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How should the community respond when our children mess up?


When incidents occur in which our children mess up and their mistakes are published for the world to see, what should be the response of the community? Striking a posture which communicates to our children that they have strayed from what is expected while protecting them from a harsh and unforgiving world is not easy to achieve.

Making mistakes is a normal and expected part of growing up and how well our children learn these life lessons depends in great measure on the reaction of the adults in their lives and the response of the school and community.

While we must correct our children when they go wrong, any punishment should be in proportion to the infraction and should never be so harsh that the child is crippled emotionally and stripped of all self esteem. Further, the responsibility for any punishment to be meted out rests solely with the parent and school and is not the business of any other member of the public. Perhaps other parents should use these opportunities to have candid chats with their own children.

Our Cybercrime Act was passed into law recently for the protection of our people, including children. It needs be tested, so that people who film and disseminate videos of others in private moments would learn that what they do, without a second thought using a smartphone, could have an absolutely devastating effect on the lives of others for a very long time.

There are those who mistakenly feel that public shaming of children who err is appropriate punishment. This can never be the case and even minors, who commit heinous crimes against others, are afforded protection under the law from being identified while being prosecuted in our court system so as to give them a fair chance of being rehabilitated and having normal lives once they come to adulthood.

In the same way however, that we protect our children from public scorn and ridicule, we cannot give them the impression that what they have done is okay because similar mistakes have been made by many others in the past. Nor should those who speak out against deviant behaviour in our young people be made to feel guilty for doing so, or fearful that they would be labelled hypocritical because they too in their youth may have behaved similarly.

We have to guard against this attitude, because having erred in the past does not prohibit one from calling out similar wrong doing in others. On the contrary, those who walked the same path are best placed to know how damaging certain behaviours can be and how painful are the consequences. We must take every opportunity to let our young people know what we expect of them and when they live up to our expectations, put even more enthusiasm into praising them than we do when we express our disappointment at their mistakes.

But in all our actions and decision making, the care, protection, guidance and correction of our children and the provision of second and third chances should be our objective.