Why Laura Johnson’s Riot Case Makes Parents Uneasy

Put aside for a moment the uneasiness that you feel about getting a professional counsellor to diagnose from a distance a twenty-year old’s mental and emotional issues on one of the biggest websites in the world, but this article from the BBC about Laura Johnson, the millionaires daughter who was convicted of burglary and handling stolen goods in the riots, is fascinating for two reasons.

First, it says something about society that everyone’s surprised that the millionaires daughter is going to jail for burglary, as if somehow a decent education and wealth will stop people doing wrong.

As parents, we have traditionally believed that the best gift we can give our children is a good education. Many of us do all that we possibly can to get them into the best schools. And many parents think that by encouraging youngsters to develop healthy and happy social relationships with their peers, they will be, to some extent, immune from what they perceive to be negative influences in the communities that often surround their homes.

I’d disagree with the traditional part as that’s probably something new in the last seventy years (ask a father in 1940 what the best gift he could give his child would be and I’d guess he’d say “a business” or something similar), but more than that, the best thing a parent can do is raise their child to know Christ, to teach them the great things of God and “impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deut 6:7) The nonsensical idea that education can keep you safe from sin needs to be shot.

The second thing, is how obsessed with low self-esteem we are. The author’s diagnosis of this girl is that she must have low self-esteem. Why? Because low self-esteem is what makes anyone do things that are wrong. Her solution for this girl is that… Well she doesn’t give one in the article but it’s probably that she should get better self-esteem somehow. Self-esteem has become the magic thing which we need to fix to make people better. If only they had a better view of themselves we say! Of course, this too is silly. Your options are trying to see yourself as a better person, even if you’re not, or spend more time looking at Jesus, who is a better person. I know which one will make you a happier, more fulfilled person less likely to be found driving a van round during riots helping people steal stuff.