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.
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.
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.
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.