Teaching children to develop a conscience or feelings that show remorse, sorrow or regret is a parenting skill that benefits a child’s character education. Everyone is born with a conscience, but how one progresses in life from early adolescence to adulthood with expectations that he or she becomes responsible recognizing and using human conscienceness in a healthy manner, is not easily understood. Author, Stephanie, a frequent contributor to ScottCounseling, has presented an article that discusses youth conscience. Ms. Mann’s shares expert insights on what she feels is “the common denominator” for a lack of youth consciousness. She also shares some parenting tips on what parents can to to promote a healthy conscience while raising a child in a world that often seems to lack this important character trait.
Youth Without A Conscience
The headline from Pinole, California read: “The killer showed no remorse.” A 28- year-old man was sentenced for killing two young teens by mistake because they wore red (the gang color of his enemies). At the hearing, he turned to the sobbing parents of his victims and said, “Get over it!”
Criminal gangs in the USA have swelled to an estimated one million members who are responsible for up to 80% of crimes in communities across the nation, according to the Justice Department’s National Gang Intelligence Center.
Gangs can be stopped before they start, if ordinary citizens will make an effort to understand where their unconscionable behavior comes from. Parents, teachers and guardians must help children find their emotional “center” at an early age so they can avoid the self-destructive path of gangs and reach their full potential.
As a mother, grandmother, violence prevention consultant and author of “Street Safe Kids,” here is what I have learned over 40 years of working with children – and helping them understand what it means to be “centered”:
The Centered Child
Each child has his or her own personality and a God-given conscience that needs to be nurtured and encouraged. They need to be shown how to tap into their own core of ethical principles that will keep them from being swayed by drug dealers, gang leaders or other destructive influences. The majority of parents are doing a good job of raising “centered” children who listen to their consciences, respect others and know the difference between right and wrong. Those parents, however, need to reach out to others who are not teaching their children these important lessons. They need to add their strength to the circle of support for others.
The Off Centered Child
Generally speaking, I see varying degrees of behavior within two categories of “off-centered” children:
The Bully Child – Conscience is ignored
Bullies (ringleaders) don‘t know how to handle their emotions (such as anger) and try to manipulate others. Strong-willed children need love, firm discipline and “circles of support” so they learn how to modify their behavior. Without support, a bully can develop an inflated ego with little or no empathy for others. Bullies blame other people for their problems and look for emotionally weak children that they can manipulate in order to feel in control.
The “Pin Cushion”(Victim) Child – Doesn’t trust his or her conscience
Emotionally passive children often suffer in silence. Without guidance, love and support, “pin cushion” kids don’t grow strong from within. Sensitive children may not speak up and can be easily dominated because they feel powerless. They can become followers who go along just to belong and to have friends. These children don’t trust their consciences or intuition but look for others to make their decisions.
These are generalizations about a wide variety of “off-center” behaviors because some children go from being victims at home to acting like bullies at school. Parents may not listen or they might be too protective or domineering. Abuse and neglect can create self-destructive teens. Bullies and “pin cushion” followers may not fit in with their peers. They may take drugs to escape their conscience. Teens may join gangs or cults to have support, feel powerful and in control.
The common denominator within all of these children – they lack self-awareness, which keeps them from developing healthy, happy relationships.
Children who don’t know how to discover their emotional center fail to develop courage, character and a conscience. Teens may escape into drugs or other self-destructive behaviors.
All children need a foundation based on healthy values with “circles of support” from adults.
What Can Parents Do?
To strengthen children, get them involved with the family and outside activities.
- TAKE CHARGE – Turn off the computer, ipod, video game and cell phone – all of which can lead to social isolation.
- The bully child has leadership potential, if guided properly. Give these children responsibilities such as, planning family events, cooking dinner, planting a garden, teaching other children, etc. Look for training to help them develop leadership skills such as, conflict resolution training, drama classes, public speaking, etc.
- Vulnerable “pin cushion” children need lots of encouragement. Get them involved in group activities that reflect their interests, such as dance, choir, sports, scouts, boy/girls clubs, etc.
- Spend one-on-one time with each child.
- Bring your extended family together.
- Bring neighbors together and know the children on your block.
- Involve children in planning neighborhood activities.
- Find a religion that will help family members grow from their spirits, not their egos (People with inflated egos don’t listen to their consciences.) Responsible religions teach self-awareness and respect as children learn how to develop courage and character – and to live by their conscience, which will protect them.
Teach “Street Safe Kids” to one child (or two dozen).
Children who are loved and supported will spread love and support to others. Families that live by their conscience stay safer, healthier and help the circle grow!
RESOURCES: “Street Safe Kids: 10 Step Guide to help youth develop self-esteem and stay centered.” For more information: www.safekidsnow.com