Essay Question: The Youth Of the UK Are Rioting. Solutions Are Needed. Discuss.

What on earth is going on with our children? More to the point, what on earth has happened to our society that allows 14 years olds to roam the streets, smashing shop windows and stealing electronic equipment? And the biggest question of all is: what are we going to do about it?

I don’t need to tell you what’s happening on our streets right now, night after night. Turn on any news channel and its all they’re talking about. To cut a long story short many of the youth of this country are committing theft, arson and general destruction on such a scale that the police are considering measures like water cannons and rubber bullets in order to control them. Some of these kids are barely out of nappies. I’m betting most of the vandals that have terrorised the streets of the UK for the last four nights don’t do their own washing or cook their own meals … so it’s not just the kids who are ‘ill’. It’s us. We are bringing up a nation of thugs. It’s time we did something about it.

What’s the answer? Well first of all the threat of water cannons and rubber bullets may have cleared London’s streets last night, but it hasn’t solved the root of the problem – the young perpetrators are mostly still at large, and they still hold a lawless attitude. A ‘Robust approach’ is not the only answer. There will be many who call for a ‘return to traditional values’, but I don’t think we can return to anything. There is only going forward. We need to identify the reasons, and make sure that the solution is something that is relevant to the young people of today. Also, saying that the young people are bored or see no future for themselves is not a deep enough description of what is happening. There are plenty other ways to deal with boredom than to go out looting.

I think we can start to understand what is happening by looking at these three related factors:

• The Media

• What is acceptable to us as a society

• The way that we as parents and educators are raising our children

Give your eyes a good rub and take a look at what is offered to us and our children for entertainment these days. The media is awash with violence, sex, and greed. As we speak my six year old son is sitting in front of the tv watching cartoons that depict young people fighting for their survival, and to ‘save the world’. Aggression and violence is always the answer in these cartoons. If there is any intelligence or problem solving involved it’s very much a ‘side serving’ rather than the main dish. Most of the computer games you can buy today, and which our young immerse themselves in, are similarly violent. Sex has become a currency for selling anything, and is portrayed as something that needs no boundaries, something that anyone can do for fun. Don’t we have one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the world? Are we alright with that?

And as for greed, isn’t it all about stuff, stuff, stuff these days? What you have defines who you are in our society. TV shows one ad after another for more and more toys, more and more ‘bling’ and during the actual programmes makes it clear that if you want to be in with these guys you have to have these things. You have to be made up, you’ve got to be dressed right, and in a sexually appealing fashion. Recently there was a fuss in the media about our music videos being too sexually explicit, and if we’re honest that’s not the only problem. The language is very explicit, and the actual messages portrayed by the music are often those of lawlessness, promiscuity and greed.

But before we blame the media for society’s ills we need to stop and take a look at society itself. Because all the media does is reflect back to us what we as a society are. The media is giving us what we ask for, because that is what pays. So the media is a very accurate measure of what is going on in society itself. If you take a look at our media channels you begin to realise that we as a society therefore allow greed, violence and aggression, promiscuity and bad language. These things have become the norm for us. Children will push the boundaries, it’s one of the things they do best, and look at the boundaries they’re pushing! Is it any wonder that so many of our young think these things are ok? After all these are the messages we are giving them , or at least allowing them to absorb. We need to take a long hard look at ourselves! As any parent will know, your children often force you to reassess the way you approach life, and our kids are currently doing this on a national scale. We need to wake up!

So we approach the third point. How are we raising our children? Well aside from giving them a raft of deeply twisted messages about what is right and normal in our world today, our actual methods of parenting and teaching need looking at. Most of today’s parents are so busy making a living that we’re not giving our kids the attention they need. I have 3 children of my own, I know this isn’t easy. Today’s life is fast, it’s not always simple, and we have to keep up to keep our families afloat. But this means we are too tired and stretched to actually raise our kids. So they’re raising themselves or being raised by the TV and their peers – and look where that has lead! Even when we do find time for our kids, we don’t seem to know what to do to manage them. We turn to the ways we were brought up, and let’s be fair, justice was often meted out fairly aggressively, even if it was just how we were spoken to. ‘Clear up your room or you don’t go out.’ ‘Do your homework or no TV.’. And so sometimes if we’re a little enlightened we’ll say to ourselves ‘I don’t want to be an aggressive parent, I want to be a nice one’, so what are we replacing aggression with? Permissiveness! Now everything is alright. Kids can do whatever they like if they just push hard enough. ‘Spare the rod and spoil the child’ has somehow become ‘kids know best’. They don’t. They’re kids. They need us to bring them up, that’s what we’re for. If we as parents and teachers don’t take charge and teach them right from wrong, who is going to?

So now on to solutions. First, we need to heal our own attitudes and thus heal our media. The society we have created and continue to create is patently not working. When the children rise up and start the process of self destruction that has got to be a potent message for us that we’re doing something badly wrong. We need to reassess our basic societal values. How much stuff do we actually need? Is the over sexualisation of everything really acceptable to us? Is aggression really the answer to everything? Is permissiveness the answer? Is the way we habitually speak and the language that has come to be regarded as normal actually alright with us?

Come on and take a stand. None of these things are acceptable. You don’t have to be religious, or ‘a prude’ or ‘old fashioned’ to realise that the way we are living is NOT WORKING. We need to clean up our act, and demonstrate better values to our kids. We need higher ideals. We need better ways of dealing with adversity. Let’s bring in gratitude for what we have. Let’s bring in a focus on the beautiful things in life and on inner beauty. Let’s bring in working together to make things better. Let’s bring in assertiveness and an intelligent approach to replace aggressiveness or passiveness in our dealings with our world and in our parenting. Our rioting children are doing us a big favour. They are giving us a wake up call that we ignore at our peril. We need to change as a society and we need to do it now, for the sake of our future. We owe it to our kids.

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Posted on August 10, 2011, in Difficult Times, London Riots, todays youth, UK Riots, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. They need us to bring them up, that’s what we’re for. If we as parents and teachers don’t take charge and teach them right from wrong, who is going to?

    Just had a thought that maybe the new souls that are now coming in have something to teach us, the adults. Yes we are here to bring them up so they are able to fulfill their purpose. We need to listen to them, assist them in finding their own path in life and being able to learn lessons no matter how the lesson is presented – whether it be in a classroom or in the classroom of life.

    There is a lesson for us all arising out of these riots, so are we going to fall back into old patterns of reaction or are we going to respond by listening, unlearning what we already know and relearning and then move forward in a completely new way?

    There will be different lessons to be had from this, we each have a responsibility to learn the ones which are for us and our own specific journey. And those involved in rioting have their lessons to learn and it is our responsibility as adults to enable them to learn them, not force them to learn what we believe they should learn – that is where the anger and frustration stems from.

    • Carol, thank you for your thoughtful response. I do happen to agree with you that the more aware children within this generation of kids have abilities and a certain depth of understanding that wasn’t there previously, and I’m sure they do have something to teach us. Isn’t that always the way? The student is meant to supersede the master – that’s how humanity progresses. I do believe as well that we have come to a unique time in history where humanity is progressing faster than ever before, and it stands to reason that todays kids have the potential to be a whole quantum leap ahead of the game. So I’m not saying we should try to mould them in our image – that’s a recipe for disaster. I think the challenge for us as parents is to provide them with boundaries, and give them basic moral standards so that they have a starting point from which to develop. They may well be little prodigies all of them, but how are they ever going to find their skills if they never learn to be disciplined? I think positive parenting is as you describe it, enabling children to find and follow their own path. At the same time though we have to realise that the ‘softly-softly-let-them-do-whatever-they-want’ approach isn’t serving them. We need to give them a framework to develop out from. That’s our task, and actually I think we’re failing them if we do any less. We too have knowledge, strength and understanding. We’d do well to remember that, and we’d do well to use those skills too! Perhaps a first step would be a little respect and appreciation – in both directions.
      All the best,
      Rivka

  2. Our rioting children are doing us a big favour. They are giving us a wake up call that we ignore at our peril.

    I agree 🙂

  3. Hi Rifka

    Really enjoyed this blog…..I’m really interested in parenting and how it can help develop young minds. My comment here is more about parenting ( discipline vs permissive in particular) than any views on what can be done to solve the problem of the underclass in british society but I thought I would post my comment here anyway!

    I actually have a lot of empathy for the parents of some of these rioters – I know – I wouldn’t say that if my business had been looted !!!!!! but me and my husband are both highly educated engaged parents and we find parenting a minefied sometimes so I’m not surprised that these kids parents who are predominantly young and uneducated are struggling…

    I am fascinated by what all parents can do to improve their children’s behaviour. My 1st big shock as a parent was that good behaviour doesn’t just happen even when parents set a good example ! We tried the naughty step and time out – both failed miserably and then we found the fab baby whisperer book and it worked!

    What the baby whisperer recommends is that you need to teach your child to be emotionally FIT

F = feeling – acknowledge the emotion – I understand that you want that toy because it’s so nice….

I =Intervening (explain why he can’t have it) – but you can’t have it because it’s not yours/ too expensive/ we came out to buy milk not toys ( i.e. No negotiation eg you can have it if you promise to tidy your room etc)

T= telling ( what you expect from him or what he might do instead) so let’s go home where you have many toys of your own to play with.

After we started this – we couldn’t believe that it really worked and it was 300 billion times better than the naughty step/time out which were just punishments. I believe it is also better than reward charts cos you’re actually teaching your child the skills they will need in the real world and teaching them that they should behave well because this is how a civilised society works not just so that that get a reward!

    • Hi Andrea!
      Please excuse the delay in my reply – it’s been all systems go here!

      Thank you for sharing the ‘Baby Whisperer’ resource – Something for us all to look into. Like you I am passionate about parenting. The approach I favour is termed ‘Attached Parenting’. It’s quite a detailed approach with 8 main principals. I guess if you wanted to sum it up you could say it’s about treating the child like a person with valid choices, view points and feelings as opposed to a ‘minor’, whilst at the same time providing boundaries and guidance. I think it’s also about keeping that child close to you and giving them the benefit of close contact nurturing till they start to claim their own independence, rather than pitching them out of the nest and forcing them into independence. I dont think I could do the approach justice in a quick reply like this one so check here for more information: http://www.attachmentparenting.org/. It all started with the work of Jean Liedloff, who in her travels encountered native tribes that seemed to have much more luck if you will with raising their children than we in the western world tend to. She started to make a study of what they were doing that was different and her work is documented in her book ‘The Continuum Concept’. You can find out more at http://www.continuum-concept.org/ (one of the things I’ve just found out by looking at the website is that she died earlier this year, which is a sad loss for the world as her contribution is potent).
      Thank you for your comment and all the best,
      Rivka

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