Child Psychologist Weighs In On Trump’s Boy Scout Speech — And It’s Not Good

by Mike Julianelle
Originally Published: 
Image via Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

The president’s words could have a negative impact on the young boys who heard them

The Boy Scouts apologized for President Trump’s speech, because we live in a world in which the president doesn’t know how to comport himself. But Trump’s political grandstanding and score-settling wasn’t simply inappropriate, it was potentially damaging to the youngsters in the crowd.

Political rhetoric is dangerous for children.

NPR published a piece by child and adolescent psychiatrist Gene Berisin, in which he explains why spectacles and speeches like the president’s can be toxic to young boys.

Boys the age of those in the crowd at the Jamboree – six to 18 – are particularly susceptible to speeches like Trump’s, for a few reasons, Berisin states in his commentary:

  • Their brains are still in the process of development, and, during these years, are more likely influenced by emotion rather than reason or logic;
  • they are drawn to powerful male role models and often follow them with passion;
  • they are significantly influenced by a strong desire to be part of a group, regardless of its moral intent;
  • they are fiercely loyal to each other — and their leaders.

As such, Trump was speaking to a captive audience, and one for whom his words mattered less than the context, and the subtext. After all, many of these kids are too young to understand or even be aware of the political issues Trump was referencing, but they aren’t too young too understand his strong language, boasting and clear lack of humility, and thinly-veiled demand for loyalty.

The speech promoted many of the wrong lessons to a crowd of kids at the perfect age to fall prey to them, particularly, as Beresin states, because of the circumstances of the speech (captive audience, festive atmosphere) and the stature of the speaker (regardless of the fact that he was later rebuked for his speech).

Among the negative messages Trump put forth at the Jamboree were: distrust of the press; glorification of wealth and status; and badmouthing and discrediting those who disagree, as opposed to conversing and compromising.

Beresin offers tips for helping kids avoid being unduly influenced by speeches like the president’s, mostly focusing on gauging your son’s reaction, watching the speech with him and pointing out some of the things Trump is doing and correcting his falsehoods and misinformation, and sharing your own opinion on exactly what Trump is trying to accomplish.

It’s a sad state of affairs when the youth of the United States need to be guarded against the negative influence of our president. But when the leader of the country starts acting like a demagogue, parents need to teach our children how to resist.

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