Mischief Night!? Links to 'lies and remorse' thread(9 Posts)
As I took a dog walk around the village yesterday morning I noticed egg shells littering driveways and egg splattered windows. Many were the bungalows of our local elderly folk.
I am linking this thread into the 'lies and remorse' thread and some of the opinions on how much we should control our teenagers and young people.
I felt myself getting really angry that parents were unaware that their DC were out and about committing acts of anti social behaviour.
How do we get the discipline and respect back if we don't recognise the need for 'control?' I am using this Mischief Night as an example. Giving our DC too much independence before we are really sure they are capable of making the right choices is surely a failing as a parent?
IMO we need to be more responsible and return to a more controlled and disciplined environment.
trottingon, it's a sign of our time and in my opinion a good sign. Parents (and teachers for that matter) are trying to be more loving and caring.
The downside is of course lack of control and discipline.
I see it like a sea-saw - on one side love and on the other side control/discipline. It's a difficult balance and I don't think anybody will ever be perfect at it. It's an ongoing trial....
While earlier generations have often erred on the side of control our current generation errs on the side of 'too much' love. Hence programs on the telly like brat-camp and 'The world strictest parents'. These programs all hammer down one point: we need to be loving AND strict.
And hence a mulitude of posts on this forum that can all be answered with the same answer: be more firm and impose some discipline.
One more thing: I am one of those parents who thought 'love conquers it all'. My DS14 has the mildest of learning difficulties (undiagnosed) and parenting him was not at all easy.
So, over the years I had to learn this painful lesson that I needed to be WAAAAAY more strict and punitive than I EVER EVER wanted to be.
However, with the help of numerous parenting books and many discussions here on mumsnet, my DS14 now is doing better than ever and our relationship is as loving and cuddly as ever.
Every generation looks at the next and fears that they are going to steer us into a moral abyss. IMO young people are no wilder or problematic than they've ever been, and there's always been crap parenting too.
It's like steering through a minefield trying to get the balance right. Sometimes when they are at their most horrid is when they really just need a hug as they are upset but not dealing with it well. I am fairly sure I get it wrong several times a week . Although my DDs did say that they saw some kids throwing eggs and they were horrified so I must get it right sometimes too.
trotting, since I am the person who was talking about 'control' on that other thread, I'll respond here...
You're missing my point: I wasn't for a moment saying we 'shouldn't' control our children; I was saying that there comes a certain point, with certain challenging children, when we can't. If a ten year old goes out egging older people's windows, you can (and should, IMO) ground, stop allowance, remove privileges and punish in other ways, and they probably won't do it again... But if a 16 year old does it, you can do exactly the same (and again, I would), and it won't stop them.
This is what makes parenting (some) teenagers so difficult: I absolutely agree that ideally, you aim to keep control of your children until you're sure they can control themselves. But the trouble is, some of them fight to take control before they are ready for it.
When you say "Giving our DC too much independence before we are really sure they are capable of making the right choices is surely a failing as a parent?" you assume parents always 'give' independence, and ime that simply isn't always the case. In fact, I've observed that one of the key reasons that certain teens start to 'take' independence is because their parents aren't giving it... Then, because they haven't had much 'practice' at self-control and independence, they go wrong...
On the other thread, palika said children like boundaries and authority, and generally I agree. Some kids, I'm sure, try to take control themselves because their parents aren't doing it for them. But others - perhaps especially the brightest and most secure, or perhaps just those 'born wild' - decide to take control because they feel they are ready...
Parents with teens like these find themselves in a nasty vicious circle: their teen fights for independence and 'gets it wrong'; they struggle to control this; the teen fights harder... The parent continues to fight to re-gain control... Or gives up...
In my own case, I did not give up, and my DS1 has sorted himself out (thank goodness). But I know there is nothing I could have done differently from 15 to 17, which would have worked to stop him behaving as he did. I think possibly I could have given him the freedom and independence he very obviously wanted at 14, and he might not have fought so hard to take it, nor made some of the mistakes he made in the process.
As I wrote on the other thread, I am well aware that many (perhaps most) people struggle to believe this. They think an out-of-control teenager means a failed parent. And sometimes they're right. But often they're wrong.
The reason I'm posting now, making the same points again, is that I've been on the receiving edge of this kind of judgement, and know how unpleasant it is. It's hard enough parenting a 'challenging teen', without having other parents think you're a failure. If I can change just one mind, or make someone hesitate next time they're inclined to 'blame the parents', then it's worth it.
I otoh have two well behaved teenagers (though with different problems): one who was happy to spend Halloween in the family bosom and another who was happy to return home once she had finished rehearsing with her (adult) theatre company.
I still really, really cannot see that there is more of a teenage problem now than there ever was: in fact, I think a lot of behaviour that was considered normal even 30-40 years ago has now been criminalised.
Fighting in the school yard and on the streets was normal teenage behaviour: these days it will get you expelled. Drunk driving was socially acceptable: these days it is (rightly) considered a crime. Drunkenness was really not less of a problem 30-40 years ago. Violent crime rates were higher, despite the fact that many incidents that would be reported now would not have been then. Drugs were plentiful. Racially abusing your neighbours wasn't something anybody thought could be controlled- so it wasn't. Yes, teachers had rods- and pupils had tin tacks.
Return to the past? No thank you- I don't think I'm tough enough.
We got a letter from the police about ds last year. His crime: he had kicked a football outside his friend's house in a cul-de-sac. No, he hadn't hit anything or done any damage or spoken rudely to anyone or actually done anything- the letter made that quite clear.
But a neighbour had taken exception to seeing a small group of 12yos outside and contacted the police. They walked away when the neighbour shouted at them, but the police came round the youth club later and asked who had been there and ds freely owned up.
Can you imagine a policeman 30 years ago taking that kind of complaint seriously?
I agree, cory.
And what's more, the criminalising of children disempowers their parents. Let me tell you a story...
When DS1 was 11, he broke someone's window. He and a friend were playing a lazy version of 'knock and run', hiding in the bushes across the road from someone's house and throwing stones at the door to try to get him to come to it. One of the stones - 'probably' DS1's, he said - smashed the fanlight above the door. It was 'accidental but reckless' - the policeman's words.
When the policeman came to our house a couple of weeks later (it obviously wasn't a policing priority), DS1 immediately owned up, as he had already done to the mother of the boy across the road who had initially been blamed, who had reported him to the police. The policeman said that in the light of his admission, and the damage, my son would have to be arrested, charged and reprimanded for criminal damage, whose definition includes accidental but reckless, avoidable damage. He was very embarrassed, and didn't whisk DS1 away in a police car, but we made a booked appointment for us to attend the police station.
When we got there, the police were in fact very kind and fairly gentle - they kept DS1 away from adults in the custody suite and dealt with him promptly. But the fact remained that he had to be interviewed, have his fingerprints taken and a DNA mouth swab, and get a criminal record, at the age of 11 and just for breaking a window.
I had never had any contact with the police before and I was terrified, let alone him. "Too bad", people might say, "He'd behaved badly and recklessly and needed to deal with the consequences", and I agree: that was exactly what I told him...
After he'd been interviewed, I asked the police about getting the window fixed (it hadn't been). I said "If this hadn't become a police matter, I'd've taken DS1 down there, he would have apologised face-to-face, and he'd be paying for that window. But now he's been arrested, I don't know whether that's allowed...?" And the police told me "Better to stay away. His landlord will fix it".
We went home and I brooded. That did not sit at all easy with me. My son had a criminal record, but he did not have any sense at all of how his actions had affected the man, or of how much windows cost to mend. So the next day, I went against police advise, and took my son to the man's house with a ladder and a sheet of plastic, and we made a temporary repair. And I booked someone to mend the fanlight, and my son paid for it out of his pocket-money. It was definitely the right thing to do: the man cried when my son apologised and I said we were fixing the window.
My point is, to 'do the right thing', I had to go against police advice. And most parents wouldn't do that, I think; I am an unusually 'moral' parent, who strongly believes kids need to sort out their mistakes. (By the way, though I spoke to the other boy's mum, she was quite happy for my son to take the rap)... But as a society, we are so ready to criminalise teenagers and young boys, as cory said, and so focused on punishment, that we forget to help them learn from their mistakes and put right their wrongdoings.
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