We have come so far from the terrible times that my dad tells me about when he was a child. He and his brothers would be beaten by the teachers simply for having a German surname.
Even when I was young, it was considered acceptable for parents to smack their children who were misbehaving. These days, such punishment is quite rightly frowned upon.
Increasingly, the focus is on raising well rounded, confident children. Giving them the building blocks to one day function as strong, independent adults.
Many people go as far as to avoid using certain words to their offspring, not telling them that they are good or naughty but instead suggesting an alternative activity when they are doing something undesirable.
This is often associated with attachment parenting and regarded as positive discipline. We are encouraged to understand that children often express their feelings through their behaviour.
I am all in favour of attachment parenting, in fact I’m one of its biggest advocates. Extended breastfeeding, babywearing, active listening – I do it all.
But I think somewhere in the theory or the application of it, something has gone wrong. We have stopped telling our children that their behaviour is unacceptable.
I’m not talking about punishing them, shouting at them or speaking unkindly. But childhood is for learning and to learn, we need to be told. Children are not born knowing right from wrong, they need guidance.
Sending children to school without the basic knowledge of how to behave is setting them up to fail. If that happy, confident child strolls into school having had no boundaries at all imposed on them at home, their confidence is going to take a bashing.
Today, we were in a café where some young children of a similar age to Libby were playing on one of the displays. Many of the things on there were breakable – and would have had sharp edges when they broke. There were also food items in the display that were for sale.
The children’s mother held a conversation with them about the fact they were in the display without mentioning that it wasn’t an acceptable place for them to play.
She then turned to her friend and said the words, “They’re so naughty.”
I beg to differ. Those children aren’t naughty, they are just children. Children like mine who need guidance as to what is right and wrong.
I don’t blame that mum, she’s trying her best like we all are. She didn’t come across as a mum that didn’t care, more as somebody who was trying to do the best by her children by acting the way the experts tell her to.
The thing that worries me is that I see it all the time. And I read about how we shouldn’t be using negative language to our children.
I’m not a psychologist, teacher or childcare professional, so what do I know? I know that every child deserves the best start in life. By not correcting a child you are going to cause problems for both that child and its peers.
We have already had an issue with bullying when a child was unkind to Libby. The child’s mother was standing nearby and chose to ignore it.
I read an article recently stating that there was currently a ‘bullying epidemic’ in schools. I can’t help but feel sorry for the bullies in the same way as the victims.
A child who is accused of bullying becomes labelled. “That child, the naughty one, the bully.” When in fact perhaps they are the victim.
The victim of a societal shift away from letting children know the difference between right and wrong. The victim of a parent who was trying to do the right thing, trying to instil confidence in their child.
The same child who is now being made to feel like a bad person for failing to make the right decision. A decision made by a small child without help, guidance or support from the people who love them the most.