In a week that has seen yet more shootings of our young people and a damming report placing us at the bottom of the league tables regarding quality of life for our youth I think even the most disinterested among us must realize that it is time for action to be taken. No not action like flinging more money down the hole that is the bottomless pit of our nanny-system. No not action like turning a few dozen armed policeman on the streets. But action that is going to have a solid and proven effect on eradicating the problem.
About seven years ago Morag came across a report on the state of the nation’s youth. Thousands of young people across the country were interviewed on all topics under the sun. One of the main aims of the exercise was to find out what kept kids on the straight and narrow, and what caused them to go off the rails. Was it lack of education, was it lack of funds. Lack of facilities. Lack of a father-figure. Was it living in the country – living in an inner city council estate. What the heck was it that caused a child to decide to pick up a gun or put down a schoolbook. Push a pram instead of a pencil. The people interviewed came from every kind of background in every nook and cranny of the UK and you will never guess what they found…..
Yes there is something that disaffected youth had in common, and for the record disaffection comes in ALL postcodes, all ethnicities, all genders. Just because Arabella and Charlie are away at boarding school doesn’t mean they’re any less disaffected than LaWanda and Jose. The overriding commonality in young people (it’s actually all people but let’s try to stick to today’s topic) who make ‘bad’ decisions is :
How do we know this? Enter the SEI – Self-Esteem Index. A psychological exercise which measures the following four areas :
[Academic Competence] – measures self-esteem in school, education, academic competence, intelligence, learning, and other scholarly pursuits.
[Family Acceptance] – measures self-esteem at home and within the family unit.
[Peer Popularity] – addresses the quality, importance, and nature of relationships and interactions with individuals outside the family unit.
[Personal Security] – contains statements about an individual’s physical appearance and personal attributes such as distinctive traits of body, character, conduct, temperament, and emotions
The information is then tallied and you are slotted into a scale, which indicates what your attitude towards yourself is and where you feel you fit in the grand scheme of things.
So if we now know that the one thing that kids who make bad decisions have in common is low self-esteem then it seems to make sense that what we really need to do to have a long term solution to the mess we are in is to do our best to ensure that all our young people have higher self-esteem than they do now. You can rest assured that young people with low self-esteem making bad decisions will grow up to be adults with low self-esteem making bad decisions. And at £100,000 per prisoner for construction of new prison places we should do this if for no other reason than fiscal responsibility.
Yes you can spend all your time haranguing kids about ‘don’t take drugs’, ‘don’t hang around with a bad lot’, ‘don’t be promiscuous’, ‘don’t watch porn on the internet’…but trust me, it’s a lot easier when they make those decisions themselves. And there is only one way to do that and that is ensure that they have a solid sense of who they are (whatever their circumstances). Some of our finest citizens have come out of single-parent families in highly-deprived areas so it is NOT impossible. We must stop flinging our hands up and start rolling our sleeves up. Come on people we’ve got to sort this out – it’s costing us on so many, many levels.
Whose responsibility is it to do this? ALL our responsibilities. Here are three things to think about:
1. A recent survey found that over 70% of the media coverage given to young people in this country is negative (People grow into the mirror you hold up in front of them)
2. It was recently noted that calls for help for children in poverty in this country engenders very little to no response yet similar calls for children in Africa will bring in hundreds to thousands of responses. (Is that because we are embarrassed at our short comings as a society so we feel if we don’t look at or acknowledge then it doesn’t exist)
3. I have noticed in my short time blogging that posts that refer to children in the title will usually bring in a substantially lower response.
One of the reasons Morag lives in the UK is because ‘it is a wonderful place in which to raise my child’. I have spent a decade looking rather pityingly at friends from distant shores who say ‘would you ever consider coming back’. Oh no! Trying not to look too smug. It is sooooooooo much better for children here. I wouldn’t even consider living in (fill in the blank for whichever country these well-meaning folk were hailing from). So this week I’ve just put one of those automatic “I am away on holiday please do not leave a message” emails on. Because I know that everyone in my address book from Latvia to Hungary, Holland and Norway – even the Damn Yankees will be sending me ‘soooooo I thought you said………………………dead last out of 21 – behind Hungary and Poland….oh the SHAME!!!!!!!!!