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Roast Busters: Turn Indignation into Action

Roast Busters: Turn Indignation into Action

Comment from John Cowan at The Parenting Place

People raged about the Roast Buster case. The indignation was justified – it was horrible. “Where were their parents!?” Fair question. I am sure the Roast Busters’ parents and the victims’ parents all wish they had been more proactive in guiding and protecting their teenagers. But quite possibly these parents were no less diligent than the majority of New Zealand parents. This scandal had some remarkable aspects that gave it notoriety and attracted the attention of the Police but, in fact, much of the story is unremarkable. Young people drinking and having sex? A fifth of New Zealand thirteen-year-olds have had sex, a half by eighteen, and most had been drinking before their first sexual experience. This is not new: since the 1960s the majority of New Zealanders had sex for the first time as teenagers. “Where were their parents!?” Probably at home, worrying but silent.

Teenage sexual behaviour seldom comes to public attention. Surveys give a glimpse of the magnitude, health statistics reveal the casualties but, in general, the public ignores it until something like Roast Busters happens. Then the indignation soars, partly at the issues of disputed consent and humiliation on social media, but also at the idea that these young people were having sex at all. Parents would be unanimous that sex is not a good thing for young teenagers. It is unwise medically, psychologically and ethically. ‘Moral outrage’ can just seem like puritanical flustering but maybe it is something we need to harness to help our kids have better lives.

The first step is reasonable boundaries and limits around their behaviour, but that only works for a while. The Parenting Place also urges parents to shoulder their responsibility and address the issues of sex and alcohol with their young people. John Cowan, Creative Producer at The Parenting Place comments:

“It takes some courage to address issues with teens – topics like alcohol or love and sex. Lots of parents would rather avoid those conversations and just trust television, the internet and their kids’ mates to do the job for them. Yes your kids will get lots of information from all sorts of sources – some of them will be good – like teachers – but, as parents, the ideas we give them will always have a special place in their head.

“Don’t wait too long! You can help your teen patch their lives up after a disaster or you can pre-empt at least some problems with good coaching. The best time to tackle problems is before they are problems, which means raising these topics even when they don’t seem to be an issue.

“Lectures don’t work. Lectures just slide off the Teflon-coating on adolescent brains. A better way to mentor your teenager is through the conversations. A conversation tells your child you respect their ideas and you acknowledge their growing maturity. In a conversation, even if both of you already have strong opinions, there is an interest in hearing the other person’s point of view. For a while your authority can overrule what they want to do and get compliance… but for how long? Very soon, that authority depends almost entirely on your strength of relationship. You want to influence their heart so that, when they fly solo, they will willingly choose wise, healthy, mature behaviour.”


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