The recent London riots raise the question of how can we motivate young people to do the right thing? We all know that stealing is wrong. We all know that destroying other people’s property is wrong. But given half a chance, thousands of school aged children joined the rioting and the looting. Many were middle class, university educated who couldn’t resist the temptation of getting a new pair of shoes or a plasma TV for free.
The mother of a young woman filmed looting, spoke of her shame and despair at her daughter's lawless actions. The daughter was seen on TV brazenly trying on training shoes taken from a sports shop in Tottenham, North London. She made no attempt to hide her identity as she joined others rifling through stock.
You may be worried about the behaviour of your own teenage children (or future teenage children)? Do you really know what they get up to on Saturday nights? Are they involved in stealing, graffiti or other anti-social behaviour? What can you do?
How can we motivate a young person (or in fact any person) to be a peaceful and productive member of society?
David Cameron the British Prime Minister proposed two solutions “to mend our broken society”. 1. Getting tough 2. Changing government policies.
Cameron said he hoped courts would use exemplary sentences to deter future riots. He praised the sentencing of two people to four years jail for inciting riots on Facebook – riots that never took place. Cameron has backed calls to withdraw welfare benefits from rioters and to evict those who live in government housing. He also floated the idea of restricting the use of services such as Facebook, Twitter and Blackberry Messenger.
Cameron also said that “our security fight back must be matched by a social fight back. We must fight against the attitudes and assumptions that have bought parts of our society to this shocking state.” He went on … “it’s about parenting, it’s about discipline in schools, it’s about making sure we have a welfare system that doesn’t reward idleness.” The government plans to review whether current government programs are strong enough to address the underlying problems.
Prince Charles proposed a more simple solution …. “what rioters really needed was to be tired out with extra-curricular activities such as sport at school.”
Do we really think that government policies and school sports are going to motivate our young people to do the right thing? Anyone with teenage children will know that the problem is more complex and deeply rooted.
A better solution
I’m now going to be radical and propose a solution you might laugh at or may never have considered.
Introduce your children to Jesus Christ in the Bible. The Bible makes a big claim which is also testified to by the experience of many. The Bible claims that getting to know Jesus Christ and learning about his grace (generosity to us) will transform even the most obstinate and selfish person. The apostle Paul wrote: "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good." (Titus 2:11-14 NIV)
You want to motivate people to be eager to do good? Introduce them to Jesus Christ. There’s only one way to find out whether this will work or not …..