“As the twig is bent, so is the tree inclined” is an old maxim which needs to be kept in focus as we search for the best solutions to some of our current challenges facing our communities, families, homes and our country.
Our Government must be commended for taking proactive steps designed to restrict further escalation of threats to the lives of its citizens, peace of our communities and families. Unfortunately, when it comes time to apply the law, the crime is already done.
For this and other reasons, our concerns must start much earlier.
Effective planning to restrict the escalation of crime and the taking of a life that cannot be replaced, even with capital punishment applied, calls for the cooperative and proactive efforts of many organisations long before that twig becomes too bent which then requires police intervention.
Institutions which must work closely from early childhood are: families, school, church, Government, the educational system and police.
What are some of the parental and family challenges which contribute to the “bent twig”?
Prenatal influences, good and bad, transferred by parents to the unborn. Drugs taken, different levels of stress experienced during pregnancy, the music listened to and even noise levels, all affect the unborn. “We are the product of our developmental history.”
Parents who struggle to provide for the family, having to work long hours away from home, with little time and energy available to observe the little changes in behaviour or attitude which may need early attention, correction and guidance. This is of greatest import during the first seven years of the child’s life.
It is believed that our children (teens) are most vulnerable between the hours of four and seven p.m., when they come home from school and there is no adult supervision at home.
The absence of a responsible male presence to assist in discipline and mentoring.
Lack of available financial resources by some teens just to have certain basic items being used by other teens.
Few organised activities for cash generation, useful time management, job training or other positive exposures during holiday time. Boys are left to wander about unsupervised and can be easily led astray.
Parents who have absolutely no parenting training or home management skills but are left on their own to struggle with two or more children competing for attention and love.
If or when parents fail to correct small unacceptable attitudes and behaviours and the child is sent to the babysitter, pre-school and primary school and then to secondary school with the unacceptable conduct entrenched, that is enabling. If, at any level, attempts by responsible supervisors to intervene is seen as picking on the child or its parents, caretakers will refrain from being involved in helping in the training of that twig.
Reports indicate that of those charged with murder during 2018 and so far in 2019, the majority were committed by young men in the 15-25 age group, with the parish of St. Michael accounting for more than half of the total victims. Just four of our 12 parishes did not register any murders during the period reviewed.
Each parish set up a hot-line of resource counsellors with responsibility to train and educate young mothers and fathers in parenting skills.
They can be the first or early response on whom teachers and other concerned persons may call when they detect some deviation from acceptable conduct requiring early intervention.
Create a safe place acceptable to youth who are seeking help with perceived challenges, abuse, bullying and gang membership offers for their protection when there is no male protector at home, and such.
Be available as a sounding board when youth need a sure and confidential friend 24/7.
To be effective, over time, the communities would have to be taught that these resources are available, easily accessible to all, accommodating, and nonthreatening. It is the community’s responsibility to work together on early detection of unacceptable conduct and behaviour.
Since reward sweetens labour, if there is accountability to someone then a small stipend could be attached. “An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.”
Everette W. Howell
A retired Seven Day Adventist Pastor