OP-ED: Why Children Migrate Towards Gangs


By Richard Johnson, Folsom State Prison


The question parents and guardians often ask is, what do gangs offer that is so alluring that we lose our children to them?


There’s no single occurrence that answers this question. However, cumulatively, the answer covers a lot of aspects.


To begin with, we must understand that our youth are very impressionable and the sense of belonging that the gang mindset offers can blur their vision.


You may think that you have all the correct answers, and you may believe you have provided an adequate home structure with all the necessary disciplines for your child.


But underneath, unknown to you, rebellious tendencies can still be brewing in your child. And gangs will prey on those tendencies.


I have very little knowledge in the psychology of mental disciplines, but I do have an enormous amount of experience as a wayward youth and as a misguided adult.


My rebellion began early, from little things such as not liking certain foods, how I wore particular clothing, not going to school and rejecting church teachings.


So the lesson is, based upon m my own example, is that by the time parents realize the full combined effects of a youth’s digressions, it’s often too late because that youth is already are on the way to the clutches of the gangs.


From my own non-scientific observation, I think parents can slow down or prevent children from joining gangs if they adopt a balanced approach and get more involved with every aspect of the child’s life, while at the same time giving them the space to make sound choices for themselves.


A form of this true balanced approach to parenting can be termed (democratic centralism), in which ultimately you set the parameters for the child to function while giving them ample room to choose for themselves from the available options.


This method allows young people to feel self-sufficient and responsible for their own choices and actions. Quite naturally their decisions will fluctuate and be in error in some instances.


However, given the fact that whatever the situation, you outlined the choices and boundaries for them to minimize irreversible errors.


Unless we engage them in positive open dialogue and provide alternatives to unacceptable conduct, the gangs will definitely fill that void by offering a sense of belonging, a substitute for what the child thinks is lacking in their home situation.


Let the child know that you don’t have all the answers but are more than happy to hear what they have to say and then be willing to work hand-in-hand to fill any gaps.


I think it is vital that parents must be truthful and decisive.


And for adults and guardians who are not the parent, its paramount even more so, to be honest with all your communication. Truthfully speaking, it all begins with trust, because how can you or the youth relate to each other if there is no foundation of fundamental trust to build from?


Gangs will fill any communication gaps left open by us. That’s why it’s vital that we learn to talk to our youth, instead of talking at them.


They will respect your views more when you give some appreciation to what, and how they feel as well.


No one said it would be easy to compete with gangs. But nothing is unmanageable once you apply yourself toward a conscious consensual resolution through real communication.


Can we talk?

Editor’s note: Please send questions, letters or comments to Richard Johnson, 405-14th St., Suite 1215, Oakland, 94612, or [email protected] postnewsgroup or at the Post Facebook page.


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