Is it just me or has there been a whole lot of parent bashing going on lately.
Two weeks ago the Victorian government proposed increasing penalties for parents leaving their under 16 year old children alone. This includes leaving in kids in cars (which you would have to think is the driving force behind such changes), at home, walking the streets alone or on public transport. Now clearly there are situations and ages when supervision is crucial and places where children should not be left alone. A car on a hot day (or even just a mild sunny day), obviously. On the streets at night, definitely. And I’m not about to load my three and five year olds on the bus and wave them off. But hey, I rode to and from school on my own, ON THE ROAD NOT THE FOOTPATH, from about 8 years old. My siblings and I were at home for an hour or so after school without supervision when my Mum went back to work. And there were plenty of times once I was a little older that I stayed in the car while Mum or Dad got milk and bread at the supermarket. Hell we were even left alone at night once my sister was in her mid teens (there is only three years between all three of us). There was a whole lotta alone time when I was growing up.
A week later we, parents, are hit with this delightful article claiming that today’s children are being turned into spoilt brats by Australia’s ‘crap’ parents who don’t know how to set boundaries and are infanatlising children. According to Dr Carr-Greg “The high-strung, control-freak parents that want to smother their kids with so much love and attention and monitoring and supervision that they never, ever develop any self-reliance and can’t solve their own problems later on.” Apparently the evidence is strewn throughout our schools, airports, waiting rooms and restaurants. Call me defensive, but I actually found this opinion from a prominent psychologist incredibly insulting not to mention condescending.
And where does this actually leave parents. On the one hand we’re told that we MUST supervise at all times, all children until they are 16. We’re condemned for using computers or mobile devices around our children because it means we’re not fully ‘present’ for them. On the other hand we’re labelled as crap parents for supervising TOO much, for not encouraging independence and giving TOO MUCH LOVE. We, apparently, don’t say no often enough, don’t set rules and follow through with consequences and we reward or praise children too much. Yet not so long ago, other psychologists were laying the guilt trip on parents who did say no, claiming that in all situations parents should rephrase it so as to always say yes. Thankfully this was out of favour again by the time I was a parent, but Wendy apparently wasn’t. Is it any wonder parents begin to question themselves.
I wonder if children ‘these days’ really are that different from the past. Sure they live in a different world where the internet and mobile phones rule which throws up a unique set of challenges, but if you put that aside are today’s children truly doomed to incompetence? Toddlers have always been fickle creatures, prone to emotional-outbursts and tantrums, haven’t they? Pre-schools exert their independence and stubborness? School aged kids starting to push boundaries and teenagers moody and uncommunicative. I think the difference is that there are just too many damn experts claiming they know best and what they see is parents failing at every turn. And with modern media being what it is they have plenty of opportunity to get their opinions out there and kick the guts of parents just trying to do our best.
And that is exactly what ‘modern’ parents are trying to do….. our best, just like our own parents did. I have seen young people do amazing things, take on social justice issues, environmental challenges and academic demands admirably. I have been around lots and lots of young children for the last five years and I have no seen no evidence substantial evidence of this ‘crap’ parenting. The kids seem pretty grounded to me, no more ‘brats’ than before as I see it…. and I went to school with my fair share of them. There are perhaps more kids with the confidence to speak to adults, more that won’t blindly obey without some questioning and there are statistically far more children with challenges like autism, none of those things make ‘brats’, nor does it indicate ‘crap’ parenting. Let’s give parents the break they deserve and let them get on with the job of parenting kids that they know better than anyone else.
And that’s my two cents worth.