Damned if we do, damned if we don’t

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.

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8 Responses to Damned if we do, damned if we don’t

  1. Cat says:

    I’m off to court then. My kids now ask to sit in the car if I’m parked in front of the bakery whilst I go in. I even let my 8 year old ride to Grandmas by himself! I send them in to places to do jobs for me like buy the paper.
    Common sense is no longer so common.

    • Barbara Good says:

      Me too Cat, I’ve left Miss Five in the car to drop something off at the post office etc. Miss Three has a fit if she’s left behind so I can’t leave her yet – someone would definitely report me if they saw her screaming face in the car window!

  2. You are so right we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t – parents are always bashed by so called experts – we have a few here in the UK and some of them don’t even have children if you don’t mind!!!! I have five children my oldest is 26 and my youngest is 5 and they have all gone through the same stages – no I don’t think children are much different now then ever before – apart from the fact that we don’t shove them up chimneys to work anymore!

  3. Jenny Pearson says:

    Hi Barbara, I don’t think kids have changed all that much, but boy there seems to be so many more éxperts’ than there used to be – and they seem to be always looking over some poor parent’s shoulder at all hours of the day. Some things have changed, I was left to start tea at the age of 10 – I was first home from school, so peeling vegies etc. became my job, and in the school holidays I was left to look after myself (although the neighbours knew I was alone, so a watch for my safety was kept) and, no, my mother was not a terrible neglectful person, she just had to work, as did my father, to keep body and soul together, obviously not an ideal situation – but what I have noticed has changed is that the neighbours all kept a lookout for everyone’s kids, not just their own. I told the person that we both know when she became a mother – this will be the hardest, most frustrating, most rewarding, time consuming job you will ever do – and it is never ending once you start, and in hindsight, you will not want to change a thing (maybe a few little things!!) And if, when those lovable babies become decent hardworking people, you can give yourself a clap and say you survived all the well meaning claptrap you had to put up with – parents deserve a medal, not criticism for a very difficult and complex job. From where I am sitting both the newer parents in your immediate family are doing great – I think that person we know is a lot better than I was, even if she is still on her Learners!!! (I include you in the immediate family frame, Barbara). On a different note, you may enjoy a rather indulgent blog called “Ladies, A Plate” based on old-fashioned cakes, biscuits, slices, preserves etc. all tried and tested over time – indulge with a cup of good coffee and take no notice of the so called experts – your girls will be dealing with them in the future and you will be there to show them how well you survived.

    • Barbara Good says:

      I agree about our common friends Jenny, doing a great job. I hope they know it!! And I too would put myself in the category of doing a pretty good job parenting. None of us are perfect, but I really don’t think this generation of kids is doomed at all – I’m sure that has been said about plenty of past generations too. I’ll check out the blog you mentioned, love the sound of the recipes. I’ll swap the coffee for a tea – and probably a biscuit – and promptly ignore expert parenting advice. Thanks Jenny!!

  4. Wendy says:

    I’ve been on about this for a while – how parenting has become so legislated that we’re in a total lose/lose situation – I want to let my kids walk to school next year, but at 10 & 7 only one is technically old enough to cross a road without holding my hand (as per current nsw guidelines). And then we’re slammed for helicopter parenting.

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