Thursday, 3 July 2014

Too Much, Too Soon, Too Fast

There is an interesting trend in our society that I have become acutely aware of. It's not new, but is certainly becoming more prevalent. It's pretty shocking in its apparent stupidity and deviates clearly from the past dichotomy in society between childhood and adulthood, which has always been profoundly entrenched.

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
The irony is that these children are usually the very ones who were spoilt toddlers and pre-schoolers, indulged with everything from the Great Little Trading Co. catalogue, the entire Mini Boden range at full price and encouraged to stay young and pampered for so much longer than many of their peers. But once they get beyond seven or eight - suddenly, they are no longer little children and metamorphosise overnight into mini adults.

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.



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32 comments:

  1. It is scary when you look at other children sometimes. My 7yo's friend has a Pandora bracelet. I was a little shocked.

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  2. I agree. Nearly all the kids have expensive smart phones these days only to loose them or break them and then they get another one. I don't want to over-indulge by kids and will try very hard not too. Luckily my husband is on the same page. Style Me Sunday

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  3. I totally agree with all of this. My eldest is 14 and doesn't have a mobile yet. I've been thinking about getting him one but just a basic one so i can phone him when he's late home from school to make sure he's ok. Our girls (8 and 6) aren't allowed to wear make up, have heeled shoes or clothes that are not age appropriate.
    We're doing our best to keep them children for as long as possible but it sometimes feels like we're fighting a losing battle, especially when my 6 year old says to me she can't wear ankle socks, she has to wear tights, in summer, because she has hairy legs :(

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    1. Yes it offen feels like you are swimming upstream against the tide. So sad.

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  4. I am lucky that my son has never asked for anything. He is 17 and still says "mum you don't have to" when I give him his weekly pocket money. Don't get me wrong, he has been lucky in some ways as he has had nice holidays and the latest tech as I have been lucky to win some nice things for him. The important thing is - he never expects these things as normal, he understands the value of money and never takes anything for granted. He's a fab kid!

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  5. This is a fantastic post and something that really resonates with me. It is hard to stand your ground when everyone else has so much, but I am a firm believer in experiences bring more happiness than things and I want my boys to understand this too.

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  6. I have said for the last few years that children these days seem to be growing up WAY too fast - not only in the terms of gadgets etc, but just what is expected of them - in society, in school etc. when it came time for my son to have a mobile, he got a basic one - nothing fancy, and despite his mates having Blackberries and iPhones I stood my ground. It cost me about a tenner with a contract that I paid monthly for. Good thing too, as he actually lost it one afternoon and was distraught because of it (he was about 13 then). I replaced it with another phone, and only recently "upgraded" him with my old iPhone. But at 15 he is a lot more responsible than he was then.

    I never understand why children need to have the latest tech (I know I didn't when I was growing up) or the bang on trend fashion labels (again, something I was never about) so my boy doesn't really get that sort of thing. I debated for a long time about him even having an XBox, and to this day, I still make sure that controller is in my bedroom each night and he asks for it when he's done with homework etc.

    A really well written and thoughtful post, and I think that parents have a lot to answer for when they pander to their child's every whim.

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  7. I think it is very scary! They are exposed to so many external factors which all seem focused on making them older than they are. I hope we do a good job of keeping Baby a child for as long as appropriate x

    http://www.youbabymemummy.com

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  8. I have two step children that we only see every now and then. When they come over they bring a whole raft of techie items and seem uninterested in going out anywhere really. The youngest has grown up way too fast.

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  9. Unfortunately children are raised to quickly nowadays, treats are no longer treats but expected... it's really quite sad when I think about it

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  10. Kids these days are raised so differently than us. I never cared about being cool or wearing the latest fashion at age 7 or 8 but this is just not the case anymore. Scary.

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  11. This is such a great post and very true. I really hope my two girls don't start acting older than they are x

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  12. great post... my girls often come back from groups telling me off all the things their friends have. My eldest {11} has an ancient Nokia phone - it texts and calls and that's it - all she needs to chat with friends and get hold of me if she needs me.

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  13. I'm lucky that my children really don't ask for any of the technology for themselves. They're young though so I worry about when all their friends have phones etc when they're a bit older...

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  14. Well said, my children are 2 and 4, we don't have any ipads or smartphones etc for them to use, they are out of our budget. the odd session on the cbeebies website on mummies laptop and my eldest's innotab is as close to tech as they get. they don't miss out thought we go out for days, messy play and making stuff instead. #letkidsbekids (Sarah H from lovinglifewithlittleones)

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  15. Could not agree with you more. Technology is around us and children need to be introduced to it in a measured way, but having a pandora bracelet as a norm is ridiculous!

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  16. I quite agree - great post. Makes me concerned for their futures.

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  17. It's scary how quickly things have moved on - I remember playing snake on my phone in high school and to think that was only a little over 10 years ago to how everything is now. x

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  18. Interesting reading. My son has some tech but he is more interested in the latest Bass amplifier! He only got a modern phone quite recently too,

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  19. Well said! I live in Greece and have two teenage children, who do not go without, but are also not overly indulged. I am actually shocked when I see youngsters from the UK who come over here on holiday and have every gadget known to man. Childhood is precious, children should be encouraged to enjoy it and should not be encouraged to keep up with the Joneses.

    Both our children got a basic Nokia mobile phone when they started high school at thirteen and both of them still have those same phones, my son is now 17 and daughter is 14. Our main issue is that their phones are rarely on, so we cannot always contact them when needed. I will add though that our son recently said that he would like to buy himself a smartphone - with his own money, that he never spends - he squeaks when he walks.

    There is no need to give our children everything, they really don't need or appreciate most of it anyway.

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  20. It's so tricky isn't it! Growing up we had very little and my parents didn't really let us watch much TV so we just drew and played outside and read..sounds very idilic doesn't it ;) but when we got a computer in my early teens I learnt about (one of the first very basic versions of) photoshop and drawing software and it inspired me for a passion in graphic design and photography..so I'm torn really I think technology can be creative but ya there is a lot of it and not enough normal childs play x

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    1. Oh I'm not against technology by any means as you know :) And certainly ours get their fair share, but it's regulated. The bigger issue here I think is the never ending over indulgence and treating kids as equals which concerns me hugely. Thanks for commenting.

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  21. I am 24 and it scares me how some kids are raised these days - spoil them rotten all the time and they won't grow up learning the value of anything! Overly indulging them too much in childhood can only lead to problems later on

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  22. I totally agree! My son often comes home saying so and so has an iPad or so and so has a phone why can't I? Because you're 9 that's why! Children should be children and treated accordingly. They shouldn't grow up too quickly x

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  23. I was so surprised the other day to hear someone talking about her three-year-old's phone. It's just bizarre.

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  24. I agree, we really need to remember the basics of childhood and let children be children. Childhood should be about fun, not what gadget they have or designer clothes. If kids are given everything on a plate, they would miss out on knowing the excitement you get from doing or buying something 'big' that you had to wait for.
    Thanks for linking #LetKidsbeKids

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  25. I couldn't agree more with you. A lot of parents want too much too soon. It starts with putting tiny babies in grow-up denim outfits. I hope that posts like this will raise awareness and maybe start a trend back to letting children be children and enjoying childhood - without the need for brands, expensive gadgets and the skills set of a graduate by the time they're 14.

    Thanks for linking up to Monday Parenting Pin It Party.

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  26. What a wonderful post, I totally agree with you. I think I must live in a different world tho as I had to look up some of the things you mentioned here as I had never heard of them. I don't own a smartphone so I am not about to buy my children one, we have two tablets which are sufficient for us and the children use from time to time. I know that I is much easier for me as we home educate our children so we don't have the peer pressure of owning the latest gadget that you might get from a school environment. My children are happiest running around outside doing their own thing and I hoe they continue to want to do that for a long time.

    I wonder if for some families the need to have the latest thing is guilt, driven by the fact that they don't and sometimes can't spend more time with their children but no item will ever replace quality time with our children as they are growing up. Sadly, as you and other commenters have said when they grow up and make their own way in the world they are going to have to work really hard to enable them to keep up with that kind of lifestyle which is easier said than done.

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  27. Totally agree it must be more balanced so kids get to just be free and enjoyed childhood-I think we have a pretty good balance here as we live in the countryside so lots of outdoors life with some TV and play on pre-school computers. I do love that my eldest feels confident with an Ipad under supervision (mine not his) as this follows play at pre-school although watching Peppa Pig on a loop at times drives me erm, loopy! Thanks for linking up to #brilliantblogposts

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  28. I think that our children do need to be technically literate, but that doesn't mean that they need several devices, or indeed any of their own. Our boys do have tablets, but they are used in balance with lots of other activities. I have never, will never, understand the need for designer clothes for kids, that will ruin/outgrow them within months! In my view if we're spending money on our kids it should be on experiences not unnecessary accessories! It does worry me how fast children seem to grow up now, I am conscious of the influences on my oldest in particular. A very interesting, thought provoking post x #PoCoLo

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  29. What a great, though provoking post! I have been nodding so much my head hurts. I also feel it is important not to spoil our children. It is important for them to be grateful for what they have and to appreciate the simple things in life. As for "Learning for learning's sake has gone out of the window, and our children are totally reward driven", I am 100% with you on that one, too. What is wrong with learning for learning's sake? Isn't that why we send them to school?

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Many thanks for taking the time to comment, I really value your responses.

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