When Atticus reacts to Jem's Boo Radley game, what do you notice about the way he disciplines his children? List several principles in which you think he believes.

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lusie0520 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When Atticus reacts to the Boo Radley game, we learn some things about how he disciplines his children.  After telling them to stop, he lectures them on the correct way to treat people.  “How would we like it if Atticus barged in on us without knocking, when we were in our rooms at night? We were, in effect, doing the same thing to Mr. Radley.” (Chapter 5).  The lecture he gives the children shows us he believes in the principles of privacy for all people, civility, and courtesy.  “…we were not to play an asinine game he had seen us playing or make fun of anybody on this street or in this town-“ (Chapter 5).  Atticus does not raise his voice, he simply uses reason to help his children understand their behavior is out of line.  By the end of the discussion, he has even tricked Jem into admitting he is wrong.   Not once does Atticus accuse them of playing the game to make fun of Boo Radley, and he doesn’t have to. 

“We weren’t makin‘ fun of him, we weren’t laughin’ at him,” said Jem, “we were just-” “So that was what you were doing, wasn’t it?” “Makin‘ fun of him?” “No,” said Atticus, “putting his life’s history on display for the edification of the neighborhood.” Jem seemed to swell a little. “I didn’t say we were doin‘ that, I didn’t say it!” Atticus grinned dryly. “You just told me,” he said. (Chapter 5)

At this point, Jem knows he has been had.  As soon as he opens his mouth and says they were not making fun of Boo or laughing at him, he essentially admits that is just what they were doing.  Atticus could yell at the children, or put them in their rooms, or even spank them, but he doesn’t have to.  His way of disciplining his children is to help them see and admit their wrongdoings on their own.

Further Reading:
Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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