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It’s all in the parenting, stupid!

Taken from Conservative Christian Fellowship website

Guns, drugs, knives… it’s easy to look to schools or the Government for answers to the problems faced, or caused, by our young people. Joe Aldred argues that the way forward lies in the values taught at home.

The headlines just keep coming:  “Anti-gun campaigners demand ban on 50 Cent video game” (The Voice, 1 December 2005);  “Where life is guns, gangs and violence” (The Telegraph, 16 February 2007);  “Boy, 16, shot dead in gang gun battle” (The Guardian, 19 October 2007). And while many of us are keen to stress that this is not exclusively a “black” problem, but an urban one, the reality is that a disproportionate number of black and other ethnic minorities live in this country’s urban areas, and so it is impossible speak about urban issues without referring to the black people who live there.

Lee Jasper, who advises London’s mayor on equality issues, pointed out recently that black people are five times more likely to be jailed than whites, black boys are 2.6 times more likely to be a victim of violent crime, 1.6 times more likely to be a robbery victim, and 5.5 times more likely to be murdered. Unfortunately some of these statistics are brought about by what has been called “black on black” violence. I do not believe black boys shoot or knife other blacks because they are black; they do so within the contested space of their urban existence and the real experience of deprivation, lack of opportunities, poor housing, poor education and lack of facilities.

However, poverty has never a good excuse for bad behaviour. Many people of my generation who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s, especially if they started life in the Caribbean, Africa or Asia, know at firsthand the social challenges of poverty. Yet, we were taught to embrace faith in God, to love life as something sacred, to respect our elders, and to have what people used to call “manners”.  In fact, growing up in Jamaica, I often heard the phrase, “Boy, good manners will take you through this world.”

Today, there is a palpable fear of the young. This has replaced the historic poly-parenting I grew up with, where the maxim “it takes a whole village to raise a child” meant something. Recently I described the phenomenon of gangs that blight our cities through the use of drugs, guns and knives as “socialising gone wrong”. There is absolutely nothing wrong with young people clustering in social groups by area, family, school, church and other social definers. What we can and should do is create the environment where such clustering is healthy by being multidimensional and productive, and contributing to the wellbeing and development of individuals and the wider community.

Welcome as national and local government and other statutory agencies polices and initiatives are that seek to tackle social deprivation, underachievement in education, training and employment, whatever we do “out there” can never match what we do “in here” in terms of lasting effectiveness. Again, if I return to my Jamaican upbringing, I learnt young that “You have fi learn fi dance a yaad before you dance abraad.”  In other words, the basis of the moral and character training needed to take us successfully through life begins at home, not in government schemes.

The Bible is quite right when it says, “train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). What we learn at home as youngsters will always remain seminal to our understanding of self, other and the world. As good as church and school are as centres of learning and training, their influence rank after the home in lasting influence.

So, I am calling for compulsory parenting classes for every pregnant woman and expectant father during the antenatal phase.  After which postnatal health checks should go hand in hand with instruction and information about good parenting. The sooner we stop blaming society and recognise that life and training begins at home, the sooner we crack the phenomenon of youth gangs blighting our corporate life.

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