Juvenile Delinquency: When Kids Become Offenders & How To Stop It
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Besides being impressionable and easily influenced, Juveniles lack moral sensibility to understand the complexities of morality, ethics, human sentiments and mores. What is good for them in the long run, what decisions can harm them, how their actions can hurt others etc are questions to which the answers come with proper guidance, and appropriate mentoring. It is generally believed that education in school is enough to ensure a sound child with manners and moral etiquettes. Being good at maths or well-versed in a language does not serve as a guarantee against delinquency as what matters is how they use this knowledge. To put it bluntly, a child might know what is bullying but is he aware that it is a bad deed and how it hurts the victim. Similarly, a child might know the difference between two sexes, but does that mean he understands what gender insensitivity is. He might read plain answers to these questions in a book or so but unless he sees examples of such behaviour, the child cannot bring himself to act like a responsible citizen. When he will witness instances of correct behaviour in people around him, he will be able to imitate accordingly and recognize the need of it. Such people can be his parents, sibling, grandparents, friends, and familiar strangers etc. Also, it takes time on the part of child and sensitivity on the part of the guardian to ensure the child realizes the import of such matters.
Parents/guardians need to appreciate making ‘home’ as a starting ground for child nurturing. What little stories, precepts, parables, discussions and habits a child observes at home have a lasting impression and hence it is at home that a juvenile learns whether to turn out as a delinquent or a model citizen. In order to seriously consider it, one must know the numerous factors which can provoke delinquencies in a juvenile such as:
- Environment at home (family fights, divorce, sibling rivalry, abuse, poverty, too much strictness or excessive pampering, lack of moral sensitisation, etc)
- social milieu (bullying, street fights and violence, gentry, noise, distractions, etc)
- peer group/friend circle etc.
Having said that, it is not fixed that a child born in slums, for instance, will always be a criminal and a child born in a stable family will always turn out to be a model citizen. Families wherein little or no attention is given to moral nurturing tend to bear the brunt of misbehaved, violent and intolerant minors no matter how financially sound or unsound they are. A juvenile can be trained towards moral sensitization so that even if the social milieu or affairs at home are not stable he/she can guard himself against criminal/ immoral tendencies, temptations, and actions.
A child tends to look up to a person as his guide, and will imitate his/her actions without gauging whether they are morally or legally correct. That person can be a parent, father/mother figure, guardian, movie hero/icon, etc and if the child is allowed to imitate the mentality/actions of such a particular figure without any supervision, it can provoke a difficult scenario. We as adults can measure the consequences of our actions and can judge what is right and wrong, but a juvenile still has his cognitive faculties of logic undeveloped to make such intelligent thought processes. Hence, the need to mould such a thought process by way of a sensitive, patient and holistic intervention is required.
Apart from these approaches, there is also a dire need for child psychologists and therapists who can assist the juveniles in their rehabilitation. In India, such an objective is yet to reach fruition which is a sorry reminder of how juveniles are not seen as a responsibility of the masses when it comes to their moral learning and rehabilitation.
If a child acts as a delinquent, it is not that he has failed, but that we as a system of human morals and ethics have failed him.
Why Does A Juvenile Become A Delinquent?
Why juveniles behave irrationally should not be sidelined as baseless or unfounded as there is always a reason behind it. In finding the reason as quickly as possible helps to control the situation otherwise, the problem only gets out of hand and disrupts the balance at home as well as in the society as a whole.
A child can be an offender without even knowing it. That is, he wouldn’t even know if he is doing something wrong, that is why they are called amoral. Unless he is counselled in a proper and delicate manner, he will not check his actions. For him, delinquency can serve as a means to express his confusion, anger, fear, mixed emotions at the world.
Kids are bombarded with too much information in print and in media, but as their minds are still developing, the juveniles are not able to fully process what they see. Hence, they’ll pick up smoking if their actor smokes in the movie, they will resort to offensive language if they hear someone doing the same, or might indulge in vulgar acts which they do not understand or are forced into by peer pressure etc. For them it might seem as normal behaviour or a fashion statement as the notion of morals is yet not comprehensible to them.
To put it simply, if a child behaves delinquently, it should be a tell-tale sign of something bothering him to the point of his acting out. Delinquency in juveniles serves as a:
– a way to express their emotions,
– rebel against what they do not understand or cannot tolerate
– as a method to seize attention if they are ignored or treated as fragile, naive and incapable of taking decisions.
-a way to vent out their anger and why they are angry can be a mix of cumulative factors like too much strictness or neglect at home, school, or frustration at the social system etc.
-to fit in for example if they are surrounded by bad company, they will naturally act like them to fit in.
– to try out things which are forbidden to them or are considered immoral/illegal.
The best approach is to talk and that too in a manner that the minors do not feel criminalised looked down upon or stupid. In snubbing them or offhandedly browbeating them to look away, you are unintentionally shattering their self-worth, ego and dignity. But when you will talk and share your opinion, the minors will feel important and realize they have a responsibility towards the well-being of others as is expected from adults. It requires sensitivity, honesty and patience on the part of the guardian to deal with such things.
If you will lie, the child will pick up on it and will never trust you. If you brush it off, they will never turn to you for advice. If you scold them for asking about forbidden things, they will be more hard-pressed to try it out merely out of anger. The juvenile does not need threadbare details as to why they are being forbidden to try out somethings; they need an honest, patient and sensitive interaction so they do not feel deceived, stupid, or as an outsider in their family circle.
The best strategy is:
- To guide/suggest than impose/dictate ideas into their heads. Also do not undermine or scoff at how they think, what they like, and wish to become.
- To discuss with them than monopolize the conversation. It should be a two-way street no matter the age difference between you as a parent and them as a child. In making them feel naive, foolish or brainless will not help at all. As in doing so, they will consider themselves as outsiders, and will feel alienated.
- To allow them space with balanced scrutiny. Do not overdo being a parent/guardian.
- If they commit a wrong act, do not scold or beat them up, but ensure they realise they can improve and correct their mistakes. Making them feel as criminals will only aggravate the situation.
How to Correct the Juvenile Delinquents
Juvenile delinquency has become a major problem, and only by addressing the basics can it be prevented. Attention towards co-curricular activities should be given to mould the child in the right and engaging way. The more he is forced to obey rules at school, diktats at home, mores of the society, he will escape to criminal acts in order to vent out his frustration. Forcing him/her will only make him hate it all, hence, the approach should be to make exercises of discipline, etiquettes, and moral sense interesting. This is where co-curricular activities come into play.
The idea is to invest a juvenile’s energy, time and receptive mind into constructive activities. Moreover, a child’s performance will improve more if he/she is involved in cultural, sports and literary activities that are not assigned but chosen by the minors according to their tastes and capabilities. The effort should be to encourage them, enliven their spirits, and ensure they are able to find out their potential in an entertaining way.
-Enrol them in life-affirming and productive activities as in sports and games. It helps build companionship, positive behaviour as team spirit, self-confidence, and a sound health to keep negative/cynical thoughts away.
-Organize trips/tours to heritage sites, and other locales to engage their minds at who they are, what is their culture, its richness and accomplishments, and how they can better it etc.
-Suggest Hobbies as gardening, music, book clubs etc as these engaging activities can wipe out the feelings of boredom, pessimism, and indifference etc and cultivate positive anticipations, aspirations and outlook of life.
These are simple strategies to overcome juvenile delinquency. But what about correcting the offenders?
India needs to learn from other countries in how to deal with juvenile offenders. Best examples come from Canada, Unites States and etc where initiatives as restorative justice as opposed to retributive justice, and methods as reintegration into society are in place to correct the delinquents. Some are as:
-erasing of criminal records of the delinquents so they re-integrated into society with a fresh start,
-delinquents made to do community service
– Reconciliation with society than isolation
– Adoption and foster care etc.
– family therapy
Sadly in India, the juvenile offender is seen as a hardened criminal and steps to rehabilitate him are barely made. The difference between an adult criminal and a child delinquent should be emphasized so that the society can stop demonising him.
Understanding Juvenile Delinquency: Now or Never
Some minors throw tantrums. Some shun way from the company. Some are too shy. Such behaviours should not be sidelined as unimportant and should also not be exposed as something wrong. Minors have an intricate way of expressing their emotions which only a patient adult can understand. In ignoring such attitudes or scolding the juveniles for harbouring such attitudes, the child is unable to cope and will lose himself to delinquency. As this matter of juvenile delinquency is not given much importance, children are hence more prone to be misunderstood. We have sayings like ‘ don’t act like a child, don’t throw tantrums like a child, don’t be childish etc which suggest how trivial we consider the problems of a child. And when he/she begins to express them, we call it bad behaviour, punish them and further worsen the situation.
The need is to walk the kid into the world than force him. Some minors take the time to adapt, some do not, one must acknowledge it. Learn to read the signs of whether the kid is under stress or is hiding it. If a child is turning violent and committing acts which are downright indecent, then whipping decency into him is not an answer. This will only make him fan his hate at the system he already has hate for.
As sensitive as this matter is, after all, child is under question here, it needs immense level of sensitivity from the adults to devise proper methods to deal with juvenile offenders. Each child will respond to a different method, so it should be kept in mind. All this effort will ensure that today’s juvenile delinquents do not turn into the criminals of tomorrow, and the juvenile can channelize his potential into something productive and remarkable as well.