Crime Nursery

By Bhante Henepola Gunaratana

The most fertile grounds for nurturing crimes are families. In spite of all the measures taken to decrease crime rates, violent crimes are increasing in many families in modern, technologically advanced societies. More kids from pre-school days become murderers than ever before. Most of them learn to become criminals from the way they are brought up.
In some countries, while adult crime rates have fallen somewhat, crimes committed by youths continue to rise. We learn from the mass media that many children take guns to their schools. Sometimes we hear that very young children even below the age of five, have shot their siblings or parents. Most of the time, crimes among youths are related to drugs and alcohol, which are easily available for children in some homes. Criminals are not born, but made by misguided and inconsiderate families and by the environment in which they live.
It has become a 20th century fashion among many people to live together without getting married. In some cases, children born into such circumstances suffer from neglect. Quite often these children end up under the care and guidance of one parent, usually the mother. The parent who is more irresponsible leaves the children under the care of the other partner. Women, since they often experience discrimination, have to work twice as hard as their male counterparts to provide for themselves and their children. The modern global economy is such that women are more underprivileged than even underprivileged men. As the entire social structure has taken a completely different route from that of the traditional one, support for the family is also almost nonexistent in many countries. Women often suffer more as a result and their difficulties are reflected in families they try to raise.
Children brought up by single parents often don't receive enough parental love and care while growing up. Psychologically-troubled parents cannot give very sound emotional fulfillment to their children. Their baby-sitters sometimes are TV sets or other people who have been brought up the same way as those whom they baby sit. Many a time, baby sitters are young girls who need money for their own drugs or alcohol. They do not have any training in taking care of babies. While baby-sitting, they themselves may be smoking or taking illegal drugs. Under such circumstances, children do not receive enough and necessary care, guidance, love and, most important, basic education. No baby sitter can give the same love and care as mothers do. Children can never relate to baby sitters as they do to their own parents.
When they grow up, such children may start their own careless and misguided way of life. They don't receive proper religious education. Nor do they know how to explore religions on their own. To make things worse for them, TV violence becomes their role model. Many movie producers and writers are more interested in making violent movies and writing books promoting violence so they can make a few quick dollars. Children who grow up without proper guidance lay their hands on these books and try to imitate what they watch on TV and what they read in books.
Many parents are also not very careful about their guns and alcohol. Some parents drink and smoke in front of their children. When they lose their own sense of responsibility under the influence of alcohol, their senses are so dulled that they do not remember to put away their bottles, cigarettes and guns in appropriate places or to hide them away from children. They also unmindfully and carelessly keep their loaded guns accessible to children. Children are inadvertently encouraged to satisfy their natural curiosity by using guns, alcohol, drugs and cigarettes.
Some parents, who themselves come from broken families may be without much education in moral and ethics to restrain their senses and so misbehave in front of their children. Some parents, grandparents, uncles, and brothers even sexually abuse young children. Sexually abused children grow up with unforgivable hatred towards their abusers. Sometimes they themselves can turn into similar crimes as they grow up.
Society often makes matters worse for troubled families and their children. Gun producers are very glad to see more and more people using guns so that their profit margin may grow. Drug abusers make greater profits by using small children, mostly from broken families, for distributing and using drugs. Children who make money by selling drugs do everything to devise any method to encourage their peers to use and deal drugs. When their parents are not at home it may be even more of a thrill to get hold of some drugs and alcohol from their own parents unlocked repositories.
Divorce has also become the norm of the day in many technologically advanced societies. The ones who suffer most from divorce are children. In their young and tender years, children need all the love and care possible from both parents. That is the age they need compassionate guidance and good role models to follow. That is the age when the mind absorbs everything quickly like a sponge. When their parents are divorced or separated prior to divorce, children can become devastated and bewildered. Parents, who are struggling themselves to handle their emotions and to put their own life together, cannot guide children in the right direction, nor can they pay all the necessary attention to children for their healthy growth. If totally neglected by parents, children seek solutions to their problems from friends, many of whom themselves come from broken families. None of them can truly help each other.
Even in homes untroubled by divorce, children may not see enough of their parents. Parents are extremely busy these days making money to provide comfortable lives for themselves and their children. Quite often they are not home because they are doing more than one job to make more money. Some are not home because they have to make numerous business-related trips out of town. Some parents who may not be traveling are instead fully engaged in their work at the office. Some are such workaholics they cannot spend a minute in their waking life without doing something related to their jobs. Or, from very early in the morning they commute to work and cannot return home until very late in the evening, and return home with some more work to do at home. They might go to bed very late in the evening and continue to think of their next day's work. They are busy working every waking moment in the day and busy thinking of their next day's work even in sleep at night.
Ask why they are so obsessed with work, and such parents might say that they have to earn and save to provide for their family. But since they always live in tension, they are always grouchy and grumpy. Grumbling, they wake up in the morning, and grumbling they go to bed in the evening. Any tiny little thing can irritate them. They don't have any time for themselves or children. They believe if they earn more their children's future will be all right. But no matter how much they earn it is not enough. And some parents who have more than they need do not have time for their children because they spend more time with their friends than with their families.
When children come home from school, they do whatever they like because there is nobody at home to supervise them. In some cases, parents pick up their children from schools on their way home from work and yet don't have time to listen to them. They like children to be seen but not to be heard. Children are afraid to talk to their parents lest they might anger them by telling them their problems. Children's problems may continue to grow without ever having any time to discuss them with their parents. Their peers are not in the best position to give them meaningful advice.
Some parents look forward to getting rid of their children as soon as possible so they can be free to do what they wish to do. Sadly, their children may look forward to growing up quickly to be free from parents. In extreme cases, some misguided, impatient children even kill their parents to be independent. Parents wish to achieve their independence as quickly as possible. Parents become more and more selfish and children become more and more independent. We know the problems. There is no close loving relationship between parents and children.But what are the solutions?
Of course, both-parents and children- can be independent and still have good a relationship with one another. Relationships between parents and children have been highly valued by the Buddha. To promote these good relationships, the Buddha has advocated numerous measures. If parents fulfill their duties and responsibilities towards children and if children fulfill their responsibility toward parents, more harmonious and peaceful families can result.
People who equate money with happiness are often at the root of violent crimes. Almost all crimes are committed by people who have not been educated in moral and ethical values. If you invest all your interest, all your energy and time in making money or in sensual pleasure at the cost of your children's future, how can you expect your children to learn the distinction between good and evil? Or if you teach your children to hate your neighbor because the neighbor is different from you and your values, how can you expect your children to respect anybody? Or if you teach your children to hate others who follow a religion different from yours, how can you expect your children not to be violent? Or, if you teach your children to hate others for speaking a different language which you don't understand, how can you expect them to reduce crimes in the society?
There is a low number of violent crimes in societies where there is a close relationship between parents and children, a relationship between relatives, and between families. In societies where there is a free exchange of time, wealth, energy, knowledge, love and care, violent crime diminishes.
Blessed are the parents and children who have a loving relationship between them. Blessed is the home where there is friendship and harmony. Parents should make some sacrifices to give all their love and care to their children. Wise parents should invest their time, energy and money to create a healthy home environment where they can bring up their children happily. To take care of their children, some benevolent parents take turns working outside the home. In some cases, it would be advisable for parents who both must work to earn sufficient income to support their families, to change their work schedules. Sometimes, either father or mother may decide to stay home to take care of their children if one of them earns enough income to support the family.
Good parents should should realize they are role models for their children. To discipline children, parents must be disciplined themselves. If parents are undisciplined, they cannot expect any discipline from their children. When parents try to discipline children, sometimes children may rebel against their parents. They might even say they hate their parents. Nevertheless, good parents should not pay any attention to children's comments such as these. When children grow up they will realize their parents disciplined them for their own benefit.
Sometimes, children may have important topic, related to anxious feelings or learning problems or peer-problems, and may wish to discuss them with their parents. Then, parents must listen to them mindfully, patiently and compassionately. During the discussion, if children use abusive language parents should reprimand them immediately then allow them to continue the discussion. If they show emotion, parents should not play a co-dependent role and become too emotional, but listen mindfully, hoping to help them. In other words, when children are angry parents should listen to them mindfully and patiently without themselves getting angry, so they can be effective in helping children.
Parents and children should have open and friendly discussions regularly. Parents should admit their mistakes and apologize to children. If parents shout or curse or throw their own temper tantrum, they should apologize to children either immediately or later on and explain the reason why they behaved that way. They should determine not to repeat that kind of behavior in front of children. Children also should be encouraged to admit their mistakes and apologize to parents. Parents should appreciate the good things children do or any improvement they have made. Reward and punishment works with everybody.
If there are several children in a family, parents should be fair to all of them. In dealing with family problems, parents always should exercise caution to do justice to all of the children. If they should praise one child more than others in front of everybody, their siblings may become jealous of the one that was praised. When parents are full of loving-kindness and compassion, solving any family problem is easy.
Parents should treat children with honor and dignity, as wonderful human beings who are going to take the world's responsibility into their hands one day. Whenever children do something good, parents should never forget to appreciate and reward them, at least in words. When children do something unethical, immoral and harmful, parents should immediately reprimand them and talk to them directly. Have an immediate meeting with them. Parents should know when to reprimand them in private and when to reprimand them in a family meeting, in front of everybody. Also, neither the father nor mother should criticize each other in front of children. They should have their own private meeting to discuss their problems.
Parents should choose the right words, right attitude, right moment and right place to tell the right things to children. In every situation and every moment parents should make sure that they really and sincerely love their children. They must assure their children that they honestly love them. If you humiliate children in front of everybody, children may do many wrong things secretly. They will also learn to be hypocritical. Parents must be very honest with children. If parents are dishonest children lose respect for them. You as parents cannot demand respect if you don't deserve it. You should learn to earn it by your own behavior and attitude towards children. And don't think to be their teacher all the time. Children, too, are very good teachers to parents. Whatever parents see something they can learn from children, they should learn it from them without any hesitation.
One of the best things parents can do to establish and maintain a friendly and loving relationship with children is to spend some time practicing loving-kindness meditation and mindfulness meditation. They should make it a habit to encourage children to join them a few minutes every day practicing meditation. In many good Buddhist families, parents and children spend a few minutes reciting some religious verses. They have little home shrines where they assemble every day at least for a few minutes. To build up this good habit, parents can meditate with children twice a day, at least five minutes each time.