Outside the box ways to help kids grow up

There’s a whole world of “wisdom” out there about how kids should behave, what they should do, and how they should be raised. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at the number of different parenting guides in your local bookshop.

But is tradition or popularity actually best? Is telling a kid to “eat your greens” the best way to show them the benefits of a healthy diet? Does forbidding TV during dinner mean quality time together, or do kids just race through their meal to get back to the box?

I got curious, so I’ve been looking around to find new approaches. Here are a few of my favourite, thought-provoking examples of people inspiring kids to grow up great.

Boxing beats gangs

Should we be encouraging kids to start fighting in the ring to stop them fighting in the street?

It might sound controversial, but studies have found that boxing is one of the best ways to steer young people away from a life of violence and gang crime. Controlled aggression, channeled anger, self discipline, and respect are key characteristics of a good boxer. Could be that the best prevention for youth violence isn’t totally stopping it, but changing the setting and adding a coach (and maybe a gum shield…).

Tackling truancy with kindness not punishment

What if, instead of punishing kids who miss school and fining their families, authorities took a different approach? What if they spent money to support pupils to make it to class?

Recently, schools in England have been investing in school home support workers. With the family’s consent, they act almost like an additional parent figure. Every day, they go the family home and check that the truant child is up and ready for school, has clean clothes, and has completed their homework.

This support has so far proved incredibly positive. So maybe rather than fining families who are having a hard time, the way forward is to spend a little money giving them a hand.

Cricket knocks crime for six in Compton

How do you fight deprivation and crime in one of LA’s most notorious suburbs? With a classically middle class English sport and a well practised googly, of course!

After being introduced to this village green staple by British expats, charity worker Ted Hughes realised it might be a great way to help Compton’s homeless people, gang members, and street kids. Despite its genteel reputation, Ted saw cricket as a way of teaching kids “how to respect themselves and respect authority so they stop killing each other.” Since starting in 1995 the tea has gone from strength to strength. So much so that they’ve toured Australia once and the UK four times. They’ve even played at the “Cradle of Cricket”, the Hambledon Club in England.

Putting away the handcuffs and getting out the gym pass

Rather than prohibiting penniless kids from using facilities without permission, why don’t we spend more time trying to make those things more accessible?

That’s exactly what a cop in Illinois did after police were called to deal with a kid repeatedly sneaking into a gym to join his friends the basketball court. The boy had previously had a membership but his mother couldn’t afford to renew it.

The police officer offered to pay $150 dollars himself to buy a three month membership. The owners of the gym, taken aback by his generosity, agreed to pay the rest of the cost towards a two year membership.

Oh – and it turns out that the trespassing boy is a nationally recognised NBA hopeful. So who knows, maybe one day he can repay the officer with some courtside seats.

Letting pupils get ready for school, at school

Why punish kids for turning up to school looking untidy when you can give them the facilities to feel like dignified members of the school community?

When a school in Utah realised that they had between 50-100 pupils who didn’t have regular  access to a shower or a washing machine at home, they took action. Many of these kids were sneaking into the theatre department during Saturday rehearsals and using the washing machine used for costumes.

So the school built two new washrooms, complete with showers, washing machines, and dryers. Pupils can use them before, during, or after school. As a result, they feel empowered to be equal members of the school alongside their classmates from more privileged backgrounds.

Interesting stuff huh. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Should we be teaching angry kids to box? Is it wise to give young people in gangs cricket bats and the ability to hit a six? Would it be better in the long run to invest money in supporting truant kids to get to school than to keep fining their families when they don’t turn up to class?

What do you think?

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