Parental guidance is required
Hundreds of youngsters take to the streets to engage in 'recreational rioting' every summer – and it's up to their parents to stop it from happening, writes Leona O'Neill
FOLLOWING reports that kids as young as 12 were involved in rioting in Belfast, there have been calls for parents to be held accountable for the sins of their children.
Every single summer we have young people before our courts on riotous behaviour charges. It doesn't take a genius to work out that a criminal record will seriously impact their future in relation to travel, work and eligibility to partake in education and employment.
Not to mention the fact that being at a riot is generally bad for your health, what with all that raining brick and masonry.
So why would some parents allow this to happen? Why are some parents not doing everything in their power to keep their children away from harm and out of jail?
Since time began, some northern Irish kids have been drawn to street disturbances like moths to flames. Kids, particularly boys, are attracted by the danger and the chase – and more often than not, more sinister elements are at work orchestrating trouble behind the scenes and coaxing them in.
There is not a week that goes by when police aren't urging parents to be aware of where our children are, and dishing out warnings that criminal behaviour will result in criminal proceedings.
A lot of the time, I imagine, this is falling on deaf ears, for our television news this summer has been full of young men in hoodies and scarves lobbing bricks at the police.
You'd like to think that once Mum – who presumably does the laundry and would therefore recognise her boy's hoody and scarf from a distance of three miles – got so much as a sniff that her offspring was out causing madness and mayhem there would be all hell to pay.
But then again, maybe not.
I genuinely think parents should be held responsible for their children's actions. It is a parent's job to teach their child right from wrong. You're not doing your job properly if your kid thinks it's OK to attack and hurt people, hurl petrol bombs and stones at the police or wreck their or another's community.
They say kids learn from example, Unfortunately, as we can clearly see from the news beamed from around the north every year, many adults in these vicious peaceline confrontations prefer to stand cross-armed and purse-lipped on the sidelines than take any of the young rioters home by the ear.
Parents should lead their children, watch over them and teach them how life really works. I'm not pertaining to be perfect but my kids know that if they so much as raised a hand to a person in the street or threw a stone in anger, they could wave goodbye to their electronic devices and they would be grounded until they were 40-years-old.
Countless studies in developmental psychology have told us that children are a blank slate and learn the rights and wrongs of life from observing others, mainly those closest to them – their parents.
Until they are well up in school, and that influence is diluted somewhat, parents or guardians are the main role models for kids. They are the people who can instil good manners, respect and a sense of honesty and integrity, essentially establishing a strong moral compass and a capacity for understanding responsibility.
Us parents can plant the seeds of good character. It's up to us to show them a path and help them stick on it. There will be times when they stray off if and mess up – it's human nature – but the lessons we teach our kids are crucially important to the adults they become.
Let's be good people, raising good people. Let's do it right.