Monday, January 16, 2006

Dealing with anti-social young adults: respect or crackdown . . . or both?

The proposed crackdown on unruly anti-social behavior in England has become a topic of discussion over there. The Archbishop of York, Dr. Sentamu, has weighed in, suggesting showing respect to young people may be more important and needed than any crackdown.

He makes a good point. I have said more than once, if you want respect, show respect. (In fact, I said it in my previous post Friday.) I wince when I see adults demand respect from the young but show no respect in return. That just about guarantees (and deserves) a disrespectful response.

On the flip side, I’ve found that if you respect youth, they will usually give respect and more in return. I’ve found this to be the case even with several troubled or difficult kids.

So Dr. Sentamu is correct on the importance of respect. And respect is indeed a two way street.

However, I’ve also found that there are those, especially among college-aged adults, who are so selfish that they do not care how much disruption their anti-social behavior causes regardless of how much appropriate respect they are shown. I’ve more than once had unruly young adult neighbors back in Denton that I tried to work matters out with in a respectful manner. And more often than not, it was necessary to get management or even law enforcement involved.

So, while mutual two-way respect between young and not-so-young is important, respecting the rights of those who just want to live (and sleep) in peace is also important. And those who don’t respect those rights should be cracked down on.

Now it’s, of course, much preferable that youth learn self-discipline before they leave the house. And among other things, that means parents must neither let their kids run riot nor keep them under such a rigid regime that they only experience discipline as something imposed on them instead of learning self-discipline.

But even excellent parenting is no guarantee of young adults being willing to respect the peace of others. And I have no problem at all with cracking down on those who don’t and do have a problem with a society that would be too slow to do so.

Those who see me interact with youth and usually get along great with them might be surprised that I have that “mean” side. But I don’t see this as an either-or issue. (And I don’t know if the Archbishop does either, although the linked article seems to imply that.) Youth, as people created in the image of God, deserve respect. But so do those who just want to live in peace. And a society that doesn’t guard their rights from louts of all ages is a dysfunctional one. The government of the UK is right on this one.

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