Watching the news tonight and I listened to the mum of 13-year-old boy justifying why her son went to the riots with a hammer strapped to his leg.
He wasn’t rioting, but he was there. The hammer was for his own protection. She was lamenting the injustice of it all.
Would you let your son out with a hammer strapped to his leg? Would you even let him out with friends where he felt the need to carry a weapon?
I just don’t get that at all.
I don’t have the answers when it comes to preventing riots. More intelligent minds than mine will look for reasons for the unrest.
I do feel very uncomfortable when politicians talk about our society being broken, families being without responsibility, gang culture is rife and we have to stop it. All of these reasons may be true – but let’s see in time just who was rioting. It just feels too easy to blame those on low income, from poor backgrounds, social housing, living on benefits, no jobs.
Lots of people in our country have poor starts, bad parenting, terrible experiences – and they’ve used that positively for the greater good.
What I can say, as a mum, that my teenage children would not be out with a hammer strapped to his/her leg. At age 13, they would not be out roaming around with friends, especially if I knew that there was trouble.
While peer pressure is a powerful thing – it is not more powerful than having good parents. If I had to sit down with my child all day to prevent them doing wrong, then I would do it.
I’m no perfect mum but there are some basic things that I can control. I can control whether or not my child has a mobile phone, access to the internet, access to money.
These are all privileges which are removed in my home if rules are broken. These are punishments that older children really get – oh, the horror of having no access to a computer, or even worse, a mobile phone.
And I’m unmoved by protests – I grew up without any of those things and I survived!
Of course, I know as a journalist that’s it’s easy to pick those alleged rioters who are very young – when many more may have gone through the courts who are over 18, might be in work, or, in one case, received looted items but were not part of the actual riots.
Equally I know that police officers often show concern about the behaviour of certain children. It takes just a few individuals in a town who come from extremely troubled backgrounds to cause huge amounts of anti-social behaviour.
Here in Swindon, I’ve been told of so-called ‘feral’ children whose parents aren’t concerned about their whereabouts, their safety, their criminality. They often sleep rough, and move around the town. Their movements can often be tracked by the amount of low level crime that is being carried out.
If that’s true, and I’ve no reason to doubt it, how can you connect or engage with young people who have been abandoned so badly by their parents. Their boundaries are simply not the same as ours. What a sad,sad situation.
Have you ever looked into the eyes of a child with no hope? I have – and it will stop you in your tracks. There’s no answer to it, there are no platitudes that they will hear or respond to.
For parents of those children, they should be brought to book, they should face up to their dereliction. I’m not saying the children who commit crimes should not be punished – but they should also know that those who let them down, must also face justice.