A story was told by a woman of how an eight-year-old foster child who came to stay with her family refused to drop a bad habit of stealing despite weeks of frantic efforts to discourage the behaviour. She initially felt that if she could set a trap and catch her red handed, she would stop stealing. Even after she was caught, disgraced and terribly flogged, she still continued. The woman said that the event that frightened her most occurred around 1a.m. on a particular day when she was woken up by the sound of an aluminum pot cover. She hastened to her kitchen to find out what the sound was about. To her dismay, her girl was stealing a piece of meat from her pot by that time of the night!
This eight-year-old girl was obviously showing signs of delinquency because she did not respond positively to the disciplinary measures that were adopted to discourage her from stealing.
At this point, most adults would get hysterical, and mete out inhuman acts of punishment to the child. Flogging the child with wire, hitting with heavy objects, starving and cutting the mouth and fingers with a razor blade are some of the condemnable ‘disciplinary measures’ usually adopted in anger. Some of such children may end up being described as witches or demon-possessed and may be required to pass through inhuman religious processes for deliverance. Stories have been told of how delinquent teenagers are kept in home-made, school-made and community-made prisons under harsh conditions so that they would learn discipline from their sufferings. Claims of rape of female teenagers in such prisons are common.
Some of such children may be so traumatized by violence that their real selves would be shackled into hidden corners in their hearts. The children would therefore be coerced into an illusory form of compliance or obedience. Parents, teachers and caregivers who adopt this approach are really kept busy daily designing and applying punishment in increasing measures to maintain a desirable level of this illusory atmosphere of discipline. Regrettably, children in such environments, except by God’s grace would slip into indiscipline if given the slightest opportunity.
The unfortunate thing is that acts of brutality tend to worsen rather than alleviate the situation. The aggressive approach does not produce children who acquire discipline as personality attributes. Brutality has produced children whose consciences are dead. They would have rebellion tucked in their hearts awaiting convenient times for expression. There have been stories where such children waylaid parents and teachers in vengeance.
I am sure that we would all be wondering how to face the challenge of correcting a child whose conscience is unresponsive, who neither fears God nor his parents, who is not capable of guilt feelings, who may not care about other people’s opinion of him or her, who cares little or nothing about the consequences of his actions, and who would in fact be progressively unmoved by the punishment that would ordinarily discourage his or her peers. I am of the opinion that delinquency is really a spiritual rebellion.
In seeking for solution to delinquency, aggression is ruled out since it is ineffective and will further debase the child. The optimum method to adopt should be such that will help achieve restoration and revival spiritually, intellectually, socially and physically. The target should be to restore normalcy to a personality who has helplessly taken to rebellion. The restoration plan should be such that will help the child achieve an inner set of stable positive values.
Parents of delinquent children should be properly guided.
- Parents should be more available to work with God for this special restoration role. Delinquency should not be a reason to abandon any child.
- Parents should prayerfully get closer, talk more, and listen more to the child to get more insight into the child’s problem.
- Parents should ensure that the child is patiently provided with the guidance and explanations he or she requires to obey instructions or carry out assignments properly.
- The child’s relationship with people in his environment should be properly reviewed to exclude frustration.
- Parental unconditional and unending love for the child should get stronger throughout the delinquency ordeal.
- The delinquent child should be truly and completely forgiven.
Parents should avoid the common mistake of always referring to the child’s misdeeds or interpreting the child’s behavior from the perspective of his past misdeeds. Such interpretations introduce hopelessness, faithlessness and stagnation to the child’s situation.
It is also unnecessary and will work against the desired purpose to discuss the child’s behavior publicly or with visitors. Other close relations of the child should be also be cautioned to avoid these mistakes.
- The correction skills that were discussed in our last post will be very useful in coping with delinquency.
“In correcting children, parents should communicate love, logical reasoning, fear of God and the avoidable negative consequences of wrong actions.
It really takes the redeeming power of God to deal effectively with the depravity of man. (Romans 7:24). My personal experiences have proved the efficacy of God’s word and prayer in the correction of wrong behaviour in children.
Parents should not be too hasty in expecting results when correcting a child. A skilled parent should follow up closely on the child, rewarding every little improvement with love, hope and faith.”
- The child’s teachers in school are also expected to relate with the child skillfully.
Delinquency should not excite hopelessness and aggression. It should be approached with prayer, commitment, love, hope and faith.
-Uchenna N. Nduka