Monday, December 29, 2008

Parental discipline first

Juvenile delinquency is on the rise in Japan. Searching for the causes of this social problem, many Japanese parents focus on how little teachers discipline children. But I believe parental discipline should come first.
A preschool boy and his pregnant mother walk into a doctor's waiting room. There are two seats available: a big chair for grown-ups and a stool for kids. The little boy takes the adult seat and starts to throw a tantrum after his mom asks him to move. With resignation, she squats on the little seat.
"This scenario is not so unusual," said the doctor. In his office, he often sees kids wield power over their parents. "One day it's a grade-school boy who's emptying out his mother's purse. Another day it's a tot who's stretching out her father's glasses. Every time, kids get their way." Do such parents have the right to rebuke teachers?
Japanese parents depend on school too much to discipline their children. At the same time, when teachers scold students, some parents complain about it. I work with many kids and have the opportunity to meet their parents. I am amazed at how lenient both Japanese mothers and fathers are toward their children.
While exchanging ideas on "family relationships" with a group of Japanese teens the other day, I said Japanese fathers should become more involved in their children's spiritual upbringing. They reacted rather coolly to my suggestion.
"My father is always away," said a third-year middle school boy. "The little time he spends at home is to get drunk and complain about everything. I hate him!"
"I guess it's a hard job supporting a family, but I don't really respect him," a second-year middle school girl said about her father. She said she does not recall ever having been scolded by her father, nor does she think he ever took the time to teach her any valuable lessons about life.
Once, the Pilanesberg Wildlife Park in South Africa was having a problem with juvenile delinquents killing their rhinos and harassing tourists. But they weren't ordinary juveniles. They were young elephants. This group of young elephants had been taken away from their parents and released as a group into the park with no older elephants to give them guidance.
Park rangers then arranged for some older male elephants to be flown in by helicopter. Once the adult males arrived, they began bringing the young wayward elephants back in line.
Dads, could there be a lesson here? "A child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame." So the solution to juvenile delinquency is parental discipline. It is fathers spending quality time with their kids.
I have three grade-school children. When I have to punish them to teach them the difference between right and wrong, it's not pleasant at all. It demands firmness. Yet, "he who loves well, punishes well."
By Joel Assogba [Shukan ST: Feb. 8, 2008 (Published in Japan Times ST)]

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