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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 1-Dec-06


Friday 1-December-06

Hugging hoodies, political footballs and practical parenting 

Youth violence is perhaps more of a concern today than it has ever been. Callous assaults with guns and knives are increasing and much of the population goes in fear when they see groups of loud young men who appear to consider themselves outside the law.

In these days of ever-present security cameras, a popular piece of clothing is the hooded track-suit top, inside which the malicious youth can hide much of their appearance, particularly from overhead cameras. Those who wear such clothes have come to be known as 'hoodies'. It is perhaps also worth noting that young people who wear hoods may also be hiding from a world that scares them, although few would be likely to admit this.

The prevalence of hoods and their association with lawlessness has led to bans on such clothing in some bars and restaurants, which recently resulted in the bizarre sight a 61-year-old woman wearing a pink hooded top being accosted by an over-enthusiastic manager.

David Cameron, the fresh-faced new leader of the UK Conservative party, is doing his best to put a modern face on the dowdy main party of the political right, and has recently been embroiled in public ridicule regarding comments in which he was showing sympathy for the plight of the hoodies, many of whom come from broken homes and who grow up in gang-ridden areas where survival is a significant challenge. The press have leapt on this with 'hug a hoodie' and 'love a lout' jibes. TV news has also portrayed the comments as unwise, reporting neutral facts over a background of CCTV footage of violent hoodie action.

In some ways it could well be a cynical ploy by Cameron, using youths as political footballs in the search for popular differentiation. In other ways I think he has a point. Such children (and some of them are scarily young) typically get limited love at home and are scarred from deeply incompetent parenting. The current swathe of reality TV includes such programmes as Supernanny, where nanny Jo Hughes calms tearaway youngsters, mostly by teaching appalling parents about consistent, non-violent discipline and unconditional love.

Hugging hoodies may seem ridiculous but the principle behind it is very sound. Most people respond well to consistent and genuine care, and our society would be a lot more civilized if we loved more and hurt less.

Your comments

A tongue in check reflection on growing old...

I recently received the enclosed and thought I would share it with you:

Born before 1986?

According to today's regulators and bureaucrats, those of us who were kids in the 60's, 70's and early 80's probably shouldn't have survived, because our baby cots were covered with brightly coloured lead-based paint which was promptly chewed and licked.

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, or latches on doors or cabinets and it was fine to play with pans. When we rode our bikes, we wore no helmets, just flip-flops and fluorescent 'spokey dokey's' on our wheels. As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or airbags - riding in the passenger seat was a treat.
We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle and it tasted the same. We ate chips, bread and butter pudding and drank fizzy juice with sugar in it, but we were never overweight because we were always outside playing. We shared one drink with four friends, from one bottle or can and no-one actually died from this.

We would spend hours building go-carts out of scraps and then went top speed down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into stinging nettles a few times, we learned to solve the problem. We would leave home in the morning and could play all day, as long as we were back before it got dark. No one was able to reach us and no one minded.

We did not have Play stations or X-Boxes, no video games at all. No 99 channels on TV, no videotape movies, no surround sound, no mobile phones, no personal computers, no DVDs, no Internet chat rooms.

We had friends - we went outside and found them. We played elastics and rounders, and sometimes that ball really hurt! We fell out of trees, got cut, and broke bones but there were no law suits. We had full on fist fights but no prosecution followed from other parents. We played chap-the-door-run-away and were actually afraid of the owners catching us.

We walked to friends' homes. We also, believe it or not, WALKED to school; we didn't rely on mummy or daddy to drive us to school, which was just round the corner. We made up games with sticks and tennis balls. We rode bikes in packs of 7 and wore our coats by only the hood.

The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke a law was unheard of...They actually sided with the law.

This generation has produced some of the best risk-takers and problem solvers and inventors, ever. The past 50 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas. We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it all.

And you're one of them. Congratulations!

Pass this on to others who have had the luck to grow as real kids, before lawyers and government regulated our lives, for our own good. For those of you who aren't old enough, thought you might like to read about us.

This, my friends, is surprisingly frightening......and it might put a smile on your face: The majority of students in universities today were born in 1986........They are called youth.

They have never heard of We are the World, We are the children, and the Uptown Girl they know is by Westlife not Billy Joel.
They have never heard of Rick Astley, Bananarama, Nena Cherry or Belinda Carlisle. (possibly not a bad thing of course....)

For them, there has always been only one Germany and one Vietnam. AIDS has existed since they were born. CD's have existed since they were born. Michael Jackson has always been white. To them John Travolta has always been round in shape and they can't imagine how this fat guy could be a God of dance. They believe that Charlie's Angels and Mission Impossible are films from last year. They can never imagine life before computers. They'll never have pretended to be the A Team, Red Hand Gang or the Famous Five. They'll never have applied to be on Jim'll Fix It or Why Don't You. They can't believe a black and white television ever existed. And they will never understand how we could leave the house without a mobile phone.

Now let's check if we're getting old...
1. You understand what was written above and you smiled.
2. You need to sleep more, usually until the afternoon, after a night out.
3. Your friends are getting married/already married.
4. You are always surprised to see small children playing comfortably with computers.
5. When you see teenagers with mobile phones, you shake your head.
6. You remember watching Dirty Den in EastEnders the first time around.
7. You meet your friends from time to time, talking about the good old days, repeating again all the funny things you have experienced together.
8. Having read this e-mail, you are thinking of forwarding it to some other friends because you think they will like it too...

Yes, you're getting OLD!
Do it disgracefully!

-- Wayne Phillips

Teenage angst is teenage angst. And no amount of competent parenting will cure that. And what is incompetent parenting after all?

Perfectly normal middle class children in Britain, from regular families, which are loving, give them all the emotional support that they want, and are from good parents:

1) Often seem not to know that drugs are bad. Crystal Meth, cocaine, and heroin, are often not even recognised to be dangerous, and addictive substances, instead registering a "cool" in their tiny brains.

2) Seem to gain a sense of identity through a pathetic lashing out at their parents, which some of them never grow out of. And then they never emotionally move out of their parents homes, gaining their sense of self through a series of adversarial and dangerous relationships in their lives.

The overindulgent nature of the modern Western parent is in my opinion largely to blame for this.

Far better that some kid romps around in a "hoodie" for a year or two, proclaims his status as being misunderstood, etc, than that he or she is completely caught up in a maelstrom of sex, drugs and misdirection.

-- Iossef Vassarionovic

Dave replies:
Very good points, Iossef. The best that parents can often do is instil good values when the child is young and help them become independent when they are older (although today's house prices don't help!).

There's a certain truth in the maxim 'spare the rod and spoil the child'. Although I don't advocate physical punishment, children do need to understand the law of cause and effect and that their actions can have far-reaching and highly undesirable consequences.

Both my children went through 'Goth' phases and had all kinds of problems in growing up as they sought their individual identity. My daughter is now 25 and becoming successful in business. My son is 17 and (I think) acquiring some maturity. Parenting is not easy, especially in the modern world, and I do think that we need all the help we can get!

I like this website, and I had commented on this blog some weeks ago. Today I came across this sermon on the blog of a pastor in a distant church.

Whether on is religious or not, I thought it made a certain amount of sense, on the subject of difficult parenting. Its short, and definitely worth a read, if one has a few minutes.

I'll post the link below.

-- Iossef V

Dave replies:
The story of the prodigal son has a very useful message. I have been at my wits end with my son on more than one occasion and have bitten my tongue many times. Some years ago I asked a friend what I could do about teenagers. He said "Wait."

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