I was a big fan of Will Smith as the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air in the 90s (probably starting to show my age now!) and I have been thinking a lot about what happened at the Oscar's mainly because it has made me reflect on our society and what we value.
Will Smith is a writer, rapper and actor. A very successful businessman who is obviously highly intelligent. A man who has made his fortune out of words and in this instance chose to use violence rather than his most powerful tool.
But it is the next two stages of an incident that cause me the greatest concern. The apology and the consequence.
We all make mistakes, especially in the heat of the moment, but it is how we respond and reflect afterwards, that is the true test of character. He apologised to a lot of people when he had his chance in his acceptance speech but never to the person he hit. He has displayed to the world that he thinks it is OK if someone annoys you enough, you have the right to punch them. It is only in the last few days we have seen a genuine apology. The cynic in me thinks that this is maybe prompted more by the impact on his brand rather than genuine remorse.
And finally the consequence. After punching a person for the whole world to see he refused to leave and was celebrated by his peers in person and virtually on social media platforms. The Academy allowed him to accept his Oscar and he was seen dancing at the after parties with what appears to be other famous people supporting him. Perhaps this is a reflection more on fame and fortune and that they get to live by a different set of rules.
Here lies the problem. Like it or not the rest of society see famous people, from politicians to entertainers, living by a different set of rules with little to no consequences. Our children see this behavior and think it is awesome or cool and perhaps even worse, normal and acceptable.
Too many children today think that the solution when they are frustrated or angry lies in violence. Too many children think that rules don't apply to them and that they shouldn't have to apologise when they have made a mistake and too many children don't think they deserve a consequence when they make the same mistake repeatedly.
I worry greatly that as adults, the message we are sending to our children is going to create a very entitled next generation who will struggle to work within our current societal norms.
So let's work together to help our children and start with the small stuff before they leave your house.
- Have they had a good night sleep and not been on devices all night?
- Have they had a breakfast?
- Have they got their mask, lunch, water and the equipment they need for a successful day of learning?
- Is their uniform correct including the correct shoes?
- If they are biking or scooting, do they have their vest?
We need to work together on these little things so that they know they can't get away with the big things.
I was reading this interesting article about consequences for bullying in Norway recently. One of the things that they do is to have "very clear expectations for acceptable behaviour – and the consequences if they breach those rules. "The [sanctions] should not be a surprise to the child," Limber says. The adults must act as positive role models, who reinforce good behaviours and show zero tolerance for any forms of victimisation."
In terms of consequences for students we focus on restorative justice as we believe that this is the best way to create a change in a student, and frankly, legally we have very few other options. On the rare occasion a teacher rings you about your child's behaviour this means it is serious and unlike Will Smith, we will need to work together to come up with a consequence to help change the behaviour.
Ngā mihi nui