Sun | Oct 1, 2023

Michael Abrahams | Children these days

Published:Tuesday | March 21, 2023 | 12:18 AM

It happened again last week. I clicked on a video in a WhatsApp group I am a member of and saw two schoolgirls fighting each other while other students looked on excitedly as if they were watching an action film.

These videos have become too familiar. Boys fighting boys. Girls fighting girls. Boys and girls fighting each other. Students fighting teachers. Our youth have gone wild. Kids have always fought at school, but there appears to be an uptick regarding violence at educational institutions, and cell phones and social media have helped immortalise some of these “epic” battles in cyberspace where they are accessible for our perusal.

People often complain about “kids these days” and how today’s youth are out of control. I listen to these comments and nod my head in agreement. However, while I concur, there is a stark reality I am forced to acknowledge, and it is that the wayward behaviour of our children is a reflection of us.

Our children do not depart the womb as undisciplined punks. Yes, genetics does play a role in influencing our personalities and behaviours, but socialisation of our children plays a humongous role in influencing how they behave. They need safe and functional family structures, nurturing, guidance, and appropriate role models. And we have been doing a crappy job of providing those for them.

For a start, we have a penchant for bringing children into dysfunctional situations. Too often, we see traits in the people we have sex with that would make them poor parents but we are careless and allow pregnancies to occur. This is often where the issues start. If you bring a child into an environment where they are unwanted, neglected or abused, the seeds are planted for the development of dysfunction.

NEGLECT NORMALISED

We beat our children a lot, and neglect has become normalised as many go through childhood with one or both parents missing in action. Too many children grow up with “granny” and “auntie” while their parents are nowhere to be found or only make occasional guest appearances. The phenomenon of “outside children” is also way too prevalent. These factors contribute to the fragmentation of the family unit and impact our youth negatively. If we continue these patterns of abuse and neglect, what do you think will happen to our children? Will they not be traumatised?

We joke about our culture and our habit of being late. We announce starting times for events and repeatedly commence them late, usually with no apology, displaying a lack of respect for those who are inconvenienced. We accept this practice and move on, but we ought not to. It is an indicator of indiscipline and disrespect. When our children see us being okay with this, do you not expect them to follow suit?

Political corruption is rife in our country. It has become endemic. Co-mingling with “dons” and members of the underworld, distributing firearms, and taking money that could help the vulnerable in our country have become an accepted part of our political culture. When our children see elected officials being dishonest and uncouth, and even engaging in illegal activity with no consequences, should you be surprised if their respect for authority is not what it ought to be?

DECAYED

Our society has decayed to the point where people break laws with impunity while simultaneously displaying a sense of entitlement. Recently, taxi and bus drivers protested and went on strike because they claimed they needed more time to pay for outstanding traffic tickets. Some had accumulated dozens, even hundreds of them. Road traffic laws are enacted for our safety. Deaths from motor vehicle accidents in Jamaica occur at a very high rate. In 2021 there were 487 road fatalities, one of the highest numbers we have had in years. But we see people who break these laws feeling entitled to be given a “bly”. If our country were not so slack, they would not have had the audacity to even think about this. But that is the level we have sunk to. And our children are watching.

This is the country our children live in. One mired in corruption, indiscipline, and lawlessness. We complain about our children, but who brings these children into this world? Who is raising, or choosing not to raise, these children? Who is abusing these children? Who is setting bad examples for these children? Who is tolerant of the slackness in our society?

We gripe about our children while ignoring the elephant in the room, and that elephant is us. Our kids are a reflection of us. They are mirrors. If we want our children to do better, we must do better. Family planning must become a priority, not just contraception but literally planning families and being committed to being there for our children. The cultural practices that we embrace but are counterproductive must be addressed. We must be committed to becoming the best versions of ourselves because by doing so, our children, being reflections of us, will also be the best versions of themselves.

Children these days are merely a reflection of us these days, and it is not pretty at all.

Michael Abrahams is an obstetrician and gynaecologist, social commentator and human-rights advocate. Send feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and michabe_1999@hotmail.com, or follow him on Twitter @mikeyabrahams.