Clergymen plead with parents to be better at teaching kids control
Religious leaders have voiced concern over the prevalence of disruptive behaviours in the nation’s schools and the harmful outcomes of the disputes that follow.
Speaking to The Gleaner on Tuesday, in the wake of two separate incidents that occurred in schools based in rural Jamaica, clergy members said swift action was critical to address juvenile aggression and other maladaptive behaviours present in school-aged children to help them learn to control their emotional states.
Last Friday, a 14-year-old male student at B.B. Coke High School in St Elizabeth was rendered unconscious after he suffered a beating from a grade-11 schoolboy who was allegedly infuriated after the student accidentally stepped on his shoes.
During a Monday appearance before the St Elizabeth Parish Court, the accused student was offered bail of $300,000 with surety.
He has been charged with assault occasioning grievous bodily harm.
A similar incident reportedly transpired on Monday at Steer Town Academy in St Ann, when a female student was allegedly beaten until she was unconscious by a group of female students, after being accused of stepping on one of the girls’ shoes.
Speaking on his own interpretation of these incidents, The Reverend Gary Harriott, moderator of the United Church in Jamaica and The Cayman Islands, said violence has ingrained itself into the minds of young people due to the general decline in good morals and values in society, the harmful circumstances in which children are nurtured, and other negative influences across the various sectors of the country.
He continued that some young people have adopted a value system in which the importance of material possessions has surpassed that of individuals and human lives in society.
NEED FOR COUNSELLING
Harriott said that, with a lack of proper guidance at home and at the community level, in some cases, there was a need for counselling of youth to help them deal with past traumas to be better individuals in the future.
He argued that, to assist students in becoming the best versions of themselves, and to shape them to be positive contributors to society, a more deliberate approach was needed that goes beyond involvement in academic development.
“We need to equip more adults, not just guidance counsellors ... [but also] parents, church people and different people with at least some basic skills in terms of how you deal with trauma,” he said.
He also advocated for bringing into the school curriculum the teachings of peace building and conflict management from the basic school level.
“So, we are teaching our children that conflicts are natural ... but how do you handle that? Help them to connect to their feelings and how you express those feelings,” he said.
Meanwhile, The Reverend Newton Dixon, general secretary of the Jamaica Council of Churches (JCC), stated that when it comes to the mental health challenges facing the country, Jamaica is in a “worse position than we’re really aware of”. The ill-heath of the adult population, he said, was exacerbating the problems of our children.
“And so, there needs to be a ramping up of our attention and our initiatives in the area of mental health for our children. There is need for general, broad-based interventions, there is need for greater diagnostic activities and there certainly needs, coming out of those diagnoses for targeted mental health initiatives,” Dixon said.
SPIRITUAL WELL-BEING DETERIORATING
In addition to this, he pointed out that the spiritual well-being of the nation’s children was also deteriorating, stating that several church leaders have been lamenting the decline in attendance of children and adolescents sitting in church pews.
He maintained that this has led to a decline in youth spiritual development, which is essential for human development.
“We must, as churches, find a way to bring our children back under the influence and the guidance that the Church provides in the form of spiritual formation, helping them to understand the value of prayer ... the value of devotional engagement ... to appreciate and understand the value of even silence and being able to spend a moment in reflection and meditation,” he said.
“I believe that all of these disciplines will help our children to develop greater control of themselves, to develop their moral compass and to grow and mature to be stable and civil human beings,” he added.
Dixon stated that young minds, which are typically considered impressionable, were under spiritual attack as the society has given young people access to and exposed them to harmful experiences that have impacted their psychological well-being.
Evil has always existed, he reasoned, but then expressed that when he was growing up, his parents and the larger community would ensure that he had “the covering” of prayer, guidance, protection, and discipline.
Dixon stated that children learned from the society, therefore, it was surprising that they are not a part of the violent behaviours exhibited in the country.
Dixon urged the nation to be better parents.
“And parenting here is not just the parent in the home. The parent also in the school and the parent also on the street and the parent also in the church, we have to be better caregivers to these children, we have to do better at what we do in teaching them to be better human beings or the violence is going to continue to run amok in our schools,” he added.