The age ranges and features of many persons appearing in our courts in recent times for various violations, some of them most gruesome, tell a sobering story. The images (online and on television) of teenagers charged with the most heinous of crimes, is an ominous sign of where we are heading.
One of the most frequent complaints today is that the nation’s youths seem to be in crisis, and generally exhibit disturbing behaviour and attitudes. Although they do in some way contribute to the perception of eroding standards in the country, they are often unjustly blamed entirely for the slide.
Many persons who blame today’s youths, say those of past generations faced similar circumstances and pressures and handled them better, emerging as upstanding citizens. They tend to overlook the fact that the current generation faces problems unique to this era, which those of bygone ages did not have to wrestle with.
In the first place, the familial structure is distinctly different from what it was in the past. Guyana’s gradual economic decline and shifting social trends have put overwhelming pressure on the traditional nuclear family, making it weaker and more vulnerable.
Also, the negative conditioning influences of the communication and entertainment media are increasing exponentially.
Parenting standards are duly being questioned but, admittedly, many parents are often distracted or tired out by problems related to their jobs or finances. Some seem to have entirely abdicated their role as parents; others have embraced extremely permissive approaches.
With parents spending significantly less time with children, and with the general quality of parenting in steep decline, the amount of poorly supervised or unsupervised youths has increased dramatically. With too much slack time on their hands, many of these highly impressionable youths are vulnerable to unwholesome influences.
It is simply unwise also to pretend that the impact of particular parenting practices can be separated out from other factors, from where families live and how they earn their living, to their values, relationships and experiences. In any event, there are all sorts of other experiences that children have – through friends and schools, for example – that will have a big impact beyond the realm of the family.
Moreover, as they grow up, children gradually start to ‘make’ themselves; they become moral beings in their own right that make their own choices. It is also up to the grown-ups to shape the context of our family lives. Left to their own devices from a very young age, it is not surprising that many turn to vice and violence.
It is because of serious deficiencies in parenting that an unacceptable number of our youths appear to be lazy, undisciplined, unmannerly and unlearned. That is why they seem inclined to indulge almost nonchalantly in vices like alcohol and drug abuse, crime, violence and promiscuous sex. Guyana is in danger of being overrun by a culture of lawlessness, and wayward youths are more than likely to be significant contributors.
With such serious consequences, the nation must squarely face the phenomenon of poor parenting. To turn this trend around, concerned Guyanese must agitate for effective development of the requisite skills in this regard. This requires a course of action with pro-active intervention by all stakeholders: government, non-governmental organizations, social workers, community groups and others.
But we stress that this is not only the responsibility of policymakers or so-called parenting experts.
It will be a long haul, but it is vital that we go back to sound parenting techniques in the interest of our youths. Just as people get the governments they deserve, parents get the children they deserve, and nations get the youths they deserve. The increasingly negative behaviour and attitudes of our youths, is a monster in the making; we must deal with it before it gets too big to handle.
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