Take good care of my baby
Oh don’t you ever make her cry
Just let your love surround her
Paint a rainbow all around her
Don’t let her see a cloudy sky
This tune popped into my head a couple of days ago and I’ve been thinking about it.
The whole ‘care’ thing – fine. Caring for one’s child and loving your offspring is what makes us human and it’s perfectly natural. After all, we are predisposed to favour any tactic that allows us to perpetuate our genes. But the other parts of the song worry me because they seem to be almost prescient in reflecting the way the UK and USA have become a responsibility-free environment where shortcomings are nobody’s and everybody’s fault.
Let’s consider this: the geniuses in government decided some time ago that competition was bad because “it would make children upset if they didn’t come first” or some equally well-considered reason.
It’s a fact of life that at some point, you will find yourself losing or at least not coming top in everything, whether that be a maths test, sports or getting the girl of your dreams (more on that later). Teaching children that prepares them for the real world and also makes them more well-rounded individuals who have a healthy understanding of the nature of the world in which they find themselves depositedSo why is it considered a “good” thing to swaddle our children in so much mental cotton wool that they resemble the Michelin Man? Where can we draw the line?
Obviously, we can’t let kids run wild and grow as they please. Well, we could – it would create an interesting ‘natural selection’ environment – but it would be a terrible idea generally.
Equally, we can’t direct and control every action and variable in childrens’ lives, despite thinking we know best? Because, let’s face it: we don’t. What worked for my parents back when they were growing up won’t necessarily work for me as evidenced by regular conversations with my mum along the lines of:
“When I was 24, I already had 3 jobs and I was earning way less than what you do now and I didn’t spend it all on random stuff”
“Yes, but I’m not you. And we’re not in 1974”
Where’s the happy medium? Clearly total control and nannyism is a terrible idea. Swaddling children in a blanket of happy pretences only serves to allay parents’ worries that their child won’t grow up happy because they know they’re inferior to someone at something.
Instead, parents should teach their children that if they come across a situation which gets the better of them, it means they need to rethink their strategy, adapt, try harder or find another way of dealing with the problem.
For instance, the vast majority of parents will cave in to their kids’ demands when the little sprog is bawling his eyes out because he can’t have a sweet and moaning endlessly about it. A friend of mine had a different approach.
When her kids moaned or whined or complained about something, she would tell them:
“I’m sorry, I can’t understand what you’re trying to say. You will need to tell me calmly what it is you want and we’ll deal with it”
They quickly learned that not only could they gain nothing by moaning and whining and pleading, but that they’d only get their point across if they calmed down. That sort of understanding and firm discipline is what parents need to use with their kids.
Equally, it’s important to let kids go a bit wild, make mistakes, run into trees, fall over, injure themselves and learn from the experience. If a child never learns the hard way that something is not beneficial to their physical, mental or social health, no amount of being told that “This is a bad thing, don’t do it!” will get the point across.
The moral of the story here is twofold:
- The government’s panels and experts’ advisory subcommittees don’t know better and need to realise this before they end up breeding a generation of homogenous, bland and uninteresting men and women who are incapable of innovation, thinking outside the box and learning from their mistakes
- Parents need to stop trying to create a perfect world for their child to grow up in. This world is already perfect. If it wasn’t, we’d not have made it this far!