Thursday, 11 September 2014

How Bad Parenting Can Lead To Anti-Social Behaviour

Yob Nation

I've just finished reading Francis Gilbert's Yob Nation.  The book gives first-hand accounts of how 'yobbish' behaviour can be seen in nearly every level of society.  No longer applying just to the stereotypical image of the shaven-headed lager-fuelled football fan, Gilbert describes how City traders, politicians and students in lecture theatres often exhibit this behaviour. 

I found the section on how a person's upbringing can lead to this behaviour particularly interesting.  Gilbert interviews a wide-range of people from different backgrounds.  The common themes show a link between certain styles of parenting and negative behaviour.

No Boundaries

In some respects, Gilbert's findings are not surprising.  One case study mentioned is a teenage boy who intimidates his mother to the extent that she was scared to reprimand him because of how he would react. 

In my own work as a teacher in a Pupil Referral Unit, I have seen what happens when a child grows up with virtually no boundaries.  Even when they are not causing havoc you can see it.  With a few exceptions, the following examples illustrate the sort of pupil I encountered:  they are unwilling or unaware of the need to adapt their speech depending on the situation, they push past if you are in the way, they don't consider the feelings of others. 

When you witness this behaviour from young people, you can see how, at night on the streets, with their friends, under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they would indulge in yobbish behaviour. 

However, Gilbert also shows how the authoritarian parenting can have negative consequences for a young person's behaviour. 


The author spoke to two reformed characters who caused havoc on the streets but behaved well at home under the watchful eye of their respective fathers.  They were very strict and not averse to giving their kids a backhander if they stepped out of line.

One lad said that when this happened, there was 'no discussion'.  According to Gilbert this lack of discussion as well as the physical punishment is a problem as it 'does not teach a child the power of empathy or rationality'.

While the threat of a whack might make a lot of youngsters think again before making a cheeky comment, they focus on the punishment THEY will receive rather than the effect their behaviour has on others. 

I strongly feel that you should discuss with your child WHY their behaviour is wrong.  How do they think their brother/sister feels now you've said that to them etc.  It forces them to analyse their behaviour and consider things from another person's point of view. 

This is what they take with them into the big wide world.  When they are in charge of their own behaviour, a lack of consideration for others is dangerous.  An authoritarian approach may work at home but the evidence suggests this is not the case when the authority figure is moved.  Again, one of Gilbert's case studies sums it up:  As soon as I left my dad's house I felt that was it...I was free as a bird.'

In my years working with young people, I hadn't appreciated this type of parenting as a contributor to yobbish behaviour.  From the older generation, we often hear the phrase 'it never did me any harm' and a lot of people feel that the fewer boundaries there seem to be these days is the ultimate contributor to bad behaviour. 

But maybe the main reason young people behaved better was out of fear rather than consideration and thought for others.  Fear of the cane at school, and fear of the belt at home.  Also, there are currently a lot of very good initiatives being implemented in schools such as anti-bullying and, in general, there is more tolerance towards people of different races and cultures. 


No-one is saying that this sort of behaviour will ever be completely eradicated but perhaps the solution lies somewhere between the 'old-school' thinking of the past with a modern approach. 

  • Old-School

Children are aware of the boundaries and the consequences of bad behaviour.  Instead of violence they have privileges taken away from them. 

Accordingly, they are rewarded for good behaviour by earning these privileges.  I have seen hardened youngsters whoop and cheer when they have been awarded five out of five for a lesson. 

  • Modern 

In schools, anti-bullying initiatives mentioned above act as a jumping-off point for discussing the causes and effects of such behaviour.  This could be scaled down from wider social problems to a simple discussion of behaviour in the home:  "When you answer me back in that way, how do you think it makes me feel?"

I believe a combination of boundaries and discussion of these issues could help shape and improve a child's behaviour from a very young age.  Let me know what you think in the 'comments' section below.  Thanks.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Have You Taken Your Kids To The Museum?

The other day we had a family outing to the Manchester Museum.  It had been recommended as our son is a big fan of dinosaurs and when we mentioned the T-Rex on display, his eyes lit up. 

It turned out to be a great day.  I was really impressed by the range of material on display.  I would definitely recommend taking the kids.  Even for the very young ones, there is a lot of interesting stuff to look at.

These are some of the benefits museum visits have to offer kids:

1.  Family Time

We all had a great time together as a family.  It's so easy to get caught up in the routine of daily life.  Even on the weekend you have to go shopping etc.  So it's good to be able to talk to the kids without it being an instruction of some sort.  You can just talk about what you see and enjoy each other's company.

2.  Educational

I think it's great for kids to see that learning does not just take place in a classroom and that it is not something that is done because it HAS to be.  It can be an enriching, interesting experience that is done independently. 

You have the freedom to stop and look at whatever you want and knowledge is not always something that is formally supervised by a teacher.  It can also be something that is acquired informally during your spare time. 

I feel strongly that providing learning experiences like this from your child will develop their minds.  It will help turn them into adults who are curious about learning and they will pass this on. 

3.  Brings Knowledge To Life

Similar to point 2. above, the exhibits such as the animal skeletons bring pictures and knowledge they may have already acquired from books to life.  The learning is given more meaning as a result. 

4.  It's Free!

There is a donation box that you are asked to contribute to.  It need only be a small amount if you choose to donate at all.  However this helps them keep the museum free whilst maintaining it. 

At a time when government cuts continue to affect the most vulnerable in society in particular, it's good to know that there are still some paths to learning and knowledge that are not blocked for those without a ready supply of cash. 

Where else do people recommend to take the young ones for an educational visit that won't break the bank?  Please comment below.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

How Do You Play With Your Kids?

We've just returned from a two week holiday at a camp-site in France.  If you're wondering where to take your kids on holiday, you could do worse than take them camping or caravanning. 


Perhaps the biggest advantage caravanning/camping has to offer is the space that is on offer for your child to play safely.  They can ride bikes, play football etc.  If they are old enough to go off on their bikes they have the freedom to go a bit further afield without the worry that you may feel if they did this at home. 

Three Types of Parenting

My three year old is still at an age where the play-area with its climbing frames, sea-saws and sand is enough of a draw to keep him occupied for hours.  Obviously, my wife or I were on hand to supervise and play with him.   

It seems obvious to me that you would supervise a three year old on a play area.  Not to everyone, apparently.  I noticed broadly three types of parenting approach while accompanying my son to the play area.  I'll share these below:

1.  The 'Leave Them Alone' type

Happy to let their kids get on with it as long as they were at least three years of age. 

They may have been watching from afar (this wasn't apparent) but the number of times I saw these kids get upset if they fell off something, had something of theirs snatched by another kids etc indicated they should have been closer at hand to look after them.

One kid of about five wanted me to support him as he traversed the 'monkey bars'.  I didn't want some irate parent accusing me of something dodgy!  I wanted them there to play with their kid!

2.  The 'Let's Play On This' type 

These occupy the position at the other end of the scale.  They smother their kids when they play with them, directing them what to play on and what to do.  It's like they have an itinerary they need to follow.  "Quick get on the swing Julian, we're five minutes behind". 

I've never understood this approach to playing with children.  For a start, it must be shattering.  Also, kids need the space to create their own games, their own imaginary world.  It allows them some autonomy which helps with decision making and developing independent skills. 

A few years ago, I worked as a Senior Playworker on a summer scheme, here in Salford. 

(This was 2010, just prior to the Tories cutting Council funding which signalled the death of initiatives like these.  A shame, as it was a lifeline for a lot of the local kids during the long Summer holidays.)

Every day, my colleague and I put up a huge teepee in Victoria Park in Swinton.  Kids would then roll up and we did Arts and Crafts, played football, cricket, tennis etc with them. 

We were briefed that our role was not to provide a structure to their play.  It was just to let them play.  If they asked us to join in or to help them with anything, we would but they weren't at school.  Within reason, they could do what they want.  The children were brilliantly behaved.  The only person I had a problem with was one of the parents.

I was harangued by a mother of two young boys that I was spending time playing football with older lads (true, in order to make up the numbers), whilst ignoring her boys. 

I pointed out that the equipment was there for them to use, there were plenty of kids already happily using it and that my colleague was overseeing the part of the site where they were. 

To no avail.  The lads just stared at the floor, embarrassed.  I think it's a pity they needed an adult to show them how to play.  Perhaps that's the fate in store for kids with overbearing parents. 

They were at least seven years of age and there were younger kids organising games between themselves or attempting to build rope swings.  Without the need for adult intervention.  You know, the way older people point out that kids don't do any more. 

3.  The 'I'm Just Here' type

This was what my wife and I were aiming for.  I love playing with my son but I always let him tell me what to do.  Is there a kid alive who doesn't enjoy bossing adults around?

Also, we're on hand to help him or encourage him.  He has to room to breathe though. 

My favourite form of this something you can do when your kids are older.  They play while you sit yourself down on a conveniently placed bench and read your book with the occasional glance towards the fruit of your loins.  "Watch this dad!" they yell as they swing on the monkey bars.  You look up respond with a paternal smile, a word of encouragement, then back to Jack Reacher.  Classic holiday parenting!

So, three general types that I witnessed.  I'm not claiming to be perfect.  I'm no expert and I make mistakes as a parent.  To me though, the approaches I've been critical of were clear-cut.  Which category do you fall into?  Disagree with anything?  Please contribute by commenting below. 

Thursday, 21 August 2014

How To Cope With Being The Least Favourite Parent

My son is definitely a 'Mummy's Boy'.  He's fine with me when my wife is not around.  He'll play with me and he'll respond to me.  He seems happy that I am his dad.  We get along great.  When his mum is around as well, however, it's a different story.

"Where's Mummy?"

When he asks for something, he kicks off if I go and get it.  The face crumples.  "I want MUMMY to get it!" he screams.  Of course, we don't accept the screaming and remind him that he has to ask nicely etc, but the preference is clear. 

When I go into his bedroom in the morning his face falls when he sees it is me.  "Where's mummy?" he demands as if she is late for an appointment.  Needless to say, if mummy goes into him first thing, he could probably get to the early afternoon before it occurred to him to ask where daddy is. 

Second Best

At one time, I felt a bit aggrieved that I was clearly considered second best.  Then I thought of it another way.

I know my son loves me.  We're very close.  We have a great time together and we make each other laugh.  I experience all the joy of parenthood even though I'm not as highly rated as my wife is.  In this respect, I feel like a journeyman professional footballer.  He may not get international recognition, he may not get the £200 000 a week that the superstars get, but he gets to play a game he loves for a living.  And he still probably earns £20 000 a week. 

And he doesn't get the media scrutinising his private life.  Just as I get to have more lie-ins than my wife does. 

Friday, 15 August 2014

Parenting lessons from Coronation Street

I watched Coronation Street recently.  It's a show that stretches the boundaries of believability in a lot of cases but it did show up a modern day trend in parenting.  Tracy is told that her daughter has been aggressive to another child and straight away she is in self-righteous "My daughter wouldn't do that" denial mode. 

Shifting The Blame

I used to work as a teacher and one of the least appealing parts of the job was phoning parents when their child had done something wrong.

Occasionally, parents lent an understanding ear.  They would listen to you and work with the school to show the child that they had crossed a line.  Putting up a united front is the best way to help the child get the message. 

In my experience though, this scenario was rare.  Most of the time, parents would seek to shift the blame even in situations that were clear-cut.  Where their child was the one at fault.  They would blame the teacher or they would blame other children. 

If the teacher has witnessed the incident, then that is what happened.  They don't make stuff up. 

Learning Responsibility

Refusing to acknowledge your kid's negative behaviour is bad parenting.  I don't know why parents do this.  Maybe they don't want to deal with the kid kicking off if he/she is disciplined.  Maybe they genuinely believe their offspring is incapable of doing wrong. 

I suspect it's more a reflection of today's society.  From the top down, everyone seems to want to shift the blame. 

However, if your child doesn't learn responsibility at a young age, they will be incapable of learning it as an adult. 


I have worked with teenagers who have been excluded from mainstream schools who seem unable to understand that actions have consequences.  Already they are set on a firm path to a life devoid of hope unless they wrench themselves away from it.  I believe this is because, in the majority of cases, they have come from parents who, for a variety of reasons, have not given them any discipline. 

Let your child face up to their actions if they misbehave.  Even if it's taking a preferred toy away until the next day. 

Remember, Tracy is a convicted killer.  Do you really want to take parenting lessons off this woman?

Friday, 8 August 2014

To Yell Or Not To Yell?

Unfortunately I'm not blessed with patience.  I have a short fuse and I find myself snapping at my son when he is being difficult.  He doesn't always deserve it and I feel ashamed of myself. 

Is Shouting Ineffective?

I believe in being firm when a child is misbehaving.  Obviously, there are levels of bad behaviour and the punishment has to fit the crime.  But is it okay to shout at a child?   To give them the full-blown hair dryer treatment?

As a teacher, I worked at a special needs school that specified in the staff handbook that staff were not to shout at children.  That it was unprofessional and ineffective. 

At first, I had mixed feelings about this.  Fortunately, we have moved on from the days when schools caned pupils.  If a child is misbehaving though, how can you NOT raise your voice to them?  What if the situation is serious as it can often be in schools nowadays? 

I can imagine the incident reports:  "I meekly asked Richard to stop throwing chairs at everyone..."

When Shouting Works

Overall, I would say, yes you should be able to raise your voice if your child is misbehaving.  On the following provisos:

  • it's at an appropriate level for the misdemeanour
  • you don't do it all the time as it reduces the effectiveness
  • you are in control of your temper
If you agree/disagree please feel free to comment below.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Ordsall Hall

Yesterday I took my three year old to Ordsall Hall in Salford.  It's a former stately home dating back to Tudor times.  After some restoration work, it's been re-opened to the public and also receives visits from schools as well as hosting public events. 


If the above makes me sound like one of those pushy parents who force-feeds their kids schooling in an effort to turn them into child-prodigies, let me explain.

On Wednesday, they run a story/play-time session for kids and my particular kid loves it.  The sessions take place in the Great Chamber.  According to the website, this was where 'the lady of the house would pass on valuable skills to her daughters'.  Yesterday it was where my son publicly demonstrated his new-found fondness for shouting out 'willy' and 'poo'.  Things have gone downhill over the years.

Anyway, I wanted to mention activities for pre-school children as I think they're very good for them. 

In the last few years, my wife and I have taken our son to loads of these sessions.  They have helped turn a shy child, who recoiled when he walked into a room of more than three people, into a kid who relishes shouting (what for him are) obscenities in front of a crowd.  Okay, so maybe that isn't the best way of selling it.

I have seen how groups such as this help kids in the following ways:


My son interacts a lot better now whenever he meets someone new.  As an only child he wouldn't have had a regular opportunity to do this.  A lot of parents I've spoken to about this say the same. 

Develop initiative

These sessions usually provide the opportunity for unstructured play where the child is given free reign to play how they choose.  Sounds simple but this is great for allowing them to develop independence and initiative. 

Access to equipment

Not every child will be lucky enough to have a sandpit/trike/swing at home. 

Access to support

The SureStart centre we took our boy to provided information and contact for speech therapy when we had concerns about his speech development.  A lot better than taking him to the local park and hoping to strike up a conversation with a passing Speech Therapist.

SureStarts do a lot of great work and provide a wide range of support for families.

They're cheap

This is appreciated more by the parents but it still counts.  They might ask for a contribution but it's usually voluntary and still works out a lot cheaper than the vast majority of activities for kids out there. 

Meet other parents/carers

Yes, another benefit for the parents but if you're at home with a baby/toddler all day a bit of adult conversation is welcome. 

If you have young kids I would urge you to check out community groups.  There are lots of benefits and they always have lots of fun. 

For those local to Swinton and surrounding areas, I may do a little run-down of the ones we took our son to past and present.