The brat pack: Too many of our children today behave poorly

Many parents don’t even recognise bad behaviour for what it is, so says Trevor Laffan
The brat pack: Too many of our children today behave poorly

Many children are allowed to behave badly at schools and at home, says Trevor Laffan. Picture iStock, posed by models

I WAS watching a tennis match on TV earlier this year, when I saw a young player throwing a tantrum.

He has just turned 10 years of age and has enough talent to suggest he is going to be a star in the future. An exciting prospect for sure, but he went downhill in my estimation after his antics on court, not that my opinion will upset him too much.

During one game, when things weren’t going his way, he began screaming at the box where his family and his support team were sitting.

He was speaking in a foreign language, but one of the commentators suggested he was ordering his mother to leave the viewing area. Shortly after his outburst, she did just that.

Later, at the press conference, he denied shouting at his mother and said he was aiming his tirade at someone else.

At the end of the match, both players approached the net where the etiquette of the game requires them to shake hands. The exchange wasn’t captured clearly on TV, but the young lad didn’t appear to shake hands.

The surprised look on the face of his opponent seemed to indicate that no hand was proffered. That’s unacceptable but the player later denied that accusation too.

I felt sorry for his parents. I don’t know anything about the family, but I do know a little about tennis and that young man would not be where he is today without the support of his parents.

A player doesn’t get to that standard on talent alone, and it doesn’t happen overnight either. It begins at a young age and takes a serious commitment by the family over many years.

They have obviously invested heavily in him, not only financially, but also in the time spent transporting him to and from training sessions and tournaments. He would do well to remember that, but at the moment, it looks like his memory is failing him.

He’s had it good for so long, he now feels entitled to behave as he sees fit.

It will be interesting to see how this player develops as he matures, but his current behaviour won’t do his reputation or his popularity much good.

He’s acting like a spoiled young man who sees himself as the centre of the universe, there to be loved and admired by the rest of us. It’s a trait that is becoming all too common, unfortunately.

I have said here previously that the vast majority of people I came into contact with during my 35 years as a member of An Garda Siochana were decent and honest. Regular people going through their daily routines while dealing with the ups and downs in life that we all have to cope with. It was only the very small minority who created problems.

The same can be said about young people and children - 95% of the ones I encountered were well behaved but I am beginning to see a changing pattern. I feel there is less respect for older people, property and authority now, and I’m not the only one who has noticed it.

The Times UK reported recently that the plight of Britain’s schoolchildren has reached a post-pandemic crisis point. Authorities have seen a rise in pupils behaving badly, as well as children being sad, depressed, and anxious and their behaviour issues included defiance and violence.

Covid is being blamed for some of this, but I think it started long before the pandemic. I reckon it has to do with how difficult it is to challenge children for bad behaviour these days.

My teacher friends tell me that correcting a child’s behaviour in school is fraught with danger and will often result in a confrontation with the parents. It’s not always confined to school grounds either.

Many parents don’t even recognise bad behaviour for what it is. Children stepping out of line, are often described as just expressing themselves. The problem with allowing them to ‘express themselves’ unchecked is that they grow up with a sense of entitlement and a belief they can do what they like.

There was a time when being corrected by teachers was normal. They weren’t afraid to challenge bad behaviour when they saw it and we were better for it.

Admittedly, some of them took discipline to extremes, but the gratuitous violence of old school days is long gone.

It’s no longer acceptable to slap a child. That’s now considered to be a physical attack, punishable under the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997, in the same way as any assault on an adult, or the Cruelty Against Children Act 2001.

That shouldn’t mean children can’t be chastised though.

Gone are the days when it was acceptable to get a clip around the ear, which is fair enough, but looking back on it, I think, for the majority of us, it was the shock more than the contact that hurt us. It certainly wasn’t brutal, but now we’ve gone the other way and these days you can’t say boo to a child.

The modern approach is different. This is advice on how to deal with a difficult child is offered on the internet:

If your child walks out the door after you’ve told them they can’t leave, or your child calls you a name, set the boundary: “I will not let you disrespect me” or “I won’t allow hurtful language in this home” or “I trust you will find a different way to deal with your frustration.”

Harsh consequences for disrespectful behaviour can sometimes just fuel the fire. Remember that discipline means ‘to teach’, show you child what kind behaviour looks like by responding with a hug.

If my generation disrespected our parents, there wasn’t much of a discussion about it and a hug was the last thing you expected.

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