21 February 2023
Violent youth crime in this nation seems to be on the increase. Recent television footage of children running amok in Alice Springs and violent episodes in Darwin, Perth, Cairns, Sydney, and Adelaide led to calls by groups of citizens for harsher sentences and increased deterrents. This is the reverse of the scientific, criminology-based solutions which have resulted in jolly strong lectures about right and wrong and overall lighter sentences.
Convictions of teenage men and women have seen convicts released back into the community, often subject to the same authorities from whom they learnt their trade.
It would be unwise to say that the demands of citizens fell on deaf ears, since Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced an enquiry into the issue and a review of her already amended youth crime strategy.
It is a difficult issue to solve. Once teenagers on the cusp of adulthood have experienced the benefits of crime, the law is unlikely to change their minds. Setting the culprits free is only a form of encouragement. Society is faced with a conundrum.
The young are criminals who will continue to commit crimes unless they are locked away. But locking them away with other criminals hardens their resolve to act like criminals. The solution, as every parent knows, lies in preventing children from enjoying the excitement of criminal actions, and becoming actual criminals.
I would like, therefore, to suggest that the best-qualified people to make this happen are the same parents who today are failing in their duty. That seems to prove that bringing up children is difficult; but it is not impossible, provided parents can overcome the good time preference for beer, BBQs, and drugs.
There is no science of child raising, there is only an art; general rules that can be passed on by experience but which have to be adjusted to the facts because every child is different. As a parent, you have to learn those differences and temper your natural affection with a little tough love. Too much and the child’s spirit can be broken for keeps. Too little and the child learns quickly that it can get away with anything.
Parents do not need to know the purpose of child raising; only that the child will be happier if it does what it’s told by its parents and teachers. Learning that simple rule means that by the time he is sixteen years of age, the child is able to happily obey the law. That means that until a child is sixteen or seventeen years old, parents are responsible for the child and are constantly supervising its growth.
Many parents confuse the development of a child’s character with its preparation for employment or the learning of a sport. While the latter is necessary and important, it is the child’s character that will prevent it from becoming engaged in violent actions and criminal pursuits.
There are many aspects to a child’s development but there is no substitute for parental attention, for that presence that encouraged a child to turn to its parents for help. We could have a long debate about the benefits of sport and music for childhood development, but given the predominance of certain sports and certain modes of music, the correct sport and the correct music might be difficult to define.
For music, the best music course, and cheapest for everyone concerned could be had if every child was taught how to sight-sing, to sing by simply looking at the sheet of music. That beautiful instrument, the human voice, is portable and once learnt, can be used anywhere in the world.
Nothing in this life is guaranteed. Many parents spend the first four or five years gushing over a baby which they assume is self-sufficient and in need of nothing further except a little food two or three times a day and pocket money to stop them from stealing.
And, that is actually the solution to the current crisis… If pocket money prevents children from feeling the need to steal, the reverse should also work. Parents of children, up to the age of sixteen or seventeen, should be held financially responsible for the damage their children cause.
If that doesn’t make parents extra careful about what their children are doing, perhaps the only thing left is to lock them away.
Dr. David Long is a retired solicitor. His PhD articulated how certain elements of our Constitution, derived from the American founding, confirmed the Australian people’s sovereignty. It showed that the legal arguments for Whitlam’s dismissal were expressly rejected by the 1897 Constitutional Convention.