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Violent behavior in minors: Is bad parenting and an enabling society to blame?

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Posted: Monday, October 7, 2019. 8:50 am CST.

By BBN Staff: An incident involving a minor – one of several residing at the Princess Royal Youth Hostel to have escaped from the facility in August – and police officers that struggled to effectively apprehend her and properly contain the situation went viral recently. This spawned an upheaval of criticism and blame being flung in every direction, some condemning the officers’ seeming lack of professionalism and others detesting the young woman’s own interaction with the cops.

The wild sequence was caught on camera, of course, and immortalized in countless memes poking fun at the fact that five seasoned officers expected to have training in simple apprehension tactics, could not take control of a 15-year-old girl. And while the incident is certainly not emblematic of Belize’s finest, Police Commissioner Chester Williams defended and celebrated his officers, insisting they acted with great restraint and concluding that the minor’s behavior was encouraged by onlookers egging her on. In fact, Williams said he believes the officers took too long to apply necessary force in subduing the resisting minor.

Social media further erupted after the girl’s father did an interview with a local media house complaining about the way his daughter was handled and roughed up by police. His comments raised the ire of certain circles who aimed criticism at the parents. The father was taken to task by certain circles for his comments that he could not handle the young woman and expected that things for her were “going to work out back there,” before disclosing that the family decided to put the child in the government’s hands and makes periodic trips to visit her every two weeks. He also revealed that they were aware the minor claimed she was being harassed at the hostel by some of its staff, sparking criticism that nothing was done about it and some questioning how involved the parents are in the girl’s life.

The incident with this young girl only reminds us of many other, sometimes more violent incidents, that have occurred in Belize and involved teenagers. In fact, there have been a number of murders where boys as young as 15 years were arrested and charged. A few years ago, a young boy, no older than 12 or 13 years, was seen with a machete in hand, chasing another young man of the same age on Central American Boulevard. Only God knows if he would have chopped the other young boy if he had caught up with him, but the act of chasing another person with a machete in hand is itself a violent act.

And while many factors contribute to some of these violent incidents, there is no doubt that bad parenting and an enabling society are two of the main reasons for these behaviors.  In fact, deficiencies in parenting such as inconsistency in discipline, not following through and applying real and effective consequences or punishment for bad behavior, excusing kids from responsibilities, chores and obligations, and other actions such as yelling, cursing, threatening and hitting them with extreme violence often encourage bad behavior in children.

Anyone looking hard enough can certainly assign blame to every facet of society for the continuing erosion of social morals on display by the youth of our country. The decay of our social fabric is quite obvious, evidenced by the frequency with which videos of local residents engaging in salacious altercations have and continue to go viral, from fights to sexually explicit content. Addressing the wide range of issues that’s affecting this type of behavior in our community will require a lot of collaboration, commitment and communication between all relevant parties, including the state, enforcement authorities, parents and educational institutions. At least for now, the Ministry of Human Development, according to its CEO Judith Alpuche, is supporting a push for additional training for officers on how to handle these types of situations.

Changing our violent behavior as a society can happen but it begins within each of us. We cannot overcome this propensity to violence if we are unwilling to change ourselves first. Once we change our bad parenting ways and our own violent behavior, then the seeds of change are planted and begins to spread. As we spread the seeds, others will change and eventually the system will change.

If we as individuals continue to behave violently, teach our kids violence, encourage violence in our society, and practice bad parenting, then Belize will continue to become a more violent society. If we get disenchanted by the fact that as individuals we have little control over how other people behave and forget that we have total control over how we behave, then we are fighting a losing battle.

Let us not forget that the principles and values that we want in society are best transmitted when they are practiced by us first.  If we want a dirty society, then each of us can keep on throwing garbage everywhere, and a culture of dirt and filth will flourish. But if we curse and argue less in front of our kids, practice good discipline, teach them that nothing is wrong with hard work, and teach them to be less confrontational and walk away from stupid conflicts, then we will all contribute to a less violent culture in the JEWEL.

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