A Society That Hates Kids?
“The really big thing that strikes me is that as a country we don’t seem to really like children. We don’t value them. We don’t see them as citizens of the future. We really don’t like them very much.” I read these words by Alison Michalska after a few particularly difficult family days out. It wasn’t difficult for the reasons you might expect with two toddlers in tow. Society made it difficult…the couple that glared at my child for an entire bus journey, the cafe that makes dogs ‘very welcome’ but can’t stand children and the nasty man that advised me that a ‘good slap’ would sort out my upset two year old!
A quick Google and I realise I’m not the only one who thinks Michalska is onto something. Reading some of the comments that had been left, there are definitely a lot of kid-haters out there!
I’ve been brought up to consider other people’s feelings, to be helpful and empathetic…perhaps at my own expense. But you know what…I’m done apologising for my children! I refuse to feel embarrassed when they act their age…or to make them feel as if their not good enough the way they are. Since having children, I’ve really noticed how mean, intolerant and rude some people can be…yet they demand the opposite in return.
To be clear, we don’t let our children run wild and we do teach them boundaries and respect. Parents who don’t parent are as much a problem as the kid-haters! Don’t take your child to a play area and let them chase all the others with a stick while you enjoy a chat with your mate without checking once! I’m sure you need a break…but not at the expense of everyone else!
How many times were you asked as a new parent whether your beautiful baby was good based on whether they ‘weren’t fussy during the day’ and ‘slept through the night’? When did needing to be held, fed and comforted become naughty?! Even people who are ‘good with kids’ willingly share their advice about ‘not spoiling them’ or ‘how she’s crying to manipulating you’.We felt so confused as new parents. So many people were advising us to do things that just felt wrong for our family. There were a few groups on Facebook like Gentle Parenting International that kept me sane. The naughty-step, smacking, locking in bedrooms and treating tantrums as ‘bad behaviour’ are all totally acceptable in our society. It’s possibly more frowned upon if you aren’t seen to use these ‘parenting tools’!
Since we now have a nearly three year old who’s big for his age, people don’t even bother hiding their disgust! Seriously, our boy is the sweetest kindest little boy, most of the time! He gets excited and has tantrums too…totally normal!
Having worked in Education and Health Promotion for ten years before starting a family, I can’t resist mentioning school! Our education system places such an emphasis on academic attainment yet teachers battle with constant lack of respect and disruption from students. Kids who’ve been belittled, punished, hit, bribed, insulted or ignored regularly by their parents are surely going to struggle to respect their parents let alone a teacher. The same goes for children who’ve been given inconsistent or no boundaries and basically left to bring themselves up. There are obviously loads of lovely parents and lovely kids in schools but unfortunately it’s often the negative behaviours that stand out and are either copied by other pupils or drain the teachers time and enthusiasm for teaching. Yet we’re all blaming each other…It’s the parents/ teachers/ media’s fault…something is going horribly wrong!
I’ve studied child development but nothing prepared me for having children! As a society we need to better educate ourselves about how we can support children and young people as they grow. If we want the future adults of this world to grow up to be kind, strong, independent and creative then we need to be conscious of the way we interact with them from the day they’re born.
Don’t say unkind things about a child in front of them – they won’t forget!
Say please and thank you as you expect them to do to you!
Don’t tease and joke at their expense – it’s not ‘just a joke!’
Let children feel – they can be grumpy, tired and needy if they feel like it – punishing them for it will only prolong it.
Don’t force idealistic ideas onto children – don’t force toddlers to share or teenagers to greet family members with a kiss.
Let them play! With you, siblings, friends and on their own. It’s so important!
Never hit a child – anyone that says that they were hit as a child and that it did them ‘no harm’ is clearly incorrect…
Speak positively to children…often – here are some suggestions
Most importantly, read about child development. Gentle Parenting a book by Sarah Ockwell-Smith is a good place to start.
I really hope that things are changing. Most of the parents and non-parents we spend time with are aware of the benefits of ‘gentle parenting’. We can’t get it right all of the time but we can at least give it our best shot!