boy breaking into a carOn Tuesday 9th August our family went into central London. The streets were full of police. We spotted police riot vans from all over England and Wales. We went for a curry in Tooting and have never seen so many police officers on the street. Every time a vehicle with a siren drove down the road, everyone looked up to see what sort of emergency vehicle it was. We drove through Wimbledon. Every Pub was closed and curtains drawn. Corner shops were closed. Car showrooms were empty. The roads were unusually empty –of cars and pedestrians. Fear was in the air.

Luckily, after three nights of rioting, London escaped a fourth night of violence. But the papers were filled with condemnation of the parents of the youths who were out rioting. Occasional stories talked of parents handing their own children over to police when photos appeared in the papers. Everybody was in a state of disbelief over the sheer enormity of what had happened. And how quickly it had got out of hand.

So what do you think about the parents of the youths who were looting and setting fire to shops? Do you have sympathy for their poverty, their lives, their desperation? Or do you feel that the parents are as much to blame for the riots as their children? Partners in crime? A poor example for their offspring?

One thing that experience has taught me is that almost all of the parents I have ever met love their children and want to do their best in bringing them up. Most parents of teenagers who have gone off the rails would do anything to help their child get through the difficult teenage years. One father recently said that he will have succeeded as a parent if his daughters were not pregnant and were not in prison by the time they reached 18. Can you even imagine this as your definition of success? Some parents look on from their comfortable homes and working lives and condemn those parents who struggle every day of their lives not knowing what to do for the best.

I just feel hugely sad that parents today are not offered the sort of help that could really make a difference. The tools, techniques and strategies that can help them pass on their family values to their young people. Where are the parents of teenagers supposed to turn when they realise that their youngster is taking drugs, joy riding, having sex or entering a world of crime? They are dammed. As a society we throw up our arms in horror when we see the result of the lack of input that these parents needed when their youngsters had not even started school.

At some point, the community will start to understand that prevention is better than cure. Can you imagine the money spent on the damage repair being spent on parenting assistance? Helping parents from the very start has a huge impact on the way they bring up their children. Giving parents of teenagers a safe place to go to when things go wrong, with good quality advice and support would enable parents to help their teens turn their lives around. Mentors for teenagers are needed. This is our country and our problem. We are the people sitting in front of our comfortable TV screens condemning what we see. At what point do we ask ourselves, ‘What am I doing about it?’

The Parent Gym in London is doing its best to help the families in income-deprived areas of London. There is an event at City Hall on 28th September for potential volunteer coaches.

www.parentgymvolunteer.eventbrite.com

Why not consider going along?

Or look at your own area and think what you could do for young people in your own community?

Could you be a part of the solution?

Food for thought!