Published — Monday 14 January 2013
Last update 14 January 2013 1:04 am
There are few subjects that bring more fear into the hearts of all members of society than reports of rebellion, disobedience and even violence on the part of our children. Currently there are reports of disobedience so serious, they escalate into violence against the parents and necessitate contacting the authorities, culminating in the youth standing trial. According to recent studies, there has been an increase of 52 percent in such cases in the past year in Saudi Arabia — most definitely a cause for great concern.
The family is the most basic, and in many ways the most important, social unit. It is no exaggeration to say that the family is the essential foundation block of society. Therefore, where unity within the family fails, society itself deteriorates. With the failure of the family, other social institutions, such as law enforcement, are obligated to step into the breach and bring children under control where their parents cannot. But the intervention of the law is a sad necessity that is in no way an ideal situation. It has the potential for driving even deeper wedges between family members.
To find the solution, we have to look to the causes. We are fortunate in this regard as there seems to be quite a lot of research done on the topic. We can learn, for example, that changes in family roles and structure have a correlation with children’s disobedience. Where there are broken homes due to divorce, or where parents are too busy to supervise and build a strong relationship with children, it comes as little surprise that the family structure tends to disintegrate. The influx of western media via Internet and satellite TV may also have a role to play. And a third factor — unemployment among the youth and the accompanying lack of purpose — can be added to the picture.
In my own opinion, this third factor is critical, if only because it is the only one of the three that can be changed on a broader scale. As much as we might wish for the influence of global media to be curbed, our ability to do so is limited, and we must also admit that some valuable ideas come from these channels. As for the breakdown of the family due to the rising incidence of divorce — that is a problem that must be addressed individually.
Giving our youth a viable and meaningful social role, however, is something that we must work on collectively. It has a profound potential to improve the behavior of our youth. If they have a sense of their own identity, their role, and their place in the fabric of society — if they can engage positively with it, common sense tells us that they are much less likely to engage in rebellious and violent acts.
The Holy Qur’an tells us: “And your Lord has commanded that you shall not serve (any) but Him, and goodness to your parents. If either or both of them reach old age with you, say not to them (so much as) “Ugh” nor chide them, and speak to them a generous word.” It is evident from the current situation that faith requires more community support to reinstate and reinforce these beautiful ethics.