In "To Kill a Mockingbird," how does Atticus deal with Scout's question about whether she has to mind Jem?

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In chapter 14, Scout and Jem get into a physical altercation after Jem threatens to spank Scout for bothering their aunt. When Atticus enters Jem's room, he breaks up the fight and asks who started the altercation. Scout accuses Jem of starting the fight and asks her father if she has to mind him. Atticus responds by telling his daughter,

Let’s leave it at this: you mind Jem whenever he can make you. Fair enough? (Lee, 140)

Atticus's response illustrates his unique parenting techniques as he essentially leaves it up to Scout and Jem to govern themselves without intervening. By telling Scout that she'll only have to mind Jem if he can make her, Atticus gives Scout permission to decide whether or not she will have to listen to her brother. It is important to remember that Atticus trusts both of his children. He knows that Jem will not tyrannize Scout and will only force her to obey him if the situation is serious or threatening. Atticus also trusts that his children are intelligent and tolerant enough to avoid conflicts and would rather have them work their issues out on their own rather than intervene and solve them.

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In his usual kind, patient, logical manner, Atticus tells Scout that whether or not she has to mind Jem probably depends on whether he (Jem) can make her mind.  It's a classic Atticus response; although there is no question that the children will mind him, Calpurnia, Uncle Jack, and Aunt Alexandra, he really leaves it up to Scout and Jem to govern themselves in this matter.  It's an interesting approach that speaks to Atticus's parenting, and the way he has raised the children thus far; he can make this statement without worrying too terribly much that either child will cause a problem with this edict.  Jem is generally kind and protective of his sister, and Scout is generally cooperative when he asserts his leadership.

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