Thursday, February 09, 2006

Girls Interrupted

I am in a cafe watching a small child, aged about 2, banging his head against a wall. He is being ignored by its parents. Mum and Dad probably both go out to work and have busy social lives.

"In terms of preventing delinquency, parents who look after small children are the most important citizens in the country."


Psychologist Oliver James, in The Times, 9 February 2006, wrote about Brat Camp and the upbringing of children.,,7-2030784,00.html

James blames authoritarian parenting for the poor behaviour of kids.

James is not keen on American attitudes to child upbringing. James states that America is the developed nation with the most crime.

America jails and executes large numbers of its population.

James considers that America invented bad behaviour.

James writes about the TV series Brat Camp. We meet seven British girls who are depicted as having been spoilt or over-indulged; nothing else is mentioned about what has made them like this, such as their parents or the society in which they have grown up.

James writes:

First and foremost, how sane is the society that the girls are being forced to conform to?

All guzzle drugs and booze, most start having sex in their early teens, and crave expensive clothes and fame.

This only mirrors the mixed messages of 21st-century Britain.

During his time in charge, our god-fearing Prime Minister has encouraged us to take on record levels of debt (credit card and mortgage), liberalised licensing laws and reclassified cannabis to Class C.

At the same time, he has exhibited authoritarian, rather than rehabilitative, approaches to misbehaviour.

The prison population has swelled, and hardly a week has gone by without a coercive gimmick, from ASBOs to the latest serving of tosh, the “Respect” agenda.

Just how confusing are those contrasting messages for a 15-year-old girl or her parents?


(I believe that mothers of young children should stay at home.)

James writes:

In terms of preventing delinquency, parents who look after small children are the most important citizens in the country.

Employers must offer them much more flexible hours and discourage long ones.

Instead of turning SureStart (the scheme to help low-income parents) into a giant crèche in which poor mothers dump their babies to go back to work, Blair should have used it to help them look after their babies better.

James explains how parents can cure their children of bad behaviour:

James asks parents to

understand their children,

spend special time with their children,

and express love towards their children.

James writes about UK Prime Minister Tony Blair:

Nothing is known about the kind of care Blair received but I would be willing to bet my house on the proposition that his authoritarianism reflects having had controlling care as a small child. What a shame that we have had to pay the price.

James writes that the scientific evidence predicts that Brat Camp regimes will fail:

Physically forcing or blackmailing children to comply will repeat the authoritarian parenting that is often the cause of the misbehaviour in the first place.

James believes that the vast majority of delinquent children have been neglected by parents.

There will be short-term gains from detoxing and from having clear boundaries provided at the camp. But the rage resulting from unmet infantile needs, or chaotic punishment schedules, or demands for unquestioning obedience, remains untouched.

Being trapped in a wilderness with burly guards, where you are told that you will not escape until you comply means that only the most stupid or disturbed will not, sooner or later, realise that compliance is the only way out; but it will not change the core psychology that is causing the problem, only the behaviour, and then only briefly.

At best, it results in crude adoption of the values, as in “I want to be one of the jailers” or “I want to become the policeman who is lacking inside my head”.

Like so many TV programmes about parenting that now infest our screens, Brat Camp is not a bad metaphor for Labour’s failure to reduce delinquency.


James's Guidelines for parents:

Be assertive, not aggressive.

Communicate, don’t coerce.

If you lose your temper, explain why after you have calmed down.

See it from their point of view — they are not little adults.

Engage with the child’s fantasy life — join their imaginary worlds, and find out what’s troubling them.

Be consistent.

Respect and enjoy their idiosyncrasies.


Oliver James is the author of They F*** You Up: How to Survive Family Life.
His new book, Beating Affluenza: How to be Successful and Stay Sane is published in September


1 comment:

ziz said...

The latest in the war on children

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