The way I see it common sense is an under rated skill and we could benefit from a boost. Thinking skills, critical thinking, learning to work through problems, to understand actions and consequences, are really important life skills. We can start this early with children and we can also improve as adults.
What has got me thinking about this is the “affluenza” argument that was put forward for Ethan Couch, the young man who was given 10 years’ probation and long-term therapy at an in-patient facility. He killed four people and injured five more in a 2013 drunk driving accident when he was 16.
According to online dictionary Wikipedia, the term “affluenza” has been used to refer to an inability to understand the consequences of one’s actions because of financial privilege.
This story really bothers me. I find that using financial privilege as an argument for being unable to understand the consequences of one’s actions is an insult to wealthy parents everywhere who have been able to parent their children and teach them consequences. My view is that their money bought the defence.
It is our job as parents to teach our children about action and reaction, consequences for behavior. When we give children and youth power that they can’t understand or manage we are doing them a horrible disservice. No matter how much money we have or don’t have, accepting and understanding the outcomes of our actions is critical.
Using drunk driving as an example I was very impressed with my sons’ understanding of this when they became drivers that if they drove drunk they would lose their car and worse, they could kill someone. Living with the knowledge that they had killed someone would be horrible because they knew what it is like for others to lose family members.
These conversations started years before they got behind the wheel, in our house, at peers’ homes, at school, from programs that they attended sponsored by MADD. Driving a car is a privilege and it comes with significant responsibility. This generation of youth is much smarter about this than the ones before them. Yet still people die with drunk or stoned drivers.
I worked at a neighbourhood bar as a young adult where the owner took the keys away from customers who had been drinking too much. He would pay for their cab home and back in the morning. If they argued with him, he told them of a man who drove home drunk, crashed into a house and killed a young girl sleeping in her canopy bed. It was a powerful image that succeeded in getting keys every time.
Our children need to be prepared to live in the world as adults and learn critical thinking skills, not just about driving about how to solve problems, face life challenges and get through them is a reality we all face. Sometimes life is tough, we will all have problems and being able to work through them using thinking skills will make life better and could save lives.
I won’t even get started on the high school wrestling team in Georgia raffling a handgun and what the consequences of that stupid decision will be.
Michele Blais has worked with children and families in the North Okanagan for the past 29 years. She is a longtime columnist with The Morning Star, appearing every other Sunday.