There is something very strange about modern childhood. On too many occasions, parents seem to be commissioned into bringing up a member of the aristocracy. The aristocrat can leave their dirty clothes as and where they wish. They will be fed, watered and provided for. They can issue out for the day, or the night.
I observe this (almost) as an outsider. I never went through this as a child. Though it’s alien to my experience, it’s not unknown to me and I’ve observed this new strain of child-rearing, this indulged childhood.
A decade and a half ago, I suggested at a conference that we were missing a trick. And that some children were being grown in such a weird way, that it stopped them from growing. I pointed out that perhaps – for the first time ever – our children had no role in life.
Of course, blaming children or lax parenting hides the big elephant in this particular small room. Consumerism
That possibly up until the 1970s, many children had their tasks, jobs and responsibilities. As a child, I had to work part-time from the age of 10 to add lustre to the family exchequer. But that now, our children had no real role in many families. From birth to when they leave the nest, they live in a kind of ‘use vacuum’.
I suggested that children could start contributing to the family budget, or volunteer to help those in need. Unfortunately, this was interpreted by another speaker as a suggestion that we put our children up chimneys again as was done in Victorian times. I was outraged and protested. All I had suggested was “Let’s make childhood more dynamic by making it full of responsibility.”
I was reminded of this when talking to a mother recently. Her children tell her what to do. She is extremely unhappy with this and feels terrorised. She feels that her human rights are being violated by children who learn about human rights in school, but can’t see their application at home.