Bigger problem than parenting | Editorial

Treating the symptoms of crime alone will not cure the fundamental conditions.

If the problem is linked to poor parenting, as the Prime Minister believes, then the task is to get to the root causes of poor parenting to prevent the next generation of parents from being even less equipped to raise children.

In a speech Friday at the opening of St Clair Police Station, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley linked the issue of school violence to poor parenting, noting that “something is happening between our nine- and ten-year-olds and our 17-year-olds. Somewhere between elementary school and high school, he said, children are transformed from “angels” into “demons”.

There is no mystery in the fact that adolescence brings its own challenges, especially for parents. The question is whether the surrounding environment enables constructive or destructive behavior. Although the quality of parenting can be a key determinant in the behavior of children at primary age, the influences become more complex as children get older and begin to exercise more authority over their decision. Even the most responsible parent can be no match for the combination of peer pressure inside and outside the home and school, a dysfunctional school environment, an uninspiring education system and all the influences that come to adolescents through social media.

Where poor parenting is a contributing factor to student crime and violence, the State’s numerous social support systems should intervene and address them. Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent annually on programs facilitated by almost every ministerial portfolio, and yet the problem not only continues, but gets worse. If the resources spent on education, social development, family services, community development, sports, youth and other areas do not make the difference they should make, questions should be asked about the productivity of spending. Money — much of it — is spent, but is it aimed at clearly defined outcomes that can be quantified and evaluated?

Today’s problems of school violence and juvenile delinquency have their roots in the policies and strategies adopted by governments that go back some 50 years. The children who failed along the way are today’s grandmothers, grandfathers, mothers and fathers.

Trinidad and Tobago has much to be proud of in terms of its investment in education, which is the single fastest route to lift a population out of poverty and on a path of social and financial progress. However, the quality of the management of that investment through the state’s policies and programs over the years is a major determinant of the outcomes.

It is easy, but not enough, to blame parents for failure, especially when the parents themselves were victims of a system that embraced them with hope but left them in despair.

Prior to the Covid-19 outbreak, Dr Rowley personally led an initiative aimed at transforming the education system. Part of the solution to juvenile delinquency lies in carrying through that process.

Related Posts