Keep your son out of court: eat meals as a family

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The Independent Online
TEENAGE BOYS whose families eat meals together and visit relatives have a far more positive outlook and are less likely to get into trouble with police. But poor self-esteem and lack of family cohesion mean many teenage boys think they will fail to achieve their ambitions, says a study today What Sons Say.

Experts believe parents are being overwhelmed with instructions from educationists and the Government about how best to look after their children, and forget that the best parenting is listening to your child. The findings from 1,400 young men aged 13 to 19 across Britain showed they wanted their parents, especially their fathers, to be more understanding and supportive rather than to supply them with the latest trainers or be a friend.

"Good parenting is not dependent on money or the educational level of the parent," says Adrienne Katz, director of Young Voice, an organisation that listens and responds to young people. "There are too many complicated instructions and too much blame going out to parents." Ms Katz did the study with Dr Ann Buchanan, of the Centre of Research into Parenting and Children, at Oxford University.

"This report is very positive for parents because it doesn't matter who you are or what the family structure is, it is the way you parent that matters more than anything. These boys wanted their parents to talk to them more, not to be their friend," she said. "Boys don't speak to or share their feelings much with their friends. There is something in our culture that says young men should stand on their own two feet. We need to realise that some of them need a little help to keep their balance."

One teenage boy who took part in the study said: `You're in your room, like, and desperate, and your dad's downstairs reading the paper - he has no idea about your life."

The findings showed although 62 per cent of boys were managing reasonably well, 13 per cent suffered from such low self-esteem that they needed help and 11 per cent were severely depressed or suicidal. One in five had been in trouble with the police and 17 per cent were deeply alienated from school.

Paul Boateng, a Home Office minister who will speak at the launch of the report, said: "Young men need to learn to believe in themselves and to recognise and use their potential. If parents can instil this sense of worth from an early age, their child is halfway there; some of the battles have already been won."

Mr Boateng, who has five children, added: "As friends, as relatives, as parents we need to make sure we listen to young men, try to understand the difficulties in growing up and help them develop skills to cope and enjoy the life before them. They are our future - a precious asset not to be wasted."