Responsibility

I’ve been thinking about Social vs Personal Responsibility recently, and how the way we ‘blame’ can effect the way we deal with any problem.

This all stemmed from watching a documentary about the James Bulgar killings. A case which, from the very beginning fascinated me. If you don’t know - which I guess is a minority of you. - James Bulger was almost three when he was kidnapped away from his mother, and later found murdered on a near by railway track. It was later discovered that the perpetrators of this disturbing crime were two boys only aged 10. Robert Thompson and Jon Venables have since, understandably, been of intrigue for the British general public.

I remember it because I was of similar age to the two boys convicted of James’ murder. In the UK 10 years old is the age if criminal responsibility, so it was the first time in my life that I was able to watch a criminal trial being reported about and have the relative maturity and reliability to engage.

The one thing, however, that truly sticks in my mind are the adults attacking the police vans bringing the two boys to court. I remember feeling, even back then, that there was something wrong with this reaction to this crime. It was while watching this recent documentary that I was able to pinpoint the reason why,

With any crime or misdemeanour, we fundamentally want to blame it on someone or something, we want to hold someone accountable, and let them hold the responsabilith., and there are two real options open to us. Individual Responsibility or Social Responsibility. More often than not we chose to pick Individual Responsibility, and with cases with adults, this is usually the case. An adult will usually have had enough life experience to understand right from wrong and understand the consequences of their choices. If they choose to do something against what they know to be right, it is correct to hold them responsible.

Children, on the other hand, it's a wholly different matter. Yes, at the age of ten you can be held criminally responsible, but on many other matters, other people (mainly parents are legally responsible for making important decisions for you, because you are deemed to immature to make those decisions. You are criminally responsible because it is believed you know right from wrong by then. But where are those differentials learnt from? When we are say, 30s, or even in our 20’s our field of experience is vast enough and the foundations of our decision making wide enough that blame can be easily placed on our shoulders. But when we try and do this to people who's experience is smaller, we come across an issue.

You see, as well as blame we want to have motive. We want to know why. Most of the time, the motive is easy to come by with adults; sex, money, etc. But because a child’s experiences are limited and, and thought processes simple it is harder to find this.  resulting in a gut reaction of an explanation. Often than not means ’evil’

This was certainly the case with the two boys who murdered James Bulger. The reason the scenes of adults attacking the polices vans unsettled me was that there was a general view, which persists today, that these boys were evil. But the word evil has never settled with me when it comes to talking about children. I've been working with children in different capacities for 25 years now. I've come across a number of difficult kids, kids that have been written off. Most of these kids, however, are not ’difficult’ once you scratch the surface and discover the reasons they are behaving the way they do. Often once you've done that they start becoming less difficult. ’Evil’ children are the same, we shouldn't be labelling them evil. Instead ,we should be scratching the surface and discovering the circumstances that lead to their deeds that caused their label of evil. More often than not, these circumstances lie on the shoulders of society.

If we are truly going to make radical changes to the ’kids gone wrong’ we need to be looking at the Societal Responsibilities in each case, and not just the individual. In no way am I saying a child should not be held accountable for his or her actions. It horrifies me that Robery Thompson and Jon Venables only got 8 years each, that was not long enough for either their punishment and rehabilitation, or full healing to take place within James Bulger’s Family. But sadly, we haven't yet addressed or even properly discussed in the 26 years since it occurred, what it was in these boys lives that lead them on a path to thinking that a pleasant activity to undertake while truanting was to kidnap and kill a two-year-old boy. It is only by doing that, that we can makes changes to try and ensure that things like that never happen again,

Resilience Movie

I recently went to a screening of the documentary Resilience, about the effects Adverse Childhood Events can have on our health, both mental and physical. It was a fascinating documentary, and I was so thrilled to discover that the people putting on the screening were people who were also on a mission to get as many of us on board to really make a difference in Leeds, Yorkshire and the country as a whole, and the attitude we take to some aspects of people reacting to ACEs they have endured, so we can really start making an impact. I am so excited to be a part of this!

Michael Rosen's Response To Secret Life Of 4-Year-Olds

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In my last post, I spoke about my admiration for the programme Secret Life of 4-year-olds.  However, this morning I read a post on Facebook which made me question the ethics of what the programme does. This post came from one of my heroes, Michael Rosen. Please read it below.

This post, I'm sure you will agree is highly enlightening. I will watch the next episode before I make my mind up completely, and I will not remove my previous blog post, as I feel some of the points I made are still valid. I hope Channel 4 take note Rosen's points, and make changes accordingly, for what they are endeavouring to do is commendable.

Why We All Should Be Watching C4's Secret Life Of 4-Year-Olds

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Channel 4 produce a lot of top notch television, but one of my absolute favourites is the Secret Life series. If you don't know what I'm talking about, please watch the trailer below.

The Secret Life Of 4-Year-Olds is part of a series where they not only look at 4-year-olds but 5-year-olds and 6-year-olds too (changing the name of the series as they progress.) each episode focuses on a different aspect of being a child of that particular age, looking at both developmental and psychological milestones. They accomplish this by using the fly on the wall technique in a purpose built play centre.

There are two ways you can watch this show. For most, as it is for my sister, its time spent affectionately giggling at the funny things children get up to. For others, such as myself, its s fun exploration on what makes children tick. Ultimately children think very differently to us, not only because they are younger, but because they are also wired differently. Therefore it gives a really exciting (for me at least) insight into children. 

But I believe this show is far more important than that. I often hear parents - and often get approached by parents - saying they don't understand why their children act a certain way, or why they act out at certain things. Usually, this is because the parent expects their child to be a little adult. If they just learn and understand the adult reasoning and rationale, then they would stop acting a certain way. However, as I say, Children are programmed differently to adults, every year not so they get reprogrammed like when you upgrade your operating system on your computer. 

The Secret Life series shows this playing out, I believe the more people watch this show having the children in their lives in mind as they do so, I personally believe we would get far fewer adults getting frustrated at kids.

Why Parents Should Not Fear The Stigma Of Diagnosis

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To protect ones child is the most natural instincts a parent can have. You want the best for your child. Naturally the best for your child is for them to have to the H’s - Happiness and Health. Unfortunately for some this is not the case, or reaching that happiness and health is more complex for some children than others.

The problem is, how as parents do we address these situations. I believe all to often - and I am making no judgement here - we put social stigma and the fear of the path ahead  of what is right for our child. We mistakenly believe that our child is young enough for us to play the ostrich and bury our heads in the sand. But actually this is likely to do our children more phschological harm than addressing and even embracing a diagnosis.

I have had the honour of knowing, and even being related to, a number of people on the Autistic Spectrum. With each and every person they have all said that getting the diagnosis was the best thing to happen to them. One even wearing the diagnosis as a badge of honour. The reason for this is because they could no focus on being who they were without having to analyse why they were. If someone would question a behaviour, they could easily explain, and would not have to self-chastise. 

On a very different tact, I often wonder how difficult life would have been if my Hemiplegis et al hadn’t been diagnosed as early as it was. On a different level, I’m also aware of numerous people who struggled - and some who continue to struggle - due to a lack or lateness of dyslexia diagnosis.

As adults we understand the damage being labelled can cause. But one thing we fail to understand is that one of causes of that damage is labelling at the wrong time. Labelling is going to happen, no matter what you do. It’s how well a child has assimilated that label that counts. If a child embraces that label as part of their make-up any social stigma that might fly their way won’t sting as hard as it might otherwise do. 

The best way for a child to do this assimilation is by understanding and the de-stigmatisation from those closest to them. Earlier I mentioned the person I know who wears their autism spectrum diagnosis as a badge of honour. This is what I wish for every child with a challenge ahead of them. Whether it be disability, autism, ADHD, dyslexia or anything else. It is important not to be fearful of the challenge, but instead face that challenge head on. For when a child can face a challenge head on, equipped with the right weaponry for that challenge, it sets them up for their best possible future.

After all isn’t their best possible future what we are all striving for?