Who broke you? Socialization and difficult children


By David Joel Miller.

As a baby did someone have to “break you?”

English: Feral cat showing fear, and lack of s...

English: Feral cat showing fear, and lack of socialization to humans (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A ran across a passage in an older self-improvement book in which the author was talking about the need for children to be “broken.” Most of us today would be a bit taken back at the idea that children need to be “broken.”

This used to be a common term; I am inclined to think that the meaning has changed. People used to call it breaking an animal. Sometimes this was simply a way of referring to the process of training an animal to behave in the way we want it to. Snarling and biting is not an acceptable behavior for a dog so they need to be taught to not engage in this kind of activity.

Now by referring to the idea of “breaking” a small child I am in no way encouraging or condoning any form of cruelty. Even though the application of the term “breaking” is now largely confined to the training of horses, and applied to horses, I would hope, is the belief that this training of horses ought to be done in a humane manner.

But what about children? Should they be broken?

When you think of this process in a more modern way, we might say a child needs to be “socialized.” Why?

Because there are certain social norms we expect of people who live in our society. You should pay for the things you remove from a store. Some people do not seem to have learned this truth as children and are now surprised, even shocked when they are arrested for stealing.

Some people still have not gotten the message that there are things they just are not allowed to say and do. If you assert your right to do as you please, then I assert the right to call the police and have you arrested for that behavior. Calling the police might even be a mild response for some of the “unbroken” behaviors people are exhibiting these days.

So do parents have a duty to teach their children right and wrong?

Might that duty also include the duty to get their kid to stop doing socially unacceptable behaviors? If your child has developed an anti-social habit, I suggest that you as a parent have the duty, to yourself and the rest of society to “break” you child of this anti-social habit.

Now if no one taught you the difference between right and wrong. If you grew up in an environment where anything and everything goes, you may be forced to conduct some of this “breaking” activity on yourself.

One thing we learn as we get older is that if we are unable to control our lives the state is all too willing to appoint someone, a probation officer or parole agent, to manage our lives.

Have you found that you have habits you wish you had never started? Do you do things that get you in trouble with the law and society?

Then you might not yet be “broken” or “fully socialized.”

In that case you have some “breaking” to do for your own good. Learn to break those bad habits and to conform to social norms. And make sure to pass those things on to your children.

It is a lot less painful to learn the word “NO” from a parent at a young age than from a judge or prison guard latter on.

Who “broke” or trained you in the skills you need for life?

If that hasn’t happened yet, find a good life skills trainer and get to work. If your children embarrass you in public, if you get too many calls from the school about your child’s behavior, they may be sorely in need of some socialization and some “breaking” of bad habits. You owe it to yourself, your children and society to discard those bad habits and develop some new socially acceptable ones.

People have difficulty developing new pro social habits when they still have old bad habits in place. Out with the bad and in with the good. Break that old habit or behavior and create room for some new positive behaviors.

Here is wishing you the best at changing old bad habits and developing new ones that will speed you on your way to a happy life.

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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

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