How to Keep Delinquency Out of Your Home
NOT long ago posters were seen all over New York city bearing the slogan: “When Family Life Stops, Delinquency Starts.” Many students of the grave problem of juvenile delinquency agree with that conclusion. Their comments should interest all parents.
The observations of Sheldon and Eleanor Glueck, directors of the center for research in criminology at Harvard Law School, are especially interesting. After thirty-five years of studying crime and delinquency they are impressed by “the striking role of interpersonal family relations in the genesis of delinquency; the very evident lack of close relationship between the fathers of delinquents and the boys; and the revelations of an almost complete lack of family unity.” Other investigations bear this out.
In Buffalo, New York, a recent study of juvenile delinquents showed that “in not a single case was there a really sound home and family situation.” A report on juvenile delinquency in India said: “Ultimately the family will remain the juvenile’s last and most hopeful avenue for restoring in him the moral fibre and respect for law and order.” This is also the conclusion of Dr. Harry A. Snyder: “If there is any remedy for disrespect for the law, dearth of moral values and absence of religious guidance, it appears that the family circle must assume the primary responsibility.” The difficulty is that homelife is not what it used to be.
CHANGED FAMILY LIFE
For one thing, the modern family has lost the cohesiveness of its predecessor. In earlier times, when dad was on the farm and “working mothers” were in the kitchen, children were under closer supervision of the parents. From Bible-reading parents children absorbed strong moral values. Parents were strict but they let the children know they were wanted and loved. There was no jalopy to whisk junior away from dad’s watchful eye. Instead of commercialized recreation, good times were had in the family living room. The family moved forward as a unit, “all for one and one for all.” Even the youngsters had the responsibility of contributing to the welfare of all the others by doing appropriate chores. In those days families commonly enjoyed an interaction of unity, love, order, responsibility and mutual respect that kept delinquency to a minimum. With the arrival of the predicted “critical times hard to deal with,” however, the pattern of family life is far different in many homes.—2 Tim. 3:1, 2.
Industrial and technological progress and global war have drawn fathers and mothers into factories. Immigration from villages to cities and from one country to another has severed vital links with stabilizing traditions. The automobile has taken children away from home and parental supervision. The Bible’s moral influence has been undermined in many lives by the revival of the evolution theory and the reckless charges of so-called “higher critics.” All of this has paved the way for a moral code that is shamefully lax. Sex and violence have become an ever louder theme of movies, magazines, newspapers, radio and television.
In this new atmosphere the home has become less of a training center and more of a filling station. Youth’s whim is often the center of family authority instead of the parents’ will. In place of the old unity, far too often each member of the family looks after “number one,” himself. Money and pleasure are the only goals for many. Unethical practices are considered “smart” and expedient. Idealistic youth sees many adults paying only lip service to law and morality. Disillusioned, worldly-minded youths have rejected adult society and adopted a code of their own suitable to the society of the street. There, in the absence of adult leadership and a worthwhile goal, “reputation” and “kicks” become the important things in life. Juveniles have found this could be gained and maintained by the thrill of vandalism, theft, fighting and experiences with sex and drugs. Even if there were enough opportunities for employment, these youths no longer know the satisfaction of getting a job done. There is no real incentive to work and save for what they can steal. Understandably, juvenile delinquency has erupted into what New York Judge Samuel Leibowitz recently called “a problem which is as serious as a world conflagration.” Nevertheless, you can keep that conflagration out of your home, if you really want to.
TRAINING PARENTS AND CHILDREN
The first step is for parents to “cease becoming unreasonable, but go on perceiving what the will of Jehovah is.” (Eph. 5:17) Authorities often find that it is harder to deal with the parents of delinquents than with the youths themselves. Parents are in the best position to prevent delinquency when they carefully study God’s Word and enthusiastically apply its principles. Then they can bring their children up “in the discipline and authoritative advice of Jehovah.” (Eph. 6:4) This gives parents the confidence that many seem to lack. It solves the problem of being too strict or too lax, for the Bible way is firmness, tempering justice with mercy, but not leaving wrongdoing entirely unpunished.
When parents fulfill their responsibilities, then they can teach the children theirs. Do not fear that such teaching will give your child a “guilt complex.” Let him know that God, you and society will reward him for right works and punish him for deliberate wrongdoing. Make it clear that you and your child are both answerable to God’s law; that there is one law for both of you without partiality. God’s method for you to get his laws across to your children is stated at Deuteronomy 6:7: “Speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road and when you lie down and when you get up.” Explain to your youngster that God’s purpose is to let obedient people live in his righteous new world. (2 Pet. 3:13) Make it crystal clear that no thief, greedy person or rebellious boy or girl will get into God’s kingdom.—1 Cor. 6:9, 10; Ps. 37:9; Ezek. 9:6.
As you inculcate and practice godly principles at home, your child will absorb moral values and develop attitudes that reflect this divine influence. Regardless of society’s changing code and no matter what other youngsters do, your child will shun delinquency because he knows what God says right and wrong are. He will want to do the right thing if you tie in obedience to God’s law with his goal in life.
A GOAL AND RESPONSIBILITY
Lack of a goal in life causes many youths to drift into trouble. They are like a ship without a destination. Without the Bible to guide them, they do not even have a rudder. Whatever trade or profession your child prefers in order to make a living, it is up to you to show him that his basic goal in life is to walk with God and gain everlasting life. (John 17:3) Point out how peace and security can be his now in spite of our critical times, if his goal is to do God’s will. When that becomes his firm purpose he will see that reading, writing and study of sacred and secular history are means of reaching his goal. He will understand that truancy is a waste of valuable time, that study is a wise investment and that even minor delinquent acts would hinder him from attaining his purpose in life. When he sees what his basic purpose in life is, then show him that his purpose has meaning here and now by giving him some responsibility.
Playing a responsible, productive role in life should be a big part of your child’s purpose in living. He should begin to learn this sense of responsibility and productivity as soon as possible. You can start by teaching him to dress himself, pick up his clothes, toys and books. If you live in the suburbs, very likely there are many responsibilities that can be assigned, such as cutting the grass, trimming hedges, raking leaves, painting a fence, cleaning the attic or cellar. If you live in a rented city apartment, the table has to be set, dishes must be washed and dried, rugs need vacuuming, floors need waxing, furniture can be dusted and polished and clothes must be ironed, and there are always the beds and shopping. If this does not provide enough opportunities, another place you can teach him responsibility is at the congregation meeting place.
Encourage your child to volunteer to help keep the congregation’s meeting place clean or to straighten the chairs, help fold Bible tracts, close the windows after most have gone home, and shovel snow. Set the right example by volunteering yourself, if at all possible.
By fulfilling such assignments your youngster will learn something noticeably lacking in the training of delinquent children—how to work and how to cooperate with others. He will learn the joy of a job well done. With that feeling comes respect and a step toward maturity. Do not let your son learn this lesson the hard way, as one nineteen-year-old did. Only after serving a term in a State youth camp was he able to say: “They taught me how to work, the . . . pleasure a man can get out of doing something for himself.” Giving your child responsibilities will also provide a way to check his initiative, thoroughness and reliability. As Proverbs 20:11 says: “Even by his practices a boy makes himself recognized as to whether his activity is pure and upright.” Special attention can be given to points in his disposition requiring improvement. Faithful performance of duties provide opportunity for commendation and extra privileges. In this connection you have an opportunity to teach the valuable lesson of how to work and save for things desired. Of course, being your offspring, your child is no more perfect than you are. Do not expect perfection, but do not overlook needed discipline either.
DISCIPLINE AND LOVE
When giving instructions or commands, say what you mean and mean what you say. If you give orders in a nagging fashion, you teach your child how to disobey, for he knows he can ignore your command and you will oblige by repeating it. But he will not tarry if you demonstrate that your words are backed by action. Of course, many times it may be wise to give a reason for a certain command or restriction. You may feel that you do not have to give your child a reason for your orders, but remember this: By understanding why a certain course is wise or foolish, your child will have good reason to choose the wise course when you are not present. Notice how the Bible frequently gives the reason why a course is good or bad. Copy that good example.—Prov. 23:20, 21; 24:15, 16, 19, 20.
When your child takes the foolish course, in spite of your good counsel, remember Proverbs 22:15: “Foolishness is tied up with the heart of a boy; the rod of discipline is what will remove it far from him.” Jehovah urges you not to hold back discipline from a mere boy. (Prov. 23:13, 14) You know when your child is out of line, and very likely he knows it too. As one delinquent told a reporter: “I never got a whipping, although, actually, I often felt I should have.” Do not irritate your children by constantly changing the “rules” or punishing a disobedient act one day and not the next. Copy Jehovah. Live up to your word, be consistent and discipline out of love.—Prov. 13:24; Heb. 12:6.
In these critical times when many are without natural affection it is important that your child know he is loved and wanted. (2 Tim. 3:3) When you lay down reasonable restrictions as to right company and late hours and strictly enforce your wishes you show that you are a loving parent that really cares. Your love is felt, though perhaps not appreciated at the moment, when you insist that your child always ask permission to go somewhere and that he tell you with whom he is going. Time and again it is found that when children get into trouble, such as shoplifting, their parents have no idea where they are. If you care, you will make it your business to know. You will also teach your child to stay away from anyone who would induce him by ridicule or coercion to go against the wish of his God or his parents. Teach him that his reputation with God is the one that really counts. If adversity strikes your family, turn it to advantage by showing your child how to draw close to God for comfort and guidance. All this is part of the priceless training of your child in the way he must go for everlasting life.—Prov. 22:6.
If you have given your child the Kingdom as his goal, if you have taught him to look to God’s Word for guidance and have trained him to handle responsibility, he will see that vandalism, theft, immorality and any other form of delinquency are all things that can take him off the road leading to life. (Matt. 7:14) Keep delinquency out of your home by running it in strict harmony with Jehovah’s authoritative advice. “By wisdom a household will be built up, and by discernment it will prove firmly established.”—Prov. 24:3.