What Can Happen To Adolescent Boys

I love a bit of multi-tasking, so at the gym on Monday night I took my headphones, plugged them into the cross trainer and tuned in to a favourite show of mine – Australian Story. I was then a bit disappointed to see that it was on Nick D’Arcy. My initial thoughts were that this story has been completely covered by the media and what else is there to know.

For non-Australian readers, D’Arcy is a 21 year old Australian swimmer, who qualified for Olympic selection for the 2008 Beijing Games. Celebrating after selection trials D’Arcy:

got into an argument outside the Loft Bar on King Street Wharf which culminated in D’Arcy punching Mr Cowley in the face, knocking him to the floor and breaking his nose and jaw.

Subsequently the Australian Olympic Committee revoked his membership of the Australian Olympic Team and D’Arcy did not participate in the 200 Olympic Games. D’Arcy was handed a suspended sentence of 14 months and 12 days for attacking retired swimmer Simon Cowley.

As the I began watching the program, it began to come clear to me that in her book “He’ll Be OK: Growing Gorgeous Boys Into Good Men”, Celia Lashlie is trying to help parents (particularly mothers) guide their sons through adolescence without these types of events like Darcy’s, happening in their life.

Last year I wrote a series of posts on her book He’ll Be OK: Growing Gorgeous Boys Into Good Men and can highly recommend the book if you have adolescent boys or boys approaching adolescence.

In one rash alcohol fueled moment, D’Arcy detrimentally and irrevocably impacted his life and those of another young man and their families. Lashlie’s experiences in New Zealand jails were full of similar stories. I was lucky enough to hear Lashlie talk last month and she spoke of a young New Zealand boy who had a bright future in representing his country in rugby. However at an after game celebration, responding to a racial slur, he hit an elderly patron, who fell, hit his head and died. The young man went to jail.

Lashlie in her book and in her talk, calls on parents to allow boys to practice their decision making early in their life, without a constant safety net. By parents constantly bailing their sons out of situations and not allowing them to experience the consequences of their behaviour, we are not giving them the opportunity to learn from their mistakes and begin to make better decisions.

In her talk Lashlie spoke of it being better for an adolescent boy to have plenty of opportunities to exercise their decision making skills, when the stakes are not so high. Like for example whether they put their foot down on the accelerator of the car when egged on by their mates.

During the Australian Story episode on Nick D’Arcy, his coach for many years stated that D’Arcy was immature for his age and that as a coach he had found strategies for managing this. The program seemed to end abruptly for some reason, but some of the last words from D’Arcy was on his regret for his actions. However, I think that D’Arcy still has some way to go in taking full responsibility for his own actions. D’Arcy is receiving counseling and hopefully that will help him further.

By making the connection between D’Arcy and the key messages in Lashlie’s Book, I actually got a lot out of this program. Instead of my thoughts concentrating on judging this young man harshly for his rash outburst, I took the opportunity to reflect on how I can parent our sons through adolescence , so that they do not end up making such a erroneous and life altering decision.