boarding school for troubled boys

“If life were perfect, it wouldn’t be.” ~Yogi Berra

Every Wednesday morning we have a staff meeting in the basement/school room at Whetstone Boys Ranch.  It’s a rather lengthy and sometimes emotional affair.

We address pertinent issues, problem-solve together, seek clarification, and offer suggestions that might shed some light into the dark places of our boys’ worlds.

But once or twice, there will be a moment when all eyes are directed at me for answers.  At this point, the Whetstone staff will be treated to what they now affectionately call, “Matt Foster’s Hard-Fast Flexible Rules.”

Today’s mixed message was particularly scrumptious:

“The worse they’re being, the better they’re doing… sometimes.”

Somewhere in the great beyond, Yogi Berra is grinning in approval.


Allow me to break it down.  (And while I do so, imagine yourself among the half-dozen slightly groggy and now befuddled Whetstone employees, praying for answers.)

We naturally get a little worried when a boy isn’t doing what we think he is supposed to be doing.

He’s not getting out of bed.  He’s cheating at school.  He’s punching holes in walls.  In short, he is violating some pretty important rules for healthy living. And there must be consequences for this type of behavior.

But how do you do relationship when the boundaries you set up, required for relationship, also keep the relationship from forming?   It’s quite a pickle, let me tell you.   A real push-pull kind of thing.

What we have to remember is that when a guy gets upset, lashes out, shuts down, shares what’s really going on, it may not look pretty to the rest of the world.

But that’s right where we need him to be.  Vulnerable.  Open to seeing the negative patterns that have been handed down to him for generations.   Living in the discomfort of the process.   We must stand beside him during these times, model control, hold him accountable without pushing him away.

The worse they’re being, the better they’re doing.  Make more sense now?


That great sage Yogi Berra made it to the Hall of Fame with a career batting average of .285.  He only got a base hit 28.5% of the time.

Even the great ones strike out.  A lot.

It’s not any different with our boys.  They need us to tell them this, to help them (and their parents) come to grips with the fact that progress is messy.  Success is messy.

And in their moments of frustration and despair, they don’t need us yelling “Make the adjustment!” or giving tips on the finer points of keeping their weight on their back foot with off-speed pitches.

Sometimes life throws you an unhittable, Nolan Ryan curveball.

Sometimes that just happens.

But we’ll always welcome them back to the dugout.