herald

Sunday 19 August 2018

Start early to tackle crisis of angry young men

Supernanny has her naughty step. Our own David Coleman suggests calm eye contact. Lots of "I understand how you feel" mumbo jumbo to deal with wayward kids.

But what if your child isn't a toddler that you can carry off to the bold corner?

What if he's an angry, aggressive, strung-out 15-year-old, hanging around with the wrong crowd, drinking, breaking the place up and mugging old people? What then? Where are the pop psychologists to tell us how to deal with every parent's nightmare? What if your kid turns out to be the bad apple?

It's increasingly likely. Our boys and young men are angry. They're out of control and out of excuses. The explosion in knife crime particularly has been exponential. Ireland is ranked No 1 in Western Europe for all homicides and second for knife crimes.

Most of the perpetrators, and victims, are young males. Of the 84 murders in 2007, 36 were stabbings.

What are we doing wrong with our boys? Why is lashing out in anger the first option in so many instances? Have they lost their problem- solving skills, ability to communicate or sense of proportion? How much of that is down to how we parent? How often do you yell at your kids, taking out your fear about a job loss, money worries, frustration or tiredness on them?

Or hit them?

Surely our adolescents are not being brought up differently to their EU counterparts, but yet we're turning out angry young men at a faster rate than anywhere else.

If we're loath to blame ourselves, we look to schools. We have a high early school- leaving rate which has been directly linked to falling into crime; the vast majority of prisoners are young men. We have a massive problem with alcohol and drugs. It always, always comes back, primarily, to parenting or at least, the values of parents.



CURFEWS

Kids are not born evil, or bad. Fundamentally, we need to radically change how we teach our boys to think.

How to resolve anger, humiliation and rejection. We do not do this well. Boys are still taught to 'fight back', stand on their own two feet, be a man. And when they do, we berate them.

Equipping them with communication skills -- namby pamby as that sounds -- is vital. It is too late to start it when the garda knocks on the door. Yes, I'd like to see mandatory jail terms or curfews for anyone, of any age, found in possession of a weapon. Metal detectors in our bars and clubs? Even schools? And yes, more patrolling gardai.

But more than that, what about responsible parents and a State that gives a damn?

Research in the US investigated the trade-off between prison funding vs social spending. Governments are prepared to pay for the former, but baulk at the latter.

An experimental pre-school model generated a 40pc reduction in crime in later years among disadvantaged children.

Yes, pre-school, because any experienced teacher can earmark within a few days the 'troublesome' kids -- the ones who are likely to go off the rails, and the ones who might just do okay if they get the support at home.

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