Two boys kill their grandmother for her cash and jewelry, as they had to pay some betting debts. A young boy plots and kidnaps his cousin, who is then killed for ransom money to fulfill gambling debts. Both these are real life cases- recent cases that have shocked everyone. There are hundreds of such cases where young adolescent boys from so called ‘safe happy, well educated and well to do families’ are committing such heinous crimes.
My question, didn’t the parents know their kids? Were they unable to see this coming? Were they never aware of such deadly ideologies lurking in their kid’s personalities? All these kids started as innocent young boys, so then when did they cross over? Why did not their parents notice it in their talks, discussions or behavior? It went unnoticed and then it was too late. Parents rarely talk to kids - they only lecture them! Parents rarely discuss, instead only question them. Parents try to change behaviors of kids only by threats, bargaining and bartering. Such kids behave well in front of their parents, but are completely opposite in their absence.
Moral values, morality, ethics and truth are qualities that are not nurtured in our kids today. Parents focus more on excelling and succeeding, at any cost and buy their kids ‘co-operation’ with materialistic bribes. Thereby, nudging their kids towards a lifestyle and mindset that focuses on material gains at any cost.
Motivation is extrinsic, behavior is extrinsically controlled and nothing is intrinsic any more in our kids. They have lost their ‘moral compass’ usually called the conscience because it was never awakened, they never saw it being used, talked about or practiced.
Parents must learn from Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket. Pinocchio had a quirk, every time he would tell a lie - his nose would grow longer. Learning from Pinocchio, parents must observe their kids from childhood – only then they would know exactly when their child is lying, hiding things from them or just being secretive or evasive. Some kids fidget, some don’t look you in the eyes, some start clutching their hands and some lose appetite when they are breaking a rule. It’s easy to spot if you know your child and this is important for parents because just teaching about rules is not the goal. Ensuring that your child wants to follow the rules and equipping your child with ‘something’ that would make your child aware when he is breaking the rules. This ‘something’ for Pinocchio was Jiminy Cricket, his conscience. So, similarly till your child develops his conscience you will have to be his Jiminy Cricket and guide your child. Be an alert parent, be there as a guide and mentor not a police officer.
Being your child’s Jiminy Cricket, teach your child how to think through problems and how to select the right from the wrong even when the wrong looks right at that moment. Teach your child decision making under stress. Teach your child how to counteract temptation, bullies and more. Imply this with games and discussions. Be open to your child asking questions. To know what your child thinks, play ‘what if’ games with your child and you will know whether your child is a pessimist, an optimist or a dreamer, who will get carried away.
In the above cited crimes had the boys thought through their actions, they would have realized that committing the crime was not the easy way out. Instead confessing to their parents would have been the better path to take. In their wrong decision and choice they have now landed in jail. So when you read about such crimes, talk to your kids and discuss with them, ‘where do they think the boys were wrong’, ‘what would you have done differently if you were in their place’. Have heart to heart talks with your children.
As your child nears adolescence pay close attention to his talks, his likes, dislikes, friends etc. Do not spy on them, they hate it. Instead show interest and when you do it from childhood they will not resent it in adolescence. But if you wait till puberty and suddenly start showing interest, then they will not only resent you but rebel too.
Every child has beauty and a beast in his personality. It is up to us as parents whether to use the beast in us and try to get the beauty in them and fail or alternatively, use the beauty of our parenting techniques and tame the beast in our kid’s personality and bring out the beauty.
It’s time for parents to think of Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket, if we want our youngsters to be healthy and happy and not commit crimes. As Jiminy Cricket taught Pinocchio, just whistle when you are in doubt, let’s teach our young children that “when you are in trouble and don’t know right from wrong give a little whistle and let your conscience be your guide. When you make a mistake or feel like breaking a rule or work hard and don’t get the marks, give a little whistle and let your conscience be your guide.”
It’s time to revive Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket and include them in the upbringing of our adolescents.