A father slaps his child across the face in a shopping centre; a man punches a women in the face whilst in a car together; one child is being taunted, teased and pushed by a group of youths; we can hear a couple fighting in the house next to ours, children screaming, adults yelling, things being thrown and broken – what do we do?
It is so easy to say the words, I would step in and… but would you? Have you ever walked past a situation like the ones above and done nothing? Is it our right to intervene in such a situation? Do we put ourselves in danger or at risk in some way? Could we fall victim to the same behaviour? Is it even our business? Now… would we want the help of a complete stranger if we were the victim in the above scenarios?
Too many people walk by poor behaviour every day and do nothing at all. They justify their decision to turn the other cheek by stating that it is not our business, and this helps them sleep well at night.
I take a view that the behaviour we walk past is indeed the behaviour we accept. If the good people walk past such poor behaviour and do nothing at all, they condone it, allow it to continue and are contributing to the poor behaviour we see in society every day, including the continuing increase in domestic violence.
There are times at which we can step in and resolve a situation and there are times we best call the police. I am certainly not suggesting that other people should put themselves in danger – one must assess this for themselves, but to walk past or to ignore is wrong.
The behaviour we walk past in society today, is the behaviour our children and grandchildren will endure during their lifetime. Don’t we want something better for them?
As parents, we love our children, they are precious and special to each one of us. But, how much do we assist other parents? If we know that another child is undertaking increasing, dangerous risk-taking behaviours and getting involved with binge drinking, drugs, hooning or engaging in activities that put them at risk, do we raise this with the other family or the school? Or, do we just say, my child will not do this and deal with our own situation?
Again, many reading this may well not wish to interfere because it is not their issue, not their child, not their problem or are fearful of the other parent responding poorly to the information. I understand the reticence, but how will you feel if another child dies through such activities and you held the key to making a difference, but chose not to do so? Will the concept, it was not my business, allow you to sleep at night?
As a society, we need to do better; as a community we need to do better. We need to accept that young people take risks – this is a normal part of adolescence. We took risks when we were young as we started to develop our independence from our parents and so our children will do the same to us. We need to be sure that such risk-taking behaviours are not dangerous or can cause significant injury, harm or death.
We fail each other, and we fail our community when we know young people are making such errors of judgement and do nothing; and I will go as far as stating that, in many regards, we may need to accept our role in their harm if we chose to do nothing at all.
As parents, we need to accept a few golden home truths:
Sadly, the people who need to understand this the most will probably never read this article. We cannot hide behind the statement – it is not my child and therefore not my business. I am sure the day any one of us is faced with a tragedy with our own children, we would have given all we owned to have been informed of what they were doing to put themselves at risk.
I urge all parents to ask themselves, what support would you like from another parent if they were aware that your child was putting themselves in harm’s way?
Would you like them to talk to you, or for them to inform the College, so that help could be given?
If you would want this support, then you are obliged to offer all others the same.
Nelson Mandela once said, “There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children”. I would add that there is no better reflection of a man or woman’s soul than the way they treat all others. If we believe ourselves to be good people, if we believe in a positive society for our children, if we want the best for our children, then this can only be achieved if we want this for all – and hence our obligation to every child.