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What does your Parenting Style suggest for your child's future?

 

flowers

In Britain lawmakers have been discussing whether to send parents to prison automatically for the crimes their children commit, especially in the cases of not attending school and binge drinking. I have mixed feelings on that. Parenting is very difficult in our modern age and no one gives a parent a rule book on how to bring up the best children. It is always trial and error, no matter how aware or educated the parents are.

However, children under age are not responsible for themselves. They are part of a family group. As such, parents are automatically responsible for the behaviour of their minors. For those who were deviant themselves, they would also be having children without knowing the basics of social etiquette in bringing up those kids, which often leads to a vicious circle of unsociable activities. The reasons why children misbehave are many, but they are directly linked to how they are reared, especially if they are brought up by the following parents:

* Authoritarian, controlling parents: They expect strict obedience at all times, often using physical/verbal punishment. The child's needs are not considered because parent always 'knows best'. The emphasis is on power, control and dependency, as these children later find it hard to make decisions for themselves and are always seeking approval. However, because of the close way they are being monitored and watched, and the lack of latitude allowed for their actions, children in these controlling homes are always testing the boundaries of acceptable behaviour and are prone to 'breaking out' of their restrictive situation whenever the opportunity arises.

* Permissive indulgent parents: They exercise very little parental control combined with much over-indulgence of the child's needs. The emphasis is on pleasing the child, often to compensate for lack of attention/affection, even to the detriment of other siblings. Money is often used as substitute for love or quality time. Affection and giving are usually used as a carrot and stick to elicit particular types of behavior at different times instead of for their own sake. These chiildren tend to be confused about love, and being loved, often insecure and needy in attention. Their deviant behaviour is usually to get attention and test parental feelings of love and reinforcement.

* Permissive neglectful parents: There is minimal parental control and response to the child's needs. Parent prefers to behave like a 'friend' than parent. Often left alone for long periods, these children tend to make their own discipline. There are few boundaries of acceptable behaviour because the child is allowed too much latitude to compensate for lack of attention. The child is often left to his/her own devices until behaviour is no longer accepted or there is a crisis. These children tend to put their own needs above others and often make decisions that are likely to have a deviant outcome. In fact, most deviants would come from this group, or the controlling parents group, which would explain why these parents are often genuinely surprised when their children misbehave.

These three parenting styles are usually less effective, resulting in children/adolescents who are hostile and rebellious (permissive style) or withdrawn and low in self-esteem (authoritarian). The Authoritative parent is the most effective type. They set clear rules and are consistent in enforcing rules, but are more flexible in control. They explain rules as necessary; discipline and control are based upon the needs of the child (within reasonable limits), are consistent, and there is emphasis on learning and taking responsibility for personal action. Above all, children are encouraged to think for themselves and use their initiative.

Most parents' response to violence, irresponsible sex and racism has been either extreme control (enforcing rules without explanation) or reluctant permissiveness (ignoring the problem). But either approach may serve to deny the child/adolescent the ability to learn healthy skills to resist those forces. In fact, many overweight adolescents have a problem with their self-esteem which is encouraged by the emphasis on food; one which indirectly provides more attention and reinforces the same situation in a destructive circle.

Parenting in the 21st century is different from earlier years and much more daunting, as children are more exposed to adult themes of violence and explicit sexual imagery at earlier stages in their lives. Many parents are unsure of how to treat their children in this kind of atmosphere, but the responsibility still lies with them because children learn from the adults' behaviour at the beginning and adults are the key role models for young minors. However, at the same time they need to be educated in the most effective parenting skills, not just blamed for their children's bad behaviour, especially if they have no knowledge of how to make it better.

Thus the way we bring up our children will dictate the relationship we have with then along the way and how much we can all relate to each other.





Why the Teaching of Values is a Very Difficult Task in Our Modern Age

 

flowers

Teaching solid values which help to build character is very important in families. Values are the legacy of a good home and provide the basis of acceptable behaviour. They also decide the moral standards of a family, they give confidence in dealing with specific issues and situations and provide the essential link from one generation to another.

However, the teaching of values in any age or any society is not an easy one because of the fluid and questionable nature of the values themselves, and the ever changing demands in behaviour of each new age. A few years ago, values were universally based on religious Christian teachings. The bible was the foundation for the values we adopted, with a fear of God as the decisive element to ensure we kept to those values. Most values related to the individual and keeping his/her place harmoniously within the wider community. Religion also affected expectations and behaviour relating to marriage.

For example, a grandmother who would have been brought up in a very restrictive Britain, as far as women are concerned, would have been taught the values of behaving like a 'lady', not having sex before marriage, not having children out of wedlock and not daring to think of divorce because of the vows made and the loyalty to the husband and home which was expected. Try teaching such values to young women of today! Yet those values would have made the grandmother the confident, accomplished (or even fearful) woman that she is now. They would have dictated her perspectives on life, and her perceptions of it, and would have been the cornerstone of her development in a male dominated society.

More Pragmatic Values
Today our values are more social in form, technological rather than religious in application, more pragmatic to suit the moment and entirely concensual. Youngsters tend to match their peers in behaviour so as not to feel left out, adopting values which are likely to be at odds with the outmoded values of their parents. Therefore values can never be passed down without some modification and acceptance of change due to the transient nature of society, the constantly changing morals and behaviour, the innovatory nature of life itself, and the natural social experiment of the young to forge their own values to deal with new situations.

It means that in a 20 year span, values would have been greatly modified or completely replaced altogether because of the changing times. For example, I grew up believing that to steal from anyone, especially shops and work, was wrong. Yet a recent survey in the UK showed that 38% of the nation engage in petty theft , especially at work,of one kind or another daily. Such theft is no longer regarded as morally wrong but a kind of retribution for fleecing the customers. Many people have the reasoning that the shops rip off the customers in high prices so they have no regret stealing from them through actions like keeping change they were not entitled to, or wearing clothes they bought and returning them to the shops as faulty.

Teaching values are important for the confident development of the young, and to keep the generations connected to each other, but that teaching has to be flexible enough to recognise that yesterday's values are likely to have less relevance and are more likely to be today's amusing folk tales.






When is your parenting of a teenager actually interference in their life?

 

flowers

Being a teenager must be a difficult time precisely because it is a time of dramatic change and transition for the youngster, while the parents are unable to see that they have to change behaviour too to match. The end result is that teenage years become the basis for the most conflict in a family through differing perceptions of the roles of both being a teenager and a parent.

For the teenager this is a time of massive emotional and physical change. His/her body is changing in all sorts of embarrassing ways, while emotionally this is a time he/she seeks to be affirmed by others, valued by peers and accepted as a young adult by the parents. His/Her sense of responsibility is not yet fully developed in the brain, deliberately, so as to encourage the teen to experiment, explore and take risks before experience limits their actions. The main problem is that a teenager is no longer a child, yet not quite an adult and this is what causes the greatest difficulty for parents to deal with: to know just how to treat that teenager who is rapidly evolving in front of them. In order to cope, the urge is then to keep him/her as a 'child' for as long as possible, unable to do their own thing, which is bound to lead to resistance.

For the parent, this is a very trying time because their main role, as parent and protector, is now changing into something else, more detached. They begin to feel useless and unwanted, unable to make decisions for the teenager anymore, and many parents cannot cope with that. They often fail to understand that they will still be a valued, much needed parent, but one who needs to step back a bit and give their child room to grow and mature. Instead, many controlling parents, remembering their own teenage years, especially with regards to sex and its consequences, become even more restrictive in their approach, more distrusting and intrusive, at precisely the time when they should be backing off, trusting more and helping their child to cross the line from childhood to adulthood in a more comfortable and confident way. This is bound to lead to conflict.

Interfering and intrusive
Many parents also dread the thought of not being a parent any more and so hang on to their children closely at a time when they should be letting them fly to discover themselves and build their own confidence. Not surprisingly, those parents become far more interfering at this time instead of acknowledging their changing role and being supportive instead of dictatorial. They fail to realise that, if they have done their job well, they would have given their child the skills, tools and confidence to begin the adult process. They do not have to worry about them at all, as illustrated by this little tale from my daughter.

When she was 19 she told us that at 14 she had begun to smoke because all her peer group was smoking and she did not want to feel left out. We were blissfully unaware of it though we didn't smoke either and would have gone ballistic if we had known! Then three months later she stopped smoking because SHE felt it was wrong for her. However, she said if we had found out and tried to stop her, she would have carried on just to be awkward. obviously, the strong values we brought her up with won out in the end.

If we bring up our kids in ways which encourage them to make their own decisions, and trust them to make the right decisions at the right time, for them, not us, they will be fine as young adults. They have to make their own mistakes as we did too to make their way in life. But when we are insecure and overly anxious, and wish to protect them unnecessarily, we then become controlling and interfering as we rob them of their privacy and, ultimately, the opportunity to develop into confident young people who are quite capable of looking after themselves.




Should parents stay together, even though they don't get on, if there are no big arguments?

 

flowers

Q. I think people who are arguing all the time and giving a negative impression of family life to the kids watching them are better off separated. There's no point sticking it out for the sake of the kids. BUT consider the situation where the parents don't get along at all but both of them are fine with the kids. In such a situation, the kids would be lost if the parents get a divorce....but they shouldn't be seeing their parents quarelling on a daily basis either. What's the right option here? Personally, I feel the best thing would be for the couple to go in for counselling. But what if that doesn't work?

A. Whenever there is conflict, and children are involved, it is always best to make a genuine effort to sort it out or to call it a day. Yes, constant arguing damages kids, but so does coldness, detachment, indifference and a lack of love and open affection.

Children do not just learn by what they hear, or what parents tell them. They learn the most by what they SEE. That is how they model things. Parents are the most important force in their lives and so we shouldn't unwittingly teach them what we don't want them to learn. When parents stay together in conflicting relationships, whether silently or noisily, it sends a strong message to children about how they should live their life too in the future and what is the 'acceptable' way to live with a partner. They cannot see how other families live, so whatever goes on in their home will serve as the template for their own lives later on. Any kind of unresolved conflict will actually damage them emotionally, if that is all they have to experience until they grow up.

Only love, mutual respect, positive communication and genuine care make children feel secure and valued. take those away, and there will be loss of self esteem, feelings of vulnerability and insecurity. Worse still, kids soon start to believe that they are to be blamed for whatever is happening. So it is never a good thing to simply stay together 'for the sake of the children', and especially in a cold, loveless relationship of quiet desperation The message it is sending to those kids is that love, affection and respect aren't part of the relationship, so long as it can be held together at any cost. It is likely to be how the children conduct their own lives later on, which results in a never ending circle of negativity and emotional pain. It is much better in the long term to separate.






Should Parents be Held Responsible for Their Minors' Criminal Behaviour?

 

flowers

Everyone knows that parenting is very difficult in our modern age and no one gives a parent a rule book on how to bring up the best children. It is always trial and error, no matter how aware or educated the parents are. However, children under age are not responsible for themselves. They are part of a family group. As such, parents are automatically responsible for the behaviour of their minors. The reasons why minors misbehave are many, but they are directly linked to how they are reared, especially if they are brought up by the following parents:

* Authoritarian, controlling parents: They expect strict obedience at all times, often using physical/verbal punishment. The child's needs are not considered because parent always 'knows best'. The emphasis is on power, control and dependency, as these children later find it hard to make decisions for themselves and are always seeking approval. However, because of the close way they are being monitored and watched, and the lack of latitude allowed for their actions, children in these controlling homes are always testing the boundaries of acceptable behaviour and are prone to 'breaking out' of their restrictive situation whenever the opportunity arises.

* Permissive indulgent parents: They exercise very little parental control combined with much over-indulgence of the child's needs. The emphasis is on pleasing the child, often to compensate for lack of attention/affection, even to the detriment of other siblings. Money is often used as substitute for love or quality time. Affection and giving are often used as a carrot and stick to elicit particular types of behavior at different times instead of for their own sake. These chiildren tend to be confused about love, and being loved, often insecure and needy in attention. Their deviant behaviour is usually to get attention and test parental feelings of love and reinforcement.




Boundaries of acceptable behaviour
*
Permissive neglectful parents: There is minimal parental control and response to the child's needs. Parent prefers to behave like a 'friend' than parent. Often left alone for long periods, these children tend to make their own discipline. There are few boundaries of acceptable behaviour because the child is allowed much latitude to compensate for lack of attention. The child is often left to his/her own devices until behaviour is no longer accepted or there is a crisis. These children tend to put their own needs above others and often make decisions that are likely to have a deviant outcome. In fact, most deviants would come from this group, or the controlling parents group, which would explain why these parents are often genuinely surprised when their children have been deviant.

These three parenting styles are usually less effective, resulting in children/adolescents who are hostile and rebellious (permissive style) or withdrawn and low in self-esteem (authoritarian). The Authoritative parent is the most effective type. They set clear rules and are consistent in enforcing rules, but are more flexible in control. They explain rules as necessary; discipline and control are based upon the needs of the child (within reasonable limits), are consistent, and there is emphasis on learning and taking responsibility for personal action. Above all, children are encouraged to think for themselves and use their initiative.

Parenting in the 21st century is different from earlier years and much more daunting, as children are more exposed to adult themes of violence and explicit sexual imagery at earlier stages in their lives. Many parents are unsure of how to treat their children in this kind of atmosphere, but the responsibility still lies with them because children learn from the adults' behaviour and adults are the key role models for young minors. However, at the same time they need to be educated in the most effective parenting skills, not just blamed for their children's bad behaviour, especially if they have no knowledge of how to make it better.

So though they should be held responsible, they also need the support too to help them in such instances.



Are you moving house? You need The PEP Family Removal Strategy

 

flowers

Moving is a very stressful business. It is always found among the top three most stressful activities in our lives because of its overall impact and needs to be handled with care. When moving house, the family can be prepared for this major upheaval by using what I call my PEP strategy and encourager, which relates to the Practical, Emotional and Positive elements of the whole transitional process.

The practical part of moving is very important for the family, especially in the last three months before the move. Getting it right through checking and double checking related tasks that have to be completed beforehand will lessen the confusion at the destination end reduce the stress of moving on everyone involved. Once a decision has been made to move, contacting relevant organisations from a prepared list (llke utility providers, doctors, dentists, insurers etc.) is essential for the smooth transfer and continuation of all services. Best thing when moving is for everyone in the family, no matter the age, to be assigned specific tasks which gives them responsibility for overseeing the smooth transition of certain items and duties, even if it involves only their bedroom or toys. A good task is usually labelling which carries a fair degree of responsibility, while at the same time leaving much room to be creative in actually making up the labels and ways of checking that everything is covered. This action also gives ownership too, reinforcing family members as valuable parts of the team.

Other very useful preparation includes getting rid of clutter to reduce the items that will be carried, while at the same time doing one's bit for charity by donating unwanted items. To help on the other end, the family can use a priority labeling system which ensures that all key items have a special sign and the next items in priority order are clearly marked too. Not too much time will then be spent searching for much needed items. Pack things on a room by room basis and devise a plan for unpacking at the other home that offers as little confusion as possible.

Of course, nearer the date, the removal men will need to be booked and, a few days before moving, 'survival' kits (useful items including toothbrushes, soaps, towel etc.) will be needed for all family members for the first couple of days in the new home.








Do we really need a Father's Day to show our appreciation?

 

flowers

In one simple word: YES, for a variety of very good reasons which I will come to later.

In general, we do not need any specific day to show people that we care for them and value them in our lives. That should be done every day of every year because we never know when it could be someone's last. Assigning days for special mention does not mean those are the only days we show love and care, or that we even need to do anything special on those days. They are just reminders to stop and really celebrate that person and to join with others as a community in doing the same thing. There is always a powerful vibrancy about communal celebration and putting a day aside to contemplate the people who matter most in our lives should be welcomed.

Apart from that, there are five major reasons why we should celebrate Father's Day.

First, it is very important to show to the whole of society, especially male youths, that we value fathers and their input in the home. With so many absentee fathers, emphasising parental responsibility and showing the importance of assuming that responsibility with care and commitment serves as a powerful role model for male youngsters to follow. It might even help estranged fathers to think about their role and reconcile with their children.

Second, we already celebrate Mother's Day. If our mothers are valued so should fathers. We cannot have one day for one parent and none for the other when it takes two parents to make a child! It makes it not only fair but balanced.

Third, many men are undervalued in our society. We tend to think of them as an afterthought when we relate to the family. Hence why many of them might feel excluded at certain times and feel of lesser significance than mothers. Having a special day for fathers too emphasises their role and their permanent inclusion in the lives of their children. It also stresses that fathers are forever, not just for certain times of a child's life.

Fourth, many men are workaholics who find little time to enjoy their families. On Father's Day they will be prompted to take some time out, to stop and smell the roses with their children and grandchildren, and to reinforce the value for quality family time above working. Even if it is only for a day, they can actually focus on what it means to be a parent apart from just providing material things.

Finally, it provides another day in the year for simple celebration. We do not have enough days for appreciating and valuing each other as people. Father's day allows us all to stop and celebrate the men in our lives and the crucial part they play in it.

In an ideal world we wouldn't need a Father's Day to show the importance of fathers, but we don't live in an ideal world. We live in a flawed and stressed society. There are many men today who, simply because of Father's Day, are taking time out to link up with their children and to do activities with them. That can be no bad thing, while at the same time reinforcing their value to those children and the joy of being a father




Do parents have the power to end inherited religion?

 

flowers

In a word, YES. But it is not so easy to do because of three things.

First, our sense of BELONGING ensures that we tend to follow whatever is handed down within our neighbourhood and culture. No one likes to feel isolated, away from their own friends and family, and so they tend to quietly extend and enhance whatever they were taught. Hence why religion has flourished over the generations because new parents simply induct their children into it. But the cycle can be broken. I was born and raised into Catholicism by my parents. But I resented such brainwashing which gave me no choice in how my life should be lived and I left the Catholic Church and gave the option of their religion to my children. It was up to them to decide how their life should be lived, not me. Neither of them is a Catholic.

The second is CULTURAL PRESSURE. This is psychological but very lethal in ensuring conformity. Often we do things without even knowing why, even when our subconscious is resisting it. That is the influence of the culture and mores we we born into. There is a kind of onus on us to continue that culture to preserve our own kind, so very few people would go against what they were taught, especially if they feel comfortable with it. Additionally, because of the rewards promised by religion itself in the afterlife, many parents do not want their children to miss out.

Finally, the MORAL IMPERATIVES of our community or country feed our sense of right and wrong which tends to ensure that whatever we inherit stays in place. One has to have a very strong disposition to go against the majority opinion or view. It means that a lot of inherited stuff, even when it feels uneasy, is likely to remain in place, and continued, if it emphasises that sense of belonging and celebrates cultural traditions.

In a nutshell, every new parent has it in their power to end inherited religion, but the emotional costs in doing so often a price considered not worth paying.

But what do you think? Is it easy or difficult for you personally to stick with the norm, and why?






Teens or Parents- Who Should Pay For Car Insurance?

 

flowers

There is nothing like that first day after completing training and getting behind that wheel. The feeling is one of pure excitement and buzz.

But owning a car is a tremendous responsibility because it not only affects the life of the driver and his/her passengers, it also carries implications for other road users. It is always an exciting time when a new driver gets their car, but this excitement needs to be tempered by the knowledge that adult behaviour is now required to run it. The hallmark of this responsibility is the knowledge that using a car has to carry personal risk and, just like driving it, the maintenance of it has nothing to do with anyone else. It is entirely in the care of its owner.

If a youngster is old enough and responsible enough to have a car, they are responsible enough to pay for its insurance too. It is unfair to expect the parent to shell out for insurance, even if they can afford it, because it does not help the child to develop responsibly or appreciate what will be involved to keep that car on the road. One cannot have the benefits of a car but expect one's parents to carry the tab. That simply passes the buck for something important to the driving process.

Taking charge of their lives in every respect is the best way to teach youngsters their independence, to build their confidence and self-esteem and to demonstrate their value. When parents do everything for their children, they rob them of the opportunity to learn to do it for themselves and the pride, satisfaction and joy they get from its completion. Young teens should pay for their own insurance when they get their new car. It starts them off in the mature and responsible way they need to go on and should instill a more mature approach to their driving.

Who do you think should pay?






The main reason Madonna is right to adopt another child from Malawi

 

flowers

The Save the Children charity has added its weighty voice to the debate as to whether Madonna should adopt another child and has spoken out against her, citing the fact that children should be cared for by 'extended families in their own home community'.

Yes, that is true, and lot of things should happen in our world to make it a fairer place for many orphans, poor kids and kids without any kind of future, but they do not happen because we don't live in an ideal world. Moreover, one fails to see how an adoption could be criticised which would help one little motherless girl to have the kind of life 99% of us in the world dream about. No one can put the world's ills to right by themself, but if we all did just one thing to help a child, the dramatic difference would be immediately noticeable rather than doing only what is regarded as perfect or desirable.

It takes all kinds of action to change situations like those in Africa where the need is greatest, not just one ideal approach. In this case, Save the Children has got it very wrong because of one primary factor they have overlooked in their wisdom: the emotional health of the child Madonna has already adopted, David Banda.

David is a black child who will be spending his early formative life in an all-white family. His emotional health in forming his own identity is very important and that can only be helped by having a brother or sister who REFLECTS him, his heritage, his culture and his origins. When there is no reflection of us in our community, it sets up conflicts of identity, especially where our parents are clearly different, and can often cause internal dissonance until it is resolved, most often shown in either a rejection of the self (a desire to be white, for example) or a rejection of the parent(s).

Our daughter had a crisis of identity when she was between 12 and 13 years old. Though she had very loving parents (a black mother and a Sikh father), she was one of very few mixed race children at her grammar school which had a 98% white intake. The result of that, being virtually invisible in her school and feeling undervalued, was that she wanted to be white. It didn't matter what confidence, love or appreciation we gave her, the peer group she mixed with were all white and she felt unreflected and an outsider. She wanted so much to belong that being white, in her eyes, was the only way she could do it. She became introspective, uncommunicative and withdrawn for a few anxious months. Her confused state reflected itself in her writing which gradually revealed her problem. "Why did I have to be born black when all my friends are white?", she once wrote and it was gutwrenching to read. How do you fix that need?

It was a terribly tragic time for our family as we were unsure how to deal with this low self-image. Yet we were very successful professionals and role models to her. We managed to bring her through those doubts and she resolved her identity and self-esteem in her own way by the time she was 15. However people underestimate the effects on children of being minorities in majority communities, the perceived lack of value, significance and self-reflection that haunt their routine lives, especially when all they see are white peers reflected in books, the media, as heroes and as the ones who matter.

That new addition to Madonna's family will do far more for David's sense of self and value than anything else Madonna could offer him. Both he and the new child will be reinforced by one another, just as his white sisters reinforce each other. Save the Children might want children to be supported in an ideal way, but this is not an ideal world. This is a cruel world where too many of our kids are suffering. One less child to suffer has got to be our aim, not the perfect manner in which it is done. As long as a child is not being exploited anything else to help them has got to be encouraged.

Madonna is doing the right thing for the wellbeing of her whole family, while protecting her new son, and I wish her well in her aim.




Pope Urges Youths to Spurn Materialism: Is This Realistic?

 

flowers

In a word, NO. Pie in the sky, in fact, and shows how out of touch ancient religious leaders are with young people. The youth of today can no more shun materialism than stop eating and drinking. There are seven adult stages of evolution and the first stage, the Age of Discovery, is precisely why young people are so prone to acquiring possessions, so fascinated by the world around them and so eager to experiment.

That's how they GROW and develop. If they weren't drawn to material things, to exploring life for their own understanding, they wouldn't gain the experience, the maturity and the appreciation of reality to become a true adult. Experimenting at this stage is crucial to what happens next in their lives. Furthermore, material acquisition is society's main mark of success and the motivation to achieve. Take that away and what happens?

In youth there is an emphasis on the self: especially on self-image, this being a most fashion-conscious time that takes a lot of money from the bank of Mom and Dad and puts it in the shops. One where designer labels matter much more than the labour required to get them! A stage where there is a real struggle between personal autonomy and dependence on parents, with much effort to define the self as an individual separate from anyone else.

A young person concentrates on mainly three things at this time: their body, a need to belong and external stimuli, whatever form they come in. Unlike older adults, they lack the knowledge and the career success to impress each other so all they have are their looks and their gadgets. Yet they also have this overriding need to belong. This is achieved by connection to certain types of products, music and people. Hence why fashion becomes such a religious happening at this time, with many youngsters being a slave to their brands. Fashion is their main currency of significance and value. Thus anything new and considered hip would immediately attract their attention. It is also why the young tend to spend enormous amounts on themselves and, naturally, become the targets of advertising predators. There are rich pickings among the youth. Possessions define who they are, how they think, who they align with and what they wish to be. Theirs is a world of innovating (invention and creation) and emulating (icons and celebrities). Take away their possessions, whether it be their Ipod, cell phone or trendy pants, and they would be like fish out of water.

Fear of Rejection
Few youngsters have independent actions because of the herd instinct and the need to belong. Many fear rejection, fear being isolated at this stage to the extent that some would behave in a deviant way, if egged on by their friends, yet would never be like that individually. Though this first stage is one of fearlessness and rebellion, it is also a period of tentative or provisional commitments, for swaying with the wind and changing principles at the drop of a hat, particularly for personal benefit. Hence the emphasis on money and tangible rewards. They dread anything too permanent. Developing their own sense of identity, as distinct from those of parents and childhood peer groups, now becomes critical. They tend to try out new relationships (e.g. romantic interests, professional associates, friends), being comfortable with themselves and pretty easy about life.

Lacking wider personal experience, this is also the 'gut reaction' phase, characterised by automatic reflexes, a lack of focus and a feeling of invincibility. It is very difficult to settle on any one thing or partner at this time because life seems to be a huge treasure chest, with so much to discover, with an accompanying impatience to discover it. Hence this is a period of leaving home, perhaps for travel, university or higher education, escaping from parental control, developing personal autonomy, not appreciating other people or their actions, trying out new possibilities for a career or worrying about facial zits and one's personal appeal. The main focus now, as youngsters loosen themselves from their nest, is upon defining themselves as individuals, experimenting and establishing a new life structure they regard as unique to them. The greater the individual confidence, the more stable and successful this time is likely to be.

The main aim here is simply to survive and eventually advance. The young have to learn how to do it, and in their own time, regardless of all the well-meaning advice they will be getting from older, more experienced, members around them - like the Pope. Survival apparently does not come easily either because men of 24 years in the UK tend to commit suicide the most, for some reason.

Message of Moderation
There is nothing wrong with a message of moderation in every aspect of life, not just in material things. In fact, too much religion can make one a fanatic! But instead of spreading doom and gloom to the youth, perhaps it is time the Catholic Church and the Pope get themselves into the 21st century and start appealing to the youth on their terms to make themselves more relevant. Instead of decrying everything that makes young people happy and give them a sense of value, why not join them in those benefits?

For example, the Church could make its own Ipods with its teachings or motivational themes; or T-shirts with its own hip religious slogans, send motivational texts on cell phones, or sell its own brand of clothing, to name a few. Material things are part of life NOW, not some ideal Utopia. They will never leave us. By joining that life in some way, the Church would be aligning with the age we live in more positively and appreciating the blessings of Nature and the Universe, of personal talent and individual creativity. Inadvertently, it would also keep its message alive and fresh. It would not be deriding modern life in the static and outmoded message of a bygone age, one which shows how little it understands youth.

There is something not quite right with a Pope living in a luxury palace surrounded by the trappings of wealth, leading a Catholic Church that is hypocritically enjoying such unbridled materialism as one of the richest owners of property in the world, telling youngsters who aspire to that to 'spurn' it!