issue.

I was attending a church small group evening at our church offices just off the central high street. When I arrived a couple of others had noticed some youths throwing a brick at the New Horsham bus shelter, made largely of glass I will add. As they carried on one of the others asked if I had a mobile with a camera as he intended to go and film them. Instead I went with him to see what they were up to. As we were approaching we heard this loud bang and saw 2 teenage girls run away and discard a brick as they ran. As we rounded the corner we saw the telephone box outside Argos had been smashed. Now the person I was with ran ahead towards a groups of youths round the fountain. I just stood and stared at the glass and shook my head in sadness and saw that the two girls had run some way down the street. We then decided to return to the offices and phone the police. Well he did, I didn't as I assumed the whole thing was caught on CCTV as Horsham town centre is well covered. He gave a description of the girls to the police and a little while later they were caught. I don't know what happened to them, probably just a don't do it again ticking off!!!!

Now this highlighted the whole issue of the BBC article to me. My attitude was to not get too involved and I was certainly not going to put my personal safety at risk for the sake of a smashed window. If it was a person being attacked I would hope I would do something. But anyway I just though let CCTV cover it and what could I do. The other guy ran after some youths but I thought. 'What would you do when you got there? What would you say?'. You cannot lay a finger in any way on a youth or even defend yourself if attacked without the danger of ending up being prosecuted yourself. Those youth certainly didn't give a stuff what anyone said to them or have thought for the consequences of their actions.

When I was their age I was at home doing homework or watching TV or anything else but loitering around a town centre in the evening. I was not allowed to by my mum. I respected that and it didn't bother me. Is it any wonder our youth are acting the way they are. Parents don't teach their children boundaries, don't teach respect for adults or others property. Don't spend time with their kids talking to them, loving them, accepting them. At least not the ones who's teenage kids are running around away from home, on a school night and getting themselves into trouble. Stop treating kids like mini-adults, even at primary age. Discipline and love go hand in hand. If you don't discipline in love and set firm boundaries don't be surprised when your kids run around with no idea what is right and wrong, no idea what is acceptable or unacceptable behaviour or even care which they pursue. Take some responsibility and teach it and model it to your children!

Now I realise this issue is more complicated than just parenting skills. Of course it is, social and domestic problems, substance abuse both parents and children, poverty, peer pressure and any number of other influences all converge on any individual to influence their behaviour and attitude. However I do believe parenting is the core influence on a child and individual responsibility is of paramount importance in our society. All the above things may influence each person but ultimately we make a choice to behave in the way we do. No teenager can claim their upbringing caused them to behave a certain way, influence yes but cause no!

We all have the capability to choose between right and wrong, to remain inside the law or break it. To take responsibility for our street, our neighborhoods and towns. To stop building walls around our selves and deferring responsibility to someone else.

Did I take responsibility for what happened in Horsham last week, not really! Should I have tried to stop the vandalism, probably! Ultimately did I care that much, not as much as I should have! If we all took responsibility for our own sphere of influence then our society would be a better place to live, children would grow up safer and more secure, having hope in their lives and a sense of who they are and their place on this planet we all inhabit.

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