Calgary Herald

No surprise kids rioted

So They had Their ‘fun.’ They rioTed, looTed, SeT fireS and TraShed downTown VancouVer. why are we SurpriSed?

- naomi lakritz naomi LakRiTz iS a heRaLd CoLumniST. nLakRiTz@CaLgaRyheR­aLd.Com

Last Saturday, I was at a synagogue listening to the rabbi talk about shiva — the seven-day mourning period Judaism calls for after a death, in which family and friends gather at the bereaved individual’s house, bringing food and comfort, and sitting in silence if the mourners don’t wish to talk. He said how sad it is that parents no longer bring children to shiva. When he was a boy, the rabbi said, he and his sister went with their parents to shivas. Yes, he said, it was boring and tedious to sit around for long stretches at other people’s houses, but there were times when adults brought children into the grown-up world and the children were expected to sit quietly and behave.

I think that lesson has been lost in so many ways these days. While columnists and letter writers have speculated on what caused so many youth to trash downtown Vancouver, smashing store windows, looting, and setting fire to vehicles after the Canucks’ Stanley Cup loss last week, I think part of it is that chil-

Why would we expect them to show good grace in losing?

dren aren’t brought into the adult world any more. Thus they have no venue in which to absorb the message that the world is not always all about them. They don’t learn that life is not all about having fun and doing exactly as they please. Sometimes, it’s about acting accordingl­y in circumstan­ces that are bigger than they are.

When people talk about the worlds of kids and adults, it’s about keeping the spheres separate, particular­ly protecting children from growing up too fast when it comes to sexual behaviour. Absent is the discussion about when it benefits children to participat­e in the adult world because it is there that they acquire self-discipline and patience, absorbing by osmosis the values of the community to which they belong. Instead, “childcentr­ed” is the mantra, to the exclusion of all else.

Witness the insistence that learning must be fun.

“Motivation would not be a problem in most classrooms if educators were able to guide students to this realm of enjoyment where learning was ‘fun’,” wrote Larry Williams in The Agricultur­al Education Magazine. If you Google “learning must be fun,” Williams’ article is among the first of dozens that pop up, expounding on this theme. But learning cannot always be fun; it often requires long hours of mental effort, perseveran­ce and hard slogging. Insisting that learning must be fun teaches children to expect that everything in life must be fun, that they are always entitled to fun, and that if something isn’t fun, they don’t need to bother with it.

There isn’t anything that doesn’t tout its “fun” quotient for kids these days, reinforcin­g the message that fun is the main goal in life. Take children’s toothpaste, a product that didn’t exist when I was a kid.

The advertisin­g blurb for one brand says it: “makes brushing more fun for kids with a cavity-fighting toothpaste designed just for them,” one that “comes in a fun three-striped toothpaste . . . in a bubblemint flavour.” Even the toothpaste’s pump is described as “fun.”

What’s wrong with children brushing their teeth using the same toothpaste their parents use? Yes, brushing one’s teeth is a drag, and toothpaste tastes kind of grody, but so what? There are things one has to do in life that aren’t fun, but they’re necessary, like teethbrush­ing. Get used to it, kid; it’s the prelude to bigger lessons.

Children no longer have to get used to anything that carries the slightest whiff of not being fun. Long car trip? Don’t forget the portable DVD player to keep the kids entertaine­d so they never have to sit quietly, gaze out the window, talk to their parents or be alone with their own thoughts and imaginatio­ns.

Lengthy visit at Aunt Mabel’s? Bring along some electronic toy so the kids can have fun instead of having to sit quietly at the dinner table, absorbing the values being passed to the next generation via the stories, the reminiscen­ces and the observatio­ns on current events that the aged relatives indulge in.

Someone died? Leave the kids at home to play video games while the adults visit the bereaved. After all, the kids will get bored if they go. Death and grief are no fun.

Never mind the valuable unspoken lessons inherent in such occasions, lessons on how to conduct oneself, how to act with good grace, how to simply be.

So why not have a riot after their hockey team loses the Stanley Cup? Why would we expect them to show good grace in losing?

They haven’t learned to act with good grace because way back they were excused from it, and there were no consequenc­es. No one said, “Sit still. Be quiet. Behave yourself.” No one brought them into the adult world to absorb a mature ethos more important than their own juvenile whims of the moment. Nobody said, “It’s not about you.”

So they had their “fun.” They rioted, looted, set fires and trashed downtown Vancouver. Why are we surprised?

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