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Rebel Boys

"We do love the bold little boys and we want to see them blossom into fine men" Faye

Children rely on their elders for guidance as to how to survive in the particular society they have entered. Generally, children will co-operate with adults who seriously and clearly communicate what behaviour is required.

But some parents find that they have ended up with a rebel - usually a boy. This is often a dilemma for modern parents. Should I discipline my child? When? How? What for? What, if any, behaviours should be strictly disallowed?

Questions like this are troubling for many parents at this point in our history. Parents of previous generations would dispense discipline without anywhere near as much agonising and self-doubt. No doubt, some too freely. But have parents gone too far the other way when they let the little people run riot all over the social space?

Why the change? Well, for one thing, families are much smaller, and there is less opportunity for parents to learn from experience how to handle socialisation. And as a result there is also less cross-family example.

Secondly, as part of the rise of popular psychology, there has been a lot of theorising about "enlightened" child-raising practices. But what is a passing fad, and what is true progress?

Well, let's just talk about the two outer limits on children's behaviour - the parental and the societal. Yes, parents who lose their temper and strike out at children without self-control are traumatising those children. (Adults should never wield objects when reacting to children). Regular losing of temper is bad child-raising. Even when a parent is being strict, they should still show respect for the child as a person.

If a parent is getting stressed by a child's annoying behaviour, the parent must do something about it before they reach the point where their pent-up frustration explodes in a manner that shocks both parent and child - or worse, decays slowly into dislike.

So one outer limit is what the parent can cope with. Now, isn't that interesting? That's not based directly on the child's needs at all! But it is very important - because the child needs his or her parents, needs them to be sane, to be functioning.

Yes, it is perfectly appropriate that the child modify his behaviour in accordance with the limits of others' tolerance. Can this be overdone? Yes, if a parent becomes ridiculously intolerant. How intolerant is that? If you're always saying no, you know you are going too far.

But what if I don't mind what the child does? Now if the child is already a very co-operative type, this is believable. But some parents have trained themselves not to react even when their child tramples all over social protocol. This is not doing the child any good. If children show no respect for others, they are progressively more excluded from social life - and both they and we lose from this. By mid-secondary, not having found a way in, they may be chronically depressed.

Every society has behaviour limitations. There are no exceptions. Even our society, which prides itself on its rights of self-expression, locks up many thousands of (usually young male) citizens who are too unrestrained in their behaviour. And in the penal system, there are no rights at all. Indeed, the handlers go out of their way to be unpleasant.

Little boys become grown men in only 15 or so years. Civilised behaviour does not come automatically with age, but only through acculturation, that is social feedback, 90% of which is normally parental.

Spirited boys fare much better in this regard if their father (or father figure) gives clear and distinct personal responses in respect of particular behaviours.

What about explaining things to children? Yes, this does work with most children. But there is in every generation a hard core of infants who, although they understand the words perfectly, need to actually know first hand what they can and can't get away with. There is not something wrong with these children. They have a biologically-determined need to find out for themselves what the physical (not the verbal) restraints are on various behaviours.

If these limits are not presented to them by a clear system of warning-followed-by-physical-restraint-if-ignored, these children will become confused, unhappy, and socially dysfunctional. If boys like this enter politically correct primary schools, there is also a risk that they will be (erroneously but harmfully) branded as psychologically unsound or even doped (sometimes for years).

Sheer permissiveness is poor child-raising. So the second outer limit is that there must be some limits! But what if I can't be sure exactly which behaviours should be disallowed? This is not the most important issue. Yes, what seems important today may be overlooked in thirty years time. And what is overlooked today may become taboo in thirty years time!

What does not change is that every member of society must cope with the fact of behavioural limits. The tragedy is that some children do not realise that society has some brick wall limits until too late in their development. Some limits must be set and enforced.               POC




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