With the increase in juvenile delinquency in the Caribbean, one is left to wonder if parents are dropping the ball. Households and economies have changed, and parents may be overwhelmed and unable to deal with the pressures of 21st Century parenting. The world of raising children has changed. Before, children were constantly monitored. There was a responsible adult in the home most of the time. If there wasn't, there was definitely a neighbor who didn't mind taking on the responsibility when mom and dad were away. Children were disciplined, learned how to prioritize and learned how to be content.
Today, we live in a world where parents expect teachers to raise their children, video games are the new babysitters and the media dictates what takes priority. In addition, we live in a materialistic world that's driven by greed and the desire to acquire more. This mentality may have spilled into the world of parenting and is now reflected in the behavior of our children. The desire to acquire more may also be fueled by a feeling of inadequacy, as teens compare themselves to those who appear to have more of the material possessions they desire. These may be contributing factors to the upsurge in criminal behavior among teens, and the increase in violence in schools. Parents might be unaware, but they might be contributing significantly to this downward spiraling situation.
Because parents spend most of their time outside of the home, they often overcompensate by giving in to their children's desires. It's a way of soothing guilt and making up for not being present. In addition, parents may have felt deprived during childhood and may desire to give their children the things they didn't have. There is nothing wrong with wanting the next generation to have all the things we didn't have. However, parents seem to be giving children what they want instead of what they need. The next generation needs values and positive examples that are long lasting, not material possessions that provide temporary gratification.
An emphasis on having and accumulating things rather than teaching to live in content sets children up to foster feelings of envy.
According to the book Boundaries by Townsend and Cloud, Envy defines good' as what I do not possess,' and hates the good that it has. This desire to always want more puts a strain on children and parents. Of course, most parents want their children to be happy, but there is a delicate balance to be maintained between making sure needs are supplied, and setting standards that are neither beneficial nor realistic. This imbalance drives teens into a life of crime. They might rationalize that crime is the only way to obtain what they want quickly. Contemplate the limited and often lack of legitimate opportunities in Caribbean economies, and, quite frankly, crime does seem like the only way. This is why it is vital that parents emphasize hard word and content rather than the idea of keeping up with the Jones.
What we need to do is be present, set up a system of monitoring for our teens, and nurture them from the inside out. In many cases, Caribbean parents fail in nurturing children from the inside out. Instead, children are taught, or they somehow learn, to depend on outside factors and external approval to build self-esteem and confidence. Parents, instead of allowing the outside world to define your children, define and build your children's internal environment.
We are not defined by what we own. Our character and our actions define us. If we took the time to focus on building character, we would see less juvenile delinquency.
Because the media has such a huge influence on this generation, parents need to nurture their children into developing individual moral and ethical standards. Clearly, the masses have very little or no standards. By today's standards right is wrong and wrong is right. The mantra is often, do what feels right. We can't teach our children to do what feels right because feelings are misleading. What feels right today might not feel right tomorrow. Depending on the situation, what feels right might actually be a lapse in judgment. We have to train them to do what they know to be right even when it's the unpopular option. The only way they can set a standard of right and wrong is based on the truth that parents instill.
This brings us to video games. Video games instill the wrong values. Some video games are true to life. When parents purchase video games that promote rape, killing, stealing, or any other type of illegal activity, they are contributing to the desensitization of the children in their care. In fact, they are reinforcing the message that a life of crime is fun, and there is nothing wrong with ignoring the boundaries of others.
Sure, we can do our best as parents and our children may still go down the wrong path. However, if we've done our best that is all that is required. On the other hand, we can't be mediocre parents, throw our children into the world and hope and pray that they turn out above average. We have to put in the hard work and the hard work should start the moment they leave the womb. We need to be the example on being honest, setting proper boundaries, respecting people and property, being a leader, and the importance of taking responsibility for actions.
Editor-in-Chief's Note: Ebonie Jones is a freelance contributor with MNI Alive
Photo Credit To National Journal