The great danger of irresponsible parenting

The great danger of irresponsible parenting

Sunday, December 27, 2015

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We note the concern from the police about the high number of children being poorly supervised by parents and guardians.

In some cases children are being left alone at home — easy prey to temptation of every sort and potential victims of the unscrupulous.

A seemingly exasperated Deputy Superintendent Gary McKenzie of the St Ann police points to the excuse given by some parents that their unsupervised children who fall into wrongdoing know better.

That’s a really lame cop out. As Mr McKenzie points out, "The issue is not whether the minors know what they should or should not do. The issue is that parents and guardians must carry out their parental responsibilities."

Irresponsible parenting can lead to harm to children in many different ways, as outlined by Mr McKenzie. Crucially too, when the dots are connected, it is obvious that parental neglect leads to huge social problems, not least crime.

Jamaicans buffeted daily by reports of murder and barbarism in their midst are well aware that many of those angry and embittered young men who turn to violent crime grew up in dysfunctional situations with little or no positive guidance from adults.

Obviously, the police should act under the law to protect children who are being neglected and to prosecute parents and guardians who do so.

The truth, though, is that law enforcement by itself won’t help much, since the problem of thoughtless, immature and neglectful parenting has its roots in culture and history. It’s useful to remember that under the wretched system of slavery which existed less than 200 years ago, the children of the enslaved were also chattels and therefore the responsibility of slave owners.

The point needs also to be made that having children without the means to support them is central to irresponsible parenting. Very often children are neglected precisely because parents — many of whom were themselves neglected as children — have neither material means nor know how to provide support.

Too often, Jamaicans seek to dodge this critical aspect. Indeed, the issue is further complicated by religion. There are still churches and preachers who insist that birth control methods are sinful.

As regards child neglect and abuse at home, teachers are among those most familiar with the problem. No wonder, then, that in many cases it’s the schools that are taking the lead in trying to change behaviour, using parental workshops and private sessions for those most in need.

Good teachers who recognise that they are best able to bring positivity to the lives of their charges also do their very best to make sure that the vicious cycle is broken; that their students appreciate the value of being mature and economically capable before having children.

Ultimately, like with everything else, it is education and effective communication that will improve parenting. Getting the message across to others that it is enlightened self-interest to take proper care of children should be the responsibility of every well-thinking adult.

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