Two boys got caught shoplifting. They apparently managed to get out of the store without being detained at the exit, and probably thought they were home free. They hung around the mall, and got caught by the police - who, perhaps with the aid of images from in-store CCTV, spotted them pretty easily.
What they did was definitely wrong, but my heart went out to these two small sized boys, who looked to be brothers. They were shuffling their feet, and the younger one was trying his best not to cry. Was it really necessary for the 3 policemen to interrogate them in public? Granted they were led to a corner of an open air area, but it was still in public's view, and the situation was clear enough for me to figure out what happened, even from a distance. Their bag was turned inside out, and out tumbled a few toys, complete with their packaging. So they wanted to be Thor, but that's besides the point.
The older boy didn't look a day over 10. The younger one, perhaps 7, or 8 years of age. They hung their head low, and I saw them shake their head a few times. The (young) policemen were taking turns to ask them questions, and several times, I saw the supposedly stolen items being dangled in front of them. Many people stopped to stare, and it pained me to see that these adults treated the scene like a 'live' drama, with many adults whispering to their children while pointing their fingers at the boys. Now that really made me mad. Was that even necessary?!
Now before I proceed further, please allow me to state that I saw the events as they unfolded because it happened right in front of where I work. The main entrance looks out to the open air area of the mall, and standing where I am, it was impossible to miss it. My colleague even wanted to go up to the store manager (identifiable by the company's tagline emblazoned on the back of his shirt) to pay for the toys, but we decided that it was not going to solve matters because the police are already involved. Honestly though, being parents ourselves, it was so heart breaking to see the boys surrounded and questioned by the police. While we agree that they have to face up to the consequences of their actions, we wondered if the situation could have been handled differently. Perhaps they could have been brought to the store and questioned discreetly instead of being interrogated in public.
I wondered where their parents were. I'm sure kids mature early these days, but what age is deemed acceptable for them to be completely unsupervised?
Perhaps their parents have no choice but to leave them to fend for themselves at a very young age. When both parents have to work and there are no alternative caregivers, or the cost of an external caregiver is an expense which cannot be met, there simply is no other option. They can only warn, advise and educate their children, but at the end of the day - kids will be kids, and 90% of the time, they either push their limits, or simply don't listen. It could also well be that their parents cannot afford to buy them luxury items, and thus they had to resort to stealing, because the temptation is just too great.
In any case, it is not for me to judge. I'm sure no parent will want to receive negative calls from the school or, in a worst case scenario, law enforcement personnel. I personally would not know what to do... but I know I will be hurt, disappointed, and question myself as to how I have failed as a parent. Have I not enforced enough discipline on my child?
I personally don't think that the lack of discipline is the major reason for many juvenile delinquency cases. I do believe that social pressure has also led to this, and though many believe that they are ignorant as children, they are faced with and survive problems that many adults are scared to face. However, these problems of their daily lives have taken a great toll on them. They turn to crime as a source of comfort, for in this world, they are able to obtain anything their hearts desire. They take material satisfaction as an answer to societal pressures, and when your days are filled with too much longing, need and wants, the temptation is far too great to be ignored.
Consequently, they turn to the world of crime for comfort. So whose fault is it? How can we help these children steer away from a life of crime?
Families have also experienced changes with the last 25 years. More families consist of one-parent households or two working parents, and as a result, children are likely to have less supervision at home that was common in the olden days. This lack of parental supervision is may be an influence on juvenile crime rates. Frustration or failure in school, the increased availability of drugs and alcohol, and the growing incidence of child abuse and child neglect may also increase the probability of a child committing a criminal act.
As I watched the two kids being escorted and led away by the policemen, I felt my heart drop to the pit of my stomach. I felt so sorry for them, and I felt even worse for their parents whom I'm sure will be so hurt to find out what their children have done.
I took a deep breath, and prayed that the experience will hopefully deter them from further acts of crime.
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