I had a moment of absolute crisis on Sunday. C. was out running in the forest and I was sat comfortably reading the newspaper.
I had only reached page two when catastrophe struck. I was agreeing with a Tory.
It could have been me talking – criticising Asbos and curfews; wearing hoodies “is not a crime in itself”; and hoodies being “defensive rather than offensive”. But, no, it was the Leader of the Conservative Party, David Cameron. Woe is me indeed. (I've no idea what side of the fence Melanie Gill, a child forensic psychologist, sits on but I concur with her statement that the criminal justice system is “vengeful and punitive”).
A wonderfully named Home Office Minister, Vernon Croaker, sums up Cameron's approach as 'hug a hoodie'. Sod the politics, I think it's a brilliant idea.
I am a fully paid-up member of the 'tough love' brigade. Its an approach that keeps me safe in my work (I've only been hospitalised once!) and it earns me respect.
Children need to be taught what their rights and responsibilities are. They need clearly defined boundaries for functioning on a day to day basis whether at home, at school or in the local community. They need to understand actions have consequences and what they are.
Please note the word taught. All of these things are absolutely necessary but unfortunately aren't inherent. When they aren't taught it is seen as the fault of the parents or the teachers. I agree that in some areas, for example where I work, there are many parents who are not equipped for the job. The vicious circle that has left them unable to adequately parent their children has to be broken. Local communities need to take responsibility for all the people in them which leads me to my second point.
For children to respond and to act on their rights and responsibilities they need to feel they are valued and that they belong. The media and local communities find it much easier to demonise and exclude young people than to include them. A self-fulfilling prophecy is at work here. Low expectations lead to disengagement and a 'who cares?' attitude.
For me 'tough love' is about having clear boundaries, high expectations and respect. It's about consistency, problem solving and conflict resolution. But it's also about listening, showing you care and building confidence.
Go hug a hoodie today!