This is one reader's response to an article in our Winter 2010 Issue. Part of this letter is published in our Summer 2010 Issue. The full letter is here. Thanks Coby! (Sorry it's posted so late)
I have only just read your surrender article from your winter 2010 edition.
A very useful thing to bear in mind. I worked for many years at a maximum
security mens jail in NSW. A very unfortunate but common story repeated
Youngish men 18 plus are sent to prison having been found guilty of crimes
from manslaughter to multiple lesser offences. As they disembark the
transport inside the jail it becomes apparent that the first time in their
lives they are learning a lesson that is the most valuable you can teach and
repeatedly reaffirm to a child. That is cause and effect, consequences of
One boy/man and many like him had a fist fight. An unlucky punch to the head
had the consequence of death. Either due to the positioning of the blow or a
ring or the person hitting their head on the ground.
It is a terrible consequence of our more recent moves away from smacking
children or punishing them that no alternative consequential result has
replaced it. I personally feel that it is a dreadful way to learn the
consequences lesson by being placed in a dangerous jail with very dangerous
Boys push violent boundaries as you mention in your article but
unfortunately merely telling them to tap into a more understanding gentle
side is often not a consequences lesson. Each parent would know what a good
consequences lesson would be for their child but it certainly is a problem
if people don't react at all to behaviour that has its basis in violence.
I don't ever want to see a child smacked or punished for bad physical
behaviour with bad physical behaviour, but I also never want it not to be
taught to a child that guns stop life, punches kill and violence is always
punished after they have left our loving care.
One other story is common in relation to these boys. That is that most of
their mothers cannot believe this has happened and also believe that the
punishment is to harsh given that it was not the boys intention. But then
after the shock comes a steady stream on guilt that should they have known
they would have taught consequences lessons from the start.
As you asked for peoples thoughts and experiences I thought I would send you
mine. As a mother I was very aware of this lesson. Trying to stem the flow
of heavy rough and tumble with boys is difficult however, encouraging them
to see and treat their strength as a gift worked for me. He was taught that
using that energy to help to carry things, assist weaker ones, change bike
tyres, build go karts etc was the only way I could think of channeling
My most important lesson was from my mother who told me to travel by public
transport with him. She said we cocoon our kids in our cars and homes and
they never get to see real life, lessons and unpredictable behaviours until
they are alone.
She was right. On the bus was a mentally ill man who shouted and frightened
him, old ladies who were struggling with bags, seats that needed to be given
up, groups of teenage boys at the back shouting and showing off and
generally frightening and annoying everyone. Sitting next to the older
ladies allowed him to hear what they said in response to the boys behaviour.
How it frightened them etc.
My contribution to your question is to get parents out of their comfortable
zone with their boys and interpret the lessons as they go. Public transport
is a travelling world of life for parents and children. It provides a new
opportunity everytime with unpredictable situations arising. No one should
want their childrens first opportunity to see and work these lessons through
to be when they are alone. I always told him that when he stood at a bus
stop he should always say good day to the oldest ladies there. Simply put
because as a bigger boy and in a group they frighten old people. They are
however blind to that. My question to all parents of boys is do they want
them to be someone who frightens old ladies? Learns consequences only as
they get off a prison transport bus or learn that no matter how strong you
are there will always be many more stronger, but it is possible always to be
the kindest. Far less competition lies in the kindness stakes. Plus good
kind men get far better girlfriends.
We are now able to cocoon our children far more than ever before and as a
result they are learning very valuable life lessons only when not in our
care. Boys push boundaries but they soon start to discover more when the
boundaries are created by different people and not just us. For your
information I asked the group of boys had they ever travelled on a bus with
their parents before starting going on their own. You won't be surprised to
hear the answer was no.