Proper guidance can prevent kids from becoming juvenile offenders

KUALA LUMPUR - More than 75% of juvenile offenders are school dropouts and this is because they did not have proper early childhood care, said Early Childhood Care and Education Council president Datuk Dr Chiam Heng Keng.

Dr Chiam, a former Suhakam commissioner and social psychologist, said that most children in conflict with the law have problems studying because they do not know the basic foundations of learning, such as how to sit still and ask questions properly.

"These children also find it difficult to relate to their teachers, causing them to antagonise their tutors. It is also a challenge for them to reflect and make the right decisions as they are impulsive and do not think of consequences," she said.

It was reported that more than 8,000 juveniles had been convicted of being involved in crimes between 2009 and 2010.

On another matter, Dr Chiam urged parents to only use maids as a last resort to provide early childhood care for their children.

"Maids only provide custodial care feeding them and so on. In the early years, a child's brain is developing. So children should be exposed to the love and care by their family. Maids will not be able to provide such an experience," she said.

Early childhood education specialist Prof Dr Mariani Md Nor said a child's first six years were important to develop soft skills such as patience and tolerance.

"If no proper guidance is given, then a child will not have such skills," she said, adding that juvenile offenders such as illegal motorcycle racers had a "win-at-all-costs" attitude and lacked patience, which could have been inculcated during their early years.

Dr Mariani said another factor, which led to lack of proper childhood education, was child care centres employing untrained caregivers.

Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim said since it was a norm for both parents to be away at work, they could not closely monitor their children's diet and nutrition.

"A diet of junk food will not help a child's brain to develop well," she said.

She also urged parents to have a loving home environment as disharmony may affect a child's confidence and self-respect.

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