“Many streets in urban Britain are thick with warm flowers and cold blood”
~ Mary Riddell from “The Daily Telegraph”
Research suggests that infants in loveless, violent and abusive homes will have had their emotions hard-wired and damaged by the time they are only 18 months old.
George Hosking, a clinical criminologist whose charity, the Wave Trust, spent nine years researching the roots of violence argues that a susceptibility to brutal crime is established in the first few months of a child’s life.
Add to that the triggers of drugs, alcohol, hormones and boredom in the teenage years and you have an ominous recipe in some children for disaster during the transition or “waiting” years of early adolescence to finding a job.
It’s like shaking a fizzy bottle of champagne with the cork still firmly stuck in and just waiting for the bubbles to explode.
The message from all the research is to intervene early and to support, nurture and teach parents the skills, strategies and techniques of positive, assertive and confident parenting.
It’s not a simplistic problem and there is no quick fix or one size fits all answers. But if schools and parents and other professionals work together, at least more of the pieces of the jigsaw begin to fit together.
As a former Deputy Head and Head of PSHCE (Personal, Social, Health and Citizenship Education) weekly PSHE lessons are a great place to teach empathy, respect, understanding and self esteem. They provide a safe place to open up children’s emotional valves and to allow them to feel heard and understood. It is also safe place to teach, support and explore with children the dangers and consequences of carrying knives, guns or other dangerous weapons.
Kids get involved in gangs out of fear, self protection, self defence, or to harass, intimidate or to command “respect” amongst their peers or sometimes just to feel a sense of belonging. But research has proved that early intervention, particularly around the age of eight, can have a positive influence on them before the bravado of adolescence kicks in and can prevent kids from getting involved in drug running gangs.
The Safety Box is an organisation that goes into schools pro- actively addressing bullying, low self esteem, drug abuse and knife and gun violence and the growing threat of anti social behaviour. They work with young people helping them to raise their expectations for their lives and helping them to set goals to develop a more positive mindset. Their website is packed full of useful ideas and practical suggestions for personal safety so take a look if you would like to learn more. http://www.thesafetybox.org
But all of these activities and actions need parents to be fully engaged and proactively supporting the work of the school too – all bridging the gaps of fear and filling the voids with positivity and hope.
Change can happen quickly but habits take a little longer and kids need positive role models to support them as they learn to walk their talk consistently.
It about parents getting clear on their values, being clear in their expectations and discipline and setting firm, fair and consistent boundaries for their teenagers. It’s also about showing love, encouragement and praising them regularly and remembering that young people spell love “T-I-M-E.”
It’s about choosing your battles with your kids, spending time listening to them not nagging them and nudging, guiding and steering them in the right direction.
It’s remembering these wise words of Sir Alan Steer the Government’s school behaviour adviser, “When children are made the enemy, no one can possibly win”
We need to inspire our children with optimism so we can raise happy, confident adults – today’s child but tomorrow’s hope for the future.