Bailey Stewart left an interesting comment about my last post. She mentioned a father on an Oprah show, who blamed a Spike Lee movie that his 16 yr old kept watching, for the crime this kid committed. Now, who was letting his son watch the Spike Lee movie, in his house? He was, that's who. Of course, Bailey and Sandra are both right about their comments that in our society these days, most people don't take responsibility for their actions. I was merely pointing out the reasons criminals don't take responsibility and where their mind-set is coming from re their actions.
In the two generations since the two WW's, we all know that social mores and attitudes have changed dramatically. The baby boomers were raised by parents who knew the horrors of war, of doing "without", and were only too happy to live in a better world and give everything they could to their children. Then *that* generation gave everything they could to my generation. We are now raising up this generation of youngsters that we complain about the most - no one is responsible for anything and we blame everyone but ourselves.
I'm going to suggest that we can blame two sets of people for this problem (and I'll be ducking tomatoes here, I know it!). First, we can blame ourselves as parents, and second, we can blame lawyers/judges. Whoohoo! There goes the first tomatoe whizzing by now! Parents and lawyers/judges??? What two sub-sets could be more different?
Let's start with the lawyers/judges first. Judges interpret our laws, and lawyers bring ridiculous lawsuits to court. Such as one that happened a few years ago in my home province, where a woman got completely intoxicated at her company Christmas party, had an acccident while driving drunk, and then suied her employer for letting her get that intoxicated. Did her bosses throw that booze down her throat? Of course not. But, she was no disabled and unable to work, so that judge decided her former employer could cough up a chunk of money to take care of her, rather than the government having to take care of her for the rest of her life. No personal responsibility - like having disability insurance, or being smart enough to call a cab, or just not get drunk in the first place.
Judges will make these kinds of rulings against tobacco companies, drug companies, or McDonalds because they will have to pick up the tab, not the government. Lawyers love making money from these kinds of lawsuits. It's at least three years of mortgage payments for them.
Now, parents. (there goes another tomatoe! no I mean really, my DH just came home and found another scratch on the truck, which apparently is my fault). Parents have a four year window with their kids to try and build a foundation of self-esteem, self-sufficiency, a conscientious, and values such as kindness, tolerance, integrity, truth-telling, etc. And I mean this starts from about birth to just around their 5th birthday. After the age of 5 going into kindergarten, they're pretty well set as to what they're going to be like as an adult. Any kindergarten teacher can tell you what kind of parenting a child has had.
When I was Executive Director of a Crisis Shelter for street youth, I really got my eyes opened as to the kind of parenting these kids had and why they were on the street in the first place. The common adage I fought constently in the media was "they could go home if they wanted to - they're welfare bums - they should get a job". The truth was, they had parents who shouldn't have owned a dog, never mind have had a child. These kids were more handicapped then most "special needs" kids I already knew; they were mentally/emotionally crippled, had already been into crime and substance abuse, and were usually so socially damaged it would take years of therapy to get them working again - therapy they weren't going to get.
And there are normal-everyday-parents out there, working, trying-hard parents, who miss that 4 yr window, or parts of it, without meaning to. Somehow their kids miss parts of the wholeness that makes up the total package of a functioning; person who takes responsibility for themselves and their fellow human beings and contributes meaningfully to society. And if these parents have been raised permissively themselves, they'll pass that on to their kids. They take away consequences and don't discipline their kids because it's too much work. So all of a sudden, they have a 16 or 17 yr. old who doesn't listen to them (because they've never had to before), or do anything around the house (because they weren't required to before), and the parents go ballistic. It's like the parents suddenly wake up from some daydream they've been in for the past 15 or 16 yrs and now try to make the kid into something he or she isn't, and fail misterably. So, the tensions mount and the family will break apart.
If you've never taught little Johnny to clean his room at 5, he won't do it when he's 15. Ditto his laundry, washing the car, doing the dishes, or vacuuming. If he's never done chores for an allowance, he won't be motivated to find work for extra money, he'll be hanging out at the mall. If your home was "child-free" all through elementary school to keep it "clutter-free" because you were too tired after work - it'll be "teen-free" now and you'll never know who he's hanging out with.
Parents who let their kid watch Spike Lee movies and then blame their 16 yr old kid's crimes on them, have no one to blame but themselves. It would be nice if the judge would take the kid's pre-court evaluation report into consideration and put some onus on that dad to be part of the reparation for whatever the crime was, because dad was part of the responsibility too. Spike Lee movies are restricted, so technically the kid shouldn't have been watching it, am I right? And, as I said in my last post, watching these things repeatedly is what brings out the need to duplicate something in realitiy to goes beyond the fantasy. So, kid and dad are both to blame.
These are just my opinions on child-rearing from what I saw at the crisis center and on cases I saw in court. Any psychologist will tell you children are highly impressionable and any interaction you have with a young child will leave marks on him/her for good or ill. Something else to think about when we're writing our characters. Not to mention those powerful or dorky lawyers and judges.