I'm referring to the apparent need of so many (mostly upper middle class) parents to appear to forget all reason and scale and indulge their children to obscene degrees, almost as if they are forgetting that they are in fact children, and (unless visiting from some parallel universe where money does indeed grow on trees) children who will one day have to make at least some attempt at forging their own path in life.
Children with every adult techno gadget available, with the adult designer label clothes who are hurtling towards a kind of pre-pubescent emotionally immature adult status faster than their parents can offer the latest iPad.
|Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net|
These eight to thirteen year olds with the iPhone 5S, iPad whatever and the £1000 Jack Wills birthday spending voucher have skipped so many years and hurtle into late teens/early adulthood from a delayed early childhood. At some point their parents appear to have decided that they no longer fit the "child" category and accept them as peers, negotiating allowances, bonuses and a social life most of us would be rather enviable of.
I do think Facebook, MySpace and all other social networking sites have a lot to answer for. Far too many youngsters are on Facebook long before thirteen, and even at that young age they are exposed to adult conversation and social interaction which in the past would they would not have been privy to. My son is a "friend" on Facebook, mainly so I can keep an eye on him but I think carefully before posting as HIS friends will obviously see some of what I post via his Wall. Why have we in the West been so eager to let our children rush the growing up process? It's a hard world out there... and some things are best left until later.
And what on earth is the point of spoiling your children to the "n"th degree with no regard for childhood needs? Apart from anything else, how can you maintain the pace? A makeover party at six, a smart phone at eleven (on the internet, which you pay for and have virtually no control over) and a wardrobe to die for at thirteen. Not much left, is there? Oh, and the chauffeured car to a London show and the day trip to Spain - both PRIMARY age parties I have learned of too. What on *earth* is left?
What value can these children possibly attach to life's rewards? They are, indeed, all "Wow-ed out". No excitement left, no opportunities to earn rewards, learn job satisfaction or experience that fabulous feeling only working really hard for a long time for something special can bring.
We are in grave danger of leaving our children with no aspirations, no excitement, no treats for the future.
It is a sharp deviation from the clear child/adult distinction of the past, with the exception of the modern super rich celebs who are perhaps the leaders of this trend. There have always been economic variations and a spectrum of what children enjoy but families of different means on the whole agreed that children were children and treated as such.
We've just returned from the children's swimming lessons where two girls about age 12 were wearing Jack Wills/Joules/Uggs/insert trendy casual designer of your choice, and were carrying handbags I would be chuffed to bits to own. They both had iPhone 5s AND Pandora bracelets whilst their Mum was dressed almost identically.
Pandora? At a SWIMMING lesson? Seriously. And then there's the child whose mother bought him an iPhone to keep him busy on the school bus - at age 10. He lost it a week later (unsurprisingly) having run up a considerable bill for internet usage. These are not meant to be the trappings of childhood.... surely a subscription to the local Pony Club or karting lessons would be more appropriate if parents have more money than they know what to do with?
We are very fortunate, and our children don't do badly but they are children, and I am thankful their wants (so far!) have not escalated to such heights. It is incredibly tough being a parent today, there are so many temptations to navigate both ourselves and our children safely through but if we drop our guard and give in we do them a tremendous disservice. After all, very few of us are likely to be able to keep our children in the manner to which too many are becoming accustomed once they have left home and at some point the hard lessons of life will have to be learnt. The chances of them all landing such affluent lifestyles are slim, and we would be setting them up for a very steep fall.
This trend towards over indulging our children has permeated Education too. I was only discussing this week with another teacher how children - and more importantly OFSTED, expect lessons to be exciting and thrilling. Learning for learning's sake has gone out of the window, and our children are totally reward driven and many only engage with exciting and thrilling items int eh curriculum - they don't "see the point" and struggle to see what's in it for them.
It's the antithesis of the Governments aims and aspirations for a British Education System too, building foundations for the future of an entire generation based on thrill seeking and short term gain.
A study in March 2011 suggested British children were amongst the unhappiest in the Western World, and small wonder. Their simple pleasures are being destroyed or removed by Health and Safety concerns, media exaggerated scares and too many well-off kids are being completely deprived of being just that - kids.
But the insidious corollary of this over indulgence, treating our children as mini-adults, is that our expectations and perception of them changes too. With these escalating expectations children are given greater freedoms and independence, and whilst these are so essential, they need to be in line with development. Children are losing their identity and aspirations, they thrill seek as that is how they have been taught. We have created a culture of one-upmanship amongst our children which goes way beyond anything preceding it and this, coupled with a subtly shifting view of childhood precipitates destructive crazes like Neknominet.
I wonder where it will end. Scotland now considers 16 year olds mature enough to vote and parents cannot obtain medical records for their CHILDREN after age 16 for whom they have parental responsibility. We are confusing our children and setting them a largely impossible challenge in life, that of finding happiness and satisfaction when everything they could ever aim for has been handed them on a plate. By encouraging and reinforcing a thrill seeking and short term satisfaction based agenda we have - in effect removed from an entire generation long term aspirations and focus.
Let children BE children.
Kate also wrote Why we Mustn't be Afraid of Saying No to our Children