Monday, 10 August 2009

Controlling children

I live in an estate that has a high proportion of famillies living on benefits or who have serious social problems. Most of the time it is a rather pleasant place, but as night falls a large gang of teens usually gather in the roads outside my building. They then kick a football into fences, my hedge, each other and adjoining gardens. It is pointless calling the police. by the time they respond to any invasion of a garden or damage to the local phone booth, the perpetrators are either long gone or ready with their excuses. Life can certainly be adversely affected by all of our neighbourhood by this behaviour and many of my neighbours are older than I and afraid to go out once this gang assembles.

The police are, thanks to child protection laws and policies in courts, unable to do anything about it. Children know their "rights" and any attempt to remonstrate with them is likely to lead to your being assaulted or - possibly worse - being accused of trying to molest them. Once that accusation is made you face months of investigation and suspicion and, despite assurances to the contrary, a record being kept on file that the accusation was made. Every time you thereafter have to apply for any position, voluntary or otherwise, that might bring you into contact with children that brecord will show up and you are likely to face renewed accusation or at least suspicion. The priniciple of "No smoke without fire" is trotted out as justification irrespective of the fact that the police have not been able to substantiate the accusation or in many cases the accusation has been proved to be a lie - a 'child' making it simply to 'get even' with an adult who has quite justifiably remonstrated with him/her for appalling behaviour.

Our society has opted - driven by well intentioned but, frankly, misguided efforts to protect children from abuse - to label every adult as a potential child abuser. The media of course whips this to a frenzy, usually focussing on sexual abusers, but I would suggest that there are more insidious abuses, the refusal of parents to instil any form of discipline in their offspring being one. Such children grow up unable to recognise that their behaviour is unacceptable to others. An example locally is one pre-teen girl round here who shrieks - an ear splitting noise - whenever she is thwarted in her demands. Other children run away from her as soon as it starts, or worse, some have discovered that they can make life miserable for the neighbourhood by provoking her! Her parents never deal with it, in fact, I have witnessed both her parents actually rewarding her by giving in to this totally unacceptable performance. Nor is she alone, I have ample opportunity to observe the better off and their offspring and see the same pattern here. Little Tarquin and little Berengaria are very quick to learn that they can get their way by "acting up" and their parents will surrender and reward their behaviour rather than confront it and teach the little brat that in a society everyone else has "rights" as well.

Last evening I endured over an hour of foul-mouthed behaviour and this morning I am cleaning up the debris in my garden and trying to repair my hedge. Damage caused by "children" who, from their language, knew exactly what they were doing and how obnoxious it was. And they also knew that no one could or would risk trying to stop them. This is a very complex issue, one made even more difficult by the fact that many of them are from homes where drug or alcohol abuse is a factor. But it is not improved by the well-intentioned removal of all sanctions for bad behaviour and the restrictions on the police for dealing with it. It is rapidly reaching the point at which the "Child Protection" lobbies and agencies may have to face accusations of complicity in the criminal damage now being caused by the out of control "children" whose "rights" they protect against the legitimate expectations of the law abiding tax-payers who have to live with the consequences.

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