Monday, 5 October 2015

"Get parents more involved"

is apparently going to be the new solution for "stopping teens from becoming radicalised". "Getting families more involved" too is another one. 
Oh yes. It sounds so simple. If your parents know what you are doing then you won't do it will you? You won't be able to do it will you?
The attack in Sydney which killed an unarmed civilian who happened to work in the police headquarters is being treated as a "terrorist" attack. It was apparently the work of a teenager who had become "radicalised". People are now "looking for answers".
Well perhaps there are some answers - but I doubt they will be acceptable to those searching.
An eight year old turned up to our knitting guild on Saturday. She is learning to knit. She sat there in among all the adults. She spoke when someone spoke to her but she didn't say much else. Why would she? There wasn't anyone else her age there. The conversation wasn't the sort of thing she was likely to be interested in. We did have a short conversation - about books. I think she enjoyed that bit of the afternoon. I did. But where were the rest of the kids her age? There weren't any. There should have been. We should be crowded out with kids wanting to learn to knit, crochet and more. Will she come again - or have we lost her because she was the only one?
The state's Embroider's Guild is doing a great job in that respect. They have their own premises. That helps. They run classes and provide certificates of achievement. The kids (admittedly mostly but not exclusively girls) do some great work. It's a little easier to get kids to embroider I suppose. The results are faster. They embellish the cloth rather  than make it. Still...they are doing it. They want to be there and adults are only part of what is going on.
I think of all the things we did as kids. We were always making, doing, reading about "how to", repairing, and of course reading anything and everything. Because we lived in rural areas we spent hours in the bush making things. We didn't ring bark trees out of boredom or set fire to anything. We most certainly didn't become teenagers whose heads were filled with radical ideas that involved getting a gun and going out and killing someone. We had too much to do. 
We didn't have the instant communication with friends via text messages so we had to plan ahead. We didn't have the same easy access to alcohol and cars. 
We aren't going to be able to reimpose a drinking age of 21 - although I think it might be a good thing as it might actually raise it to about 18 rather than 13 or 14. We won't stop easy access to cars - although raising the driving age might be a good thing too and the probationary period could certainly be extended. 
So what do we need to do instead? Perhaps we need to start at the very bottom. Instead of worrying about whether a pre-schooler has "all the skills" needed for school we need to think about whether they can actually play - play creatively without adult supervision. We need to stop worrying whether a kid can code and start worrying whether, given a box full of "useful junk", they can create something interesting without any adult interference. We need to stop worrying about whether an older child is involved in a supervised activity every afternoon after school and whether they can get outside and build a tree house or modify their bike or organise a game the adults take no part in. 
We need to back off and let kids sort things out for themselves sometimes. If they get hurt doing it then that is part of the learning process. They will be learning about consequences.
 Perhaps that is where we need to start. It is just that it all seems so much easier to supervise their every move when they are young. It's "safer" that way - safer until we think they are old enough to be responsible but haven't actually learned how to be responsible.

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