Teen Rage with Channel 4 at the RSA

20 October 2007

So how did it feel having most of the audience wanting to lynch you?’ an elderly member of the RSA asked me after the event. I had been invited to speak at a debate about Teen Rage at the RSA (http://www.rsa.org.uk/events/detail.asp?eventID=2407) with several notable guests. I had given a short talk on the history of yobbery, and the fear of teenagers during the ages. My talk was a little incoherent because I was nervous and reluctant to read from a script, but I think I was clear enough. But I came into my own when an annoying public school boy complained about adults making wars and giving children unfair rules: I explained the need for boundaries and clear rules, with a proper system of punishments and rewards. The audience was very liberal and started to hiss under their breath. Camila Batmanghelidjh, psychotherapist and founder and director of Kids Company, said that children needed love and to be ’emotionally threaded’ and much other psycho-babble, but I retorted that if I didn’t understand her, how were any other children? My feeling was that she, and many other people in the system, tend to cast children as ‘victims’, attempting to wrap them up in the cotton wool of ‘love’, when many children know this is phoney talk. Children from disturbed backgrounds need clear, rational rules more than anyone else: they need consistency, fairness and boundaries. To think that society can give them the ‘love’ they didn’t get from their parents is horribly misguided: nothing can fill that gap and it is completely counter-productive to raise a child’s hopes up that they will find it from some person in a charity or a bureaucrat. Camila was very put out by my dismissal of her approach, and told me to stop talking so much. The event made me realise that many policy makers, social workers and media folk are desperately out of touch about what is happening on the ground.

After the event, a number of people, including quite a few teenagers, came up to me and said that they agreed!’

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