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Head’s Message

Setting clear boundaries

Acting Head of College, Graham Leddie

From the Head of College, Graham Leddie

We are at the business end of Term 1, now is not the time to let the boundaries waver. For our Year 12s, the end of this week represents four weeks to the half year exams. For the other year levels, there are assessments and examinations coming up. Please encourage your son to finish off this Term strongly.

As parents and teachers it is our job to establish appropriate structures to ensure your son’s potential can be developed and nurtured during these important formative years of adolescence. When must technology be switched off? When must lights go off? When can he go out and with whom? When must you say ‘please’ and when must you say ‘thank you’. What are the boundaries in your house about language, manners, driving, chores, etiquette, study, drinking, dress, music, computer use, Facebook, Snapchat, TV watching, schoolies and other challenges that sharpen one’s parenting skills?

Some parents just get exhausted by the challenges of establishing the platform to develop potential and ultimately opportunities. Worn down by ‘pester power’ and intimidated by the son’s sometimes growing physical strength, they capitulate. Others prefer to be their son’s best friend rather than their best parent. Our young men need boundaries and signposts within which to operate. These need to be negotiated calmly and with good explanation as to the thinking behind them.

If the fences are weak and undefined the men, like young bulls, will break through. Asking them not to lean on the fence is about as useful as playing the flute and expecting the rats to follow – it only happens in fairy tales. If a fence is weak, as some parental and academic fences can be in some son-centred environments, many of our young boys run the risk of crossing the boundaries of acceptable behaviour and the risk of a missed opportunity. A weak fence tells a young man that this particular expectation is not thought to be very important by adults … “I wonder why it’s not worth defending … I’ll give it a gentle nudge….” The natural strength of inquisitiveness, when combined with a dose of testosterone and independence will ensure that a bull will soon run wild and a wild bull can do a great deal of damage in places other than a china shop.

If we take the trouble to build a strong fence in a loving and caring way with expectations that will withstand the odd bump, the boundaries become both known and respected. Young men generally admire strength. Care always needs to be taken not to confuse the setting of boundaries with oppressive restriction. The strong teacher and firm parent need not be strangers to compassion and sensitivity. One can see this in the strong men in history – Jesus, Edmund Rice, Mandela, Martin Luther King, Gandhi and the Dalai Lama – each had a moral and ethical strength which was extraordinary. These were resolute men who remained constant to their calling. This did not stop any of them showing love, shedding tears or dealing with those they met with kindness. We are responsible parents and teachers and we need to bear witness to having limits in our lives. Some freedoms are only found in strong fences and good strong role modelling.

Boys were encouraged today to check in with how they were travelling with regard to the goals that they set at the start of the year. Do they need adjustment? Do they need some changed behaviours to achieve the desired outcome?