Actions have consequences

That actions have consequences was, once again, tragically illustrated at the start of the month, parenting columnist Ian Munro writes.

Four Featherston teenagers (none with a driver's licence), a stolen car, a police car, a high-speed getaway, road humps, a lamppost, and two 15-year-old passengers dead. Sadly, this is how it often plays out.

Another player in this tragedy appears to have been a teenager who stole and supplied the car keys.

She is reportedly being held responsible by the friends of the deceased for their deaths and has left town to avoid their anger.

However, she was neither a passenger nor the driver.

Certainly the events as they unfolded would not have occurred if she hadn't passed over the keys, but her responsibility for their deaths ends there.

She may well feel guilt for the rest of her life and maybe will have learnt that, while she could not have foreseen the outcome, those deaths were connected to her theft.

There will be five sets of parents somewhere in the background: the parents of the girl, parents of the driver, and parents of the three passengers.

They may or may not be reflecting on the consequences of their own past actions.

It's possible that they may not.

At times like this, parents, in their grief, can look elsewhere to find someone to hold accountable: friends, the school, the police.

The blunt and painful truth parents have to face up to is that their youngster made that decision based on the values and examples with which they have brought them up.

Recently, I was told about a pre-schooler who had a full anaesthetic to have his rotten teeth removed.

On coming round, he was rewarded by his parent for being such a brave boy with a bottle of soft drink.

If parents don't recognise certain actions will probably lead to certain, quite predictable, unpleasant consequences, it is hard to hold youngsters fully to account.

That aside, even the teenager who does understand consequences will make a thoughtless or spur-of-the-moment decision, or weigh up the risk and then find the outcome was not the one anticipated.

It's part of growing up and learning about life.

The trick is to minimise the risks as best you can by teaching them about consequences from an early age.

Consequences should be simple and straightforward, have meaning and bear some relationship to the event that brought them.

They should follow as soon after the behaviour as possible for best effect and should always be reasonable but still carry weight.

We need to be able and willing to enforce them consistently, otherwise most youngsters will gamble on getting away with it.

And that can end in tragedy.

•  Ian Munro

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