Tuesday, April 21, 2015

VANDALISM: COMMUNICATING WITH YOUR KIDS

What possess folks to vandalize, to destroy and damage others property.

Is it hate, jealousy, boredom..revenge, anger, peer pressure or defiance. Why do some participate in the systematic desecration of holy places. Is it because they are bored, does it give teens something to do? Is it the adrenaline rush of committing an act with out getting caught?

Vandals caused in excess of $10,000 damage to Our Lady of Fatima Church early last evening. They busted 17 windows with rocks. As a former Parish Council co-chair, I know how difficult it is to raise money to maintain and repair churches. 

At St. Paul's we used to have a lot of difficulty with vandalism, particularly in the back which does not face Newfoundland Drive. Removing graffiti and an occasional broken window was a nuisance.  

The concept of vandalizing  churches and graveyards is not new.  The old graveyard in St. Bernard's located next to the church is a field where only a few headstones remain. Time, erosion, snow, frost, neglect has taken a toll. Dozens of cracked headstones are piled next to the side of the church. Apparently, in the 1960's (perhaps earlier) a couple of residents got on a tear and went on a spree, pretty much destroying the old white headstones. Senseless vandalism. and destruction. 

I was no goody two shoes as a kid. I never felt the need, or the desire to beat the crap out of something for the sake of doing it. We might throw a bottle in the water and throw rocks at it until it sank; we spent hours shooting at cans and bottles with BB guns and .22s. We were trusted and we took that seriously seriously.

My  parents raised me good, raised me right. Sure, I questioned authority, challenged the status-quo, but I  never destroyed other peoples property. It was not a fear of getting caught, it was knowing it was wrong. You do not vandalize, steal, bully or disrespect your elders. 

This past weekend, I had a bit of "vandalism issue" to content with. My oldest guy had been hanging out with a group of buddies who thought it might be funny to throw a few eggs at some homes for a gag. I suppose it was an in the moment bonding/acceptance activity where a group of peers were the vandalism offers and opportunity for a teen gets to prove his allegiance or bravery, regardless of if he is a "good kid" or not. It was irrelevant that he did not throw and egg.

Fitting in is like a tractor beam for kids, an inescapable pull.  How does a levelheaded teen compromise their morals to part of their peer group. They may be more likely to experiment with drugs or alcohol, or commit other criminal activities, all for the sake of ‘fitting in’.

Even seemingly harmless pranks like egging and toilet papering homes are considered vandalism. There can be legal consequences. 

I have striven to keep an open dialogue with the boys about schedules and friends. I expect to know who there are with are where they are. A  kid that that knows his parents care is more likely to avoid mischievous behaviors in the first place.

When I learned of the egging incident, I made it clear that  any act of vandalism- big or small- is wrong!  It is not a victimless crime. I used the incident as an opportunity to explain just how wrong vandalism can be. I did not accept "but nobody got hurt". 

I explained the real costs. The waste of food, the time it took police to investigate of be preoccupied from other services, the cost of cleaning-up and that time is money. 

Sure I am disappointed. I expect that he has the personal strength to walk away from a situation like that. 

The end result is those cherished Friday and Saturday nights out with the boys will be fewer, he is on the job hunt, a littler earlier than he had expected.

We have a responsibility to ensure we communicate with our children, that we arm them with the tools and self-assurance to become pillars of our community. If we do not teach them the difference between right and wrong, who will?

If we do not teach them that there are consequences, whom will and will it be too late?



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