The making of a killer

Photo: Getty Image
Photo: Getty Image
It takes a lot of hard work and modelling to establish the values of personal responsibility, empathy and consideration for others in our children, parenting columnist Ian Munro writes.

Ian Munro
Ian Munro
Last month, a 15-year-old Hawkes Bay schoolboy was sentenced to life in prison for murder. While such actions by people his age still occasion startling headlines, they're becoming just that much more commonplace and, in fact, this young man was the fourth teenager to be found guilty of murder in Hawkes Bay in 2018.

Haami Hanara was one of a group of teenagers who attacked a 40-year-old homeless man they happened across when they entered an enclosed yard in a plan to steal alcohol from a chiller. He lent them his torch, which they wouldn't return. A fight ensued and he was stabbed four times.

Why are we seeing a rise in the number of random killings by teenagers? And why do some commit crimes of violence, while others don't?

Most of us are held back by what American psychologist, Stanton Samenow, describes as ''an individual and mysterious mixture of morality, fear of consequences, personal responsibility and the ability to control aggressive impulses''.

It takes a lot of hard work and modelling to establish the values of personal responsibility, empathy and consideration for others in our children. And it takes some serious role-modelling and socialising by fathers, in particular. With so many families fatherless, or effectively fatherless if father is present but not involved, we can expect this to continue. In their turn, these young men won't be equipped to successfully father and socialise their sons.

The Crown Prosecutor told the court that all the teens involved in this case came from the same area and demographic, had drug, alcohol and mental health issues and were suffering parental neglect.

The vacuum created by this neglect is more often than not filled by others, often gangs, who can provide much of the emotional male support missing from their lives, while exceptionally violent movies, electronic games and some rap music act to desensitise them to violence and the real consequences of violence.

Society as a whole has moved significantly towards one of conflict and competition and away from being one of co-operation and consideration.

Samenow has observed a number of traits common to teenage killers. There's a desperate need to control every situation and a belief that life should accommodate their personal desires. They see other people as objects that exist only to serve their wants and needs, rather than humans who suffer and feel.

Empathy with others is something children learn from the adults around them. It grows in them as they see us caring about others and about important issues. How we approach life and the values we model will determine the number of teenage killers of the future.

 

Comments

Conflict and competition instead of co operation and empathy.

Whose bright idea was that?

A structural ideology from the Thatcher/Reagan years.

 

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