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Children with criminal minds

Recently, a 14-year-old with two other rape accusations did it again and left everyone tongue-tied

Faith Gachobe @wangechigachobe

The joys of seeing your children grow up are unending. However, with growth comes independence in both behaviour and decision making. We have heard phrases like, asiyefunzwa na mamaye hufunzwa na ulimwengu (He who is not disciplined by the mother, would be disciplined by the world). About a week ago, a story of a four-year-old child who was sexually molested by a 14-year-old boy from a famous Nairobi-based school erupted on social media.

The suspect has been reported with two other rape cases at Embakasi Police Station under OB number 65/28/10/7. However, the mother to the boy had allegedly been protecting her son from multiple accounts of indiscipline.

“Wait until he rapes you or his siblings, then you will swerve into action,” an angry social media user commented on the issue. The question that comes to mind is whether children who turn into criminals are as a result of poor parenting or are children predisposed to developing certain personality traits.

For some parents, the nightmare of having to deal with repetitive bad behaviour can be overwhelming and they, therefore, result to enrolling their children to rehabilitation or counselling centre. Mary Nduta, 42, and a parent confesses to having enrolled her firstborn son to Wamumu Rehabilitation Centre in Kirinyaga constituency four years ago when he was only 13 years old.

She narrates how her son would refuse to go to school and hide in the bushes all day without her knowledge. Later, Mary would not find some household equipment. “My son would take anything from the house and sell to his older friends at a throw-away price.

He once sold a wheelbarrow at Sh200 to a neighbour who later gave it back,” she recalls. Mary was told about the rehabilitation centre by a relative and after much consideration she decided that was the best solution for her then naughty son.

According to Dr Irene Kimani, a psychologist, it is easy to blame the parent, but this distracts us from the mind of the perpetrator. Dr Kimani explains that each child is different. “We are all born with different temperaments, most of which determine how our parents treat us. Even siblings are different from each other. As the parent raise the child, so does the child raise the parent in a way,” she notes.

Dr Kimani says that this, however, does not let the parents off the hook. “Parents need to do their best to nature, guide and educate their children,” she says. Parents who are psychologically disturbed, abusive or those who neglect their roles as parents can adversely affect how their children turn out. Some of the things parents can look out, for example, is when their children become increasingly secretive without any valid explanation.

“If you cannot be able to explain your child’s daily whereabouts, that may be a call for attention,” she adds. For councillor Amos Kibara of Prudent Camp Counselling Centre, who deals with young adults and children who have been hooked to different kinds of bad behaviour such as drug addiction, his biggest challenge has been convincing parents to give their children a bit of space to express themselves.

“I have had desperate parents who come to me after a counselling session trying to find out what is wrong with their children,” he says. Unless it is a case of attempted suicide or a child trying to harm other people, Amos’s code of conduct dictates he keeps everything he is told a secret even from the parents.

This is normally helpful to the child, but frustrating to the parent. Amos says that not all criminals are a product of bad parenting. Children begin to make their own decisions at an early age. Many child criminals are a product of devoted parents and may even have a sibling from the same family who is the complete opposite and abides by the law.

Some other aspects such as peer pressure, social isolation, long periods of unsupervised time with peers and low family income may largely contribute to criminal offences by children. In conclusion, Amos says that the best a parent can do is be a good parent because every single day a child needs as much discipline as they do freedom of expression.

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