Parents Bear Responsibility for the Recreational Rioter – Psychology

The riots that broke out in London on August 4, 2011 shocked the British society and the world at large. The violence, aggression, destructive behavior and looting displayed by the youth have elicited varied reactions and explanations from the public. That level of violence and destruction was not expected, even if the youth felt they had a genuine grievance after the police had shot one of them.

After that, the police did not know how to react, or feared reacting strongly, and the youth were allowed to go on the rampage in a manner that shocked the society. Once the dust settled, everyone tried to reflect and offer an explanation on the whole episode.

The picture that emerged was that there is moral rot in the society today, and the youth have no virtues at all. The riots were a clear indication that the youth of today have not been brought up well, and the thesis that the author of this article is trying to put across is that bad parenting is to blame for such bad behavior. The author tries to appeal to parents to rethink their parenting styles in order to bring up children who are morally responsible.

There have been several explanations put forth regarding the wanton display of violence and destruction. The shooting of the young, black man by the police was just the spark that lit the fire. Experts, and the general public alike, have been quick to raise issues like unemployment, poverty, repressive rule, societal disaffection and so on. The author refutes all these explanations.

First, London is not a place that is known for abject poverty. If riots were to break out because of poverty then they would not start in London. It is also not a place where religious zealotry, class warfare, or racial unrest would blow out to such proportions. The author is urging the society to drop all these convenient explanations and instead look at the real underlying cause, which she says is bad parenting.

There are several reasons why poor parenting has led to a society of violent, irresponsible youth. Parents nowadays are afraid to discipline their own children. The society has become too liberal, and the disciplinary powers of parents have been eroded (Gentleman, 2011). Parents fear chastising their children because they do not want to upset them. When the children make mistakes or break the law, there is no one to tell them off, and bad behavior becomes part of their everyday life.

In fact, the society seems to glorify bad behavior in our youth. The same applies to teachers, who are also helpless in the face of indiscipline from their students. Parents and teachers cannot punish the children, and this has encouraged the children to break rules and cause trouble without fear of repercussions. There has been a chorus of voices, led by the Mayor of London, urging for adults and teachers to be given back the right to discipline the children and impose their authority.

Those who sympathize with the youth point out that police harassment is a reality and should not be ignored. Police have been employing stop-and-search tactics that have amounted to harassment of the youth. These constant searches cause a lot of frustration to the youth and leave a scar on them. Since they lack a platform to channel their frustration through, they take it to the streets. However, the author points out that the reason why some youth are unemployed is simply those they do not want to work in many cases.

They would rather stay home and play video games than go to work because they claim it is too far from home, or the work is too hard, or the pay is not enough (Fralic, 2011). The parents then compound this by providing for all their needs, including the video games they play at home. The parents are, inadvertently, contributing to this laziness and lack of responsibility. A little firmness on their part and the youth would be out there working (Winget, 2011).

In writing this article the author is implicitly applying deontological theory of ethics as espoused by Immanuel Kant and W.D. Ross. The argument here is that doing good and avoiding bad deeds is the moral duty of everyone in the society. It is the work of the parents to teach their children good moral values.

According to Kant, we have to apply reasoning in fulfilling our moral duties. According to his principle of the categorical imperative, any action we engage in should be universally acceptable as good, and we should treat others as an end, not just as a means. If children are taught about moral responsibility from an early age by their parents, they will learn to respect others and their property.

They will know that they are expected to do good deeds in the society always if they are to live in harmony with others. Parents should know that teaching their children about moral values is a good deed in itself, which is expected of them. I totally agree with the author that if parents had taken their moral duties seriously, such problems could not have occurred with the youth.


Dunning, L., & Dunning, B. (2004). Good Parents, Bad Parenting: How to Parent Together when your Parenting Styles are Worlds Apart. Morrisville, NC: Lulu.

Fralic, S. (2011). Parents Bear Responsibility for the Recreational Rioter.

Gentleman, A. (2011, Aug 10). UK Riots: Being Liberal Is Fine, but we Need to be Given the Right to Parent. The Guardian Newspaper, P. 21.

Winget, L. (2011). Shut Up, Stop Whining, and Get a Life: A Kick-Butt Approach to a Better Life. Hoboken, N.J: Wiley.

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