Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Little monsters

It's a common belief that some children are born nasty and vicious and they'll never change. I don't accept that, I'm convinced any child will be just great as long as they're brought up properly.

What produces monsters is parents who don't love their children and don't know how to bring out their innate goodness and sensitivity. If they're aided and abetted by teachers who write off children's potential and assume they'll never achieve much, then naturally those children will be messed up.

Look at any child who's developed a mean streak and become "impossible" and I'm sure you'll find these negative factors at the root of it. There are many many parents out there who really have little idea of the right way to bring up a child.

Of course parents will say "Ah, but you don't have children. You don't know what they can be like. Some children are trouble from the word go and there's nothing you can do about it. You can bust a gut trying to sort them out and you'll get nowhere. Some kids are simply beyond the pale."

But there are plenty of people working with children who say that's not the case. They maintain adamantly that difficult children can be turned around if you just treat them the right way, if you understand why they've become so wayward.

I'm sure we can all think of mature, responsible adults who at one time were complete tearaways. It's not a predestined path, young hoodlums don't have to be hoodlums for the rest of their life.

Camila Batmanghelidjh of Kids' Company for one has helped hundreds of children to shake off their dysfunctional past and become the positive individuals they were meant to be. People used to call her a crazy idealist but not any longer. They've seen the practical results of her work and they know she's wiser than all the defeatists and cynics. For her, writing people off is just not an option.

26 comments:

Roses said...

Contentious topic you've chosen to blog about. How to bring up children is the sure fire way to get a shouting debate.

I think people are a complex mix of nature and nurture. I would like to believe that with the right guidance any child can achieve more than what their statistics say.

Grannymar said...

Raising children is about the most important task we can undertake in life, yet there is no training. It is a wonder so many get it right!

Nick said...

Roses - I think what children achieve depends so much on the expectations and the self-confidence that their parents inspire in them.

Grannymar - Indeed, it's amazing so many parents somehow pick up the basic skills and make a fairly good job of what is a very complex undertaking.

Baino said...

Good point but I do believe some are just plain awkward. Nurture has a great deal to do with it but not sure about 'turning kids around'. Show me the 7 year old and I'll show you the man. Kids are pretty set in their personalities by age 7 so those early years are oh so important.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I believe there may be such a thing as a bad seed, but that they're rare. Most "problem" children are the result of bad (or nonexistent) parenting and other kinds of abuse. I think the wrong people often have children, or have them for the wrong reasons, and in such cases, the children get the short end of the stick. I have always thought there should be a qualifying exam for parenthood, which would also solve the world's population problems since few would make the cut.

Nick said...

Baino - "Show me the 7 year old and I'll show you the man" But isn't that incredibly defeatist? You're downgrading someone's entire life on the basis that it's impossible to change them.

Heart - Physical and mental abuse of children is very common and often at the root of misbehaviour. And the parents frequently haven't a clue about the effect their abuse is having.

There's a lot to be said for a parenting exam, but which politician is brave enough to suggest it?

Macy said...

Nick - Camilla B is doing sterling work. And it's true that you could pick out the kids in my own son's primary (sweet kids!) who were destined to fail.
"Failure" can take many forms though. I've met kids from "good families" who were plain bullies / strange or unpleasant too.

Nick said...

Macy - Ah, but were they destined to fail or were they just seen that way? And if children from "good" families are bullies etc, then something not so good must be going on behind the scenes....

nursemyra said...

"Show me the 7 year old and I'll show you the man" was a Jesuit saying. Have you seen the excellent series of films called "7 Up"?

Nick said...

Myra - Oh yes, I know the saying. Like many sayings, I think it contains a nugget of truth but isn't the whole story. I have indeed seen "7 Up" and it's very interesting, particularly for its conclusion that class immobility is still very much with us.

blueviolet said...

That kinda goes along with my hunch that bullying comes from the home. Kids bully who are bullied by their family.

Nick said...

Blueviolet - More than a hunch, I think. There's endless research that shows the cyclical nature of bullying and abuse. A father bullies his son, the son bullies his own son and so on for generations. Unless someone is able to break the pattern.

kylie said...

nick,
i read the article in the link (i was in a hurry so i will try to get back to it)
it's a great story and i'll be passing it on
thanks!

Nick said...

Kylie - She's an amazing woman. I did a whole post on her once. She can see so clearly how children get fucked up and how they can be pointed in a more positive direction.

Wisewebwoman said...

complex topic Nick and not easily discussed.
Children are born so completely different in personality and needs. Show me the baby and I'll show you the adult. Needy babies are needy adults and I can't remember the source now but a long time ago I heard the drug that kids are hooked on so very young is "approval" (listen to any parent:"good boy", "bad girl") and it is so difficult to detoxify from that.
I could write reams, but it's your blog....lol.
XO
WWW

Nick said...

www - But if kids are hooked on approval why do they turn nasty? That way they get constant disapproval. It would make more sense to be cooperative and likeable.

Roses said...

I really do disagree with you Nick on that point. Constant approval from parents is almost as bad as no approval.

A friend of Boy's came from a two-parent affluent family. At no point in his upbringing were any boundaries set. Both he and his elder brother became drug addicts and dropped out of school without any meaningful qualifications. The parents blamed the schools their sons attended.

Some clear boundaries, early on, would have sorted them out.

Good parenting is about encouragement, good boundaries and the ability to say 'I've got that wrong, how about we try that again?'

kylie said...

i've been bumbling along as a parent since i started. i havent really been a parent, i've just been myself, flawed, inconsistent, sometimes angry, sad, self centred....
the kids are doing great and i keep wondering when my lack of any idea what i'm doing will catch up!

Nick said...

Roses - Oh, I'm not saying children should only have approval, that is indeed destructive. Of course there should be clear boundaries for their behaviour. Only by getting regular disapproval can children learn a sense of values, morality and responsibility.

Nick said...

Kylie - Even if you think you're bumbling along, you're probably instinctively passing on certain values to them and giving them a sense of right and wrong and how to live their lives positively. Parents who have to follow a parenting handbook are the ones to be nervous about.

Roses said...

Kylie, there's another way to parent? Really? Wow. I wanted to parent as they suggested in books, but I just never had time. I was too busy parenting.

Nick said...

Roses - Yes, I guess bumbling along is what most parents do when all's said and done. Of course they like to give the impression they've got a Grand Plan for bringing their kids up and giving them a good start in life but that's mostly for show. Underneath it's all hysteria, confusion and hoping for the best....

Wisewebwoman said...

"Only by getting regular disapproval can children learn a sense of values, morality and responsibility."

Oh Nick, I've seen the damage this has done first hand.

I think we only learn from example and never from words.

Firm loving adults with a strong sense of ethics and compassion will raise that in their children.

XO
WWW

Nick said...

www - Well, when I say regular disapproval I don't mean habitual disapproval to the exclusion of praise. I only mean that if a child is doing something clearly undesirable the parent should say so and not act as if little Rebecca is being charmingly truculent.

secret agent woman said...

There's some pretty good research on sociopathy that suggests that there are, in fact, some people who are (as Heart suggested) bad seeds. They tend to be insensitive to pain and never develop empathy. Still, the ones who go on to live truly horrifying lives are raised in abusive households. I suspect there's an interaction effect between a genetic pre-disposition and parenting for most kids. And many kids are well behaved and grow into reasonably successful adults in spite of bad parenting. (Me, for example.)

Nick said...

Secret Agent - I guess there must be some people who are "bad seeds", though hopefully a tiny proportion. I think you're right, abusive households cause huge damage to children, and the children's children. And yes, fortunately kids can grow up remarkably well-adjusted despite very incompetent parents.