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‘Make T&T safe, mentor youth’

By Sophie Barcant,
BA (Psyc), B.ED.
Trainer, Facilitator, Parenting Coach/Consultant.

I’m using my column to respond to an opinion piece titled ‘Don’t drop the ball T&T’ by Form Five student Rashad Cheong in the Trinidad Guardian.

Rashad, I would like to invite you to consider that the root cause of criminal behaviour is one of pain, fear, shame, and primary psycho-emotional needs not being met when these men and boys were very small.

Every human is born with innocence, zestfulness, intelligence, and beauty; not evil. They all have needs that must be met such as belonging, acceptance, unconditional love, and certainty to develop into stable, sociable, responsible, caring adults. When these needs are not met, then you get the character traits you described, not evil.

A young rapist was once raping an older woman and when she asked him why he was raping her as she was old enough to be his mother, he responded angrily “Mother? We don’t have mothers!”

What does that tell you? There is a parenting crisis in this country.

What we need is massive parenting, mentorship and even teacher training programmes to mentor the youth and raise children while addressing their basic psycho-emotional needs.

I once saw a sticker on a vehicle: ‘Make T&T safe, kill a bandit’! That pierced my soul with sadness. Even after being sexually assaulted myself, I choose to say: ‘Make T&T safe, Mentor Youth’.

You see, misbehaviour speaks and shouts. Often, we lash out and don’t reach out to others because we are in pain, fearful or feeling deep shame and other emotions we do not understand. Behind anger is fear, pain, and shame.

I believe it is safe to say that 98 per cent of antisocial behaviour is due to the above. The other 2 per cent from mental, emotional or personality disorders not attributed to early traumatic painful experiences. These statistics are my guess.

Removing criminals from society is not the answer. Let’s put our energy into addressing the root cause of crime and have compassion for the broken-hearted young girls and boys.

It is the broken-hearted youth seeking to meet their unmet needs in gangs and promiscuous relationships, ending up with babies and totally unprepared to be mothers and fathers who need attention. They cannot give what they don’t have, so fail to raise their offspring properly, and the cycle continues.

Our health and community centres, televisions and radios should be pumping out programmes to help parents and people heal and recover from emotional deprivation and neglect.

I put emphasis on television and radio especially because admirable initiatives in schools and government centres have been put on and parents do not turn up. Radio gets results. Media has the power.

There is no end of wonderful, generous, sufficiently educated people and NGOs in this country who want to contribute to such a cause and mentor parents, teachers, and youth. It’s not from a lack of know-how and expertise; it’s a matter of priorities. Programmes need funding.

In response to  Gerald Aboud’s article ‘To become a democracy’ (February 21), I say: Thank you for expressing your deep empathy for the recent murders and for expressing your intense desire to “Stand and Fight”.

I appeal to you to fight to raise the financing to sponsor mentorship and parenting programmes designed for our culture to be aired on local radio, television, and social media, to educate us as to what good parenting is and how to heal from one’s own lack of good parenting.

Several of these have already been created but funding is needed to just air them on radio and TV. Many NGOs who offer guidance and services to families are struggling to stay afloat as government subventions have dried up. Children’s Authority, Family Services, ParentingTT are just a few facing this struggle.

Unlike Humpty Dumpty, we can be put back together again. Please listen to the TED talk by filmmaker Director X, ‘Message to the guy who shot me’ for proof that certain simple, inexpensive rehab programmes, like his, called ‘Operation Prefrontal Cortex’ have worked wonders, changing brains of traumatised, neglected individuals. These have transformed inmates in prisons and delinquent youths in schools in various places worldwide.

It’s time for those with the funds and good heart to put their money where their mouth is.

Aboud, as a prominent businessman, can you and fellow businessmen kindly contribute to these types of proven, inexpensive initiatives?

No extra sportsgrounds are the answer, no extra police, no incarceration, and death penalties. The answer is love, parent education, mentorship and as Director X says ‘Operation Prefrontal Cortex’ programmes.

Isn’t it interesting that the cost of the first and last things mentioned costs nothing to use and yet we must find funding to coordinate facilitators to teach and remind people of these God-given abilities?


Follow Sophie’s parenting approaches drawn from Love and Logic and Positive Discipline on, FB and Instagram. For personal coaching,