Saturday 29 November 2014

The Stolen Childhood 2

The Stolen Childhood 2

In my second article I want to demonstrate how we can not only reclaim this lost childhood but receive a great deal of joy bringing up children. In this whole exercise what also is important is we can actually learn more about ourselves whether parents or grandparents through our children and grandchildren.

We now live in an age of "earnest " articles or programmes conducted by so-called experts in child psychology or behaviour which all novice mothers and fathers are expected to adhere to. I was fortunate to have a wife and mother who never read a book on childcare and relied on intuition and instinct. I wonder how many of these publications make a young mother feel insecure and can be counterproductive. It may be reasonable to read some of these books but one should also rely just as much on advice from older members of one's family or social group for their advice which has often one important ingredient: Common Sense and experience!

However we must first acknowledge that in today's climate it has become increasingly difficult to bring up children. From the economic position due to very high property costs mothers are forced to work. Parents are also highly stressed with the nature of much of the work today. What is also of great concern is the whole of family life is under attack by the media with its atheistic hedonism that envelops every part of family life. We have had successive governments that are "family unfriendly" To counteract these very real problems we must try to recruit other members of our family to become involved with the children's upbringing and also some of our friends who have less family commitments. Many people don't have children of their own and it can be quite rewarding for them to have contact and be part of the bringing up process. However it is only common sense to engage people one really knows who also have similar ethics.

One of the unseen problems of today is that we have entered a sort of Age apartheid. Adults and children must try to join in doing things together.
From starting with the mundane chores of doing washing-up together, preparing vegetables to house cleaning to the more exciting options like playing games. We need to engage from the youngest to the oldest and they don't need to be family members either! What it does allow for is a lot of incidental chatting and humour, more importantly nobody, whether they're seventy or seven, feels left out. Further: we can all teach each other a lot and these activities are an important part of informal education.

So with all these problems what can be done, because we need to explore ways so that our children have happy fulfilled childhoods? The first and easiest task is to get rid of the electronic "babysitter". I know how often parents find themselves tired and the temptation of the TV is great. But it is no remedy because it actually makes your children's behaviour worse in the long term.  The same can be said also for the computer; however, if they need it for schoolwork it must only be used with adult supervision.
Of course children will suffer comments from their peers about an absence of a TV, but if the children are doing exciting things their peers may become interested and join them in far more imaginative pursuits than being "couch potatoes" gawping at a screen. This leads on to the important subject of toys.

Modern toys are generally lacking enough input from the child. All these brightly coloured plastic toys don't allow children to make up their own toys or develop the fantasy world so important in children's play. Also they cost the parents a fortune. What children need is much of the material that goes for re-cycling nowadays. Favourites are cardboard in various forms, old containers, string, rubber bands and a pot of glue. Have a look also at some of the old books for children from a charity or second hand shop. Many of these books were produced when money was very short and children made their own toys. Trips also to any local open grounds are useful; children can forage for sticks and all manner of things. One thing my children would spend hours doing was playing shop; they would find all kinds of things to fill their shop.

The next considerations: are our houses, and if we are lucky enough to have them gardens, child friendly? Do visiting children feel comfortable in them?
In our very materialistic age furnishings apparently have to be pristine like some TV commercial. Adults become totally neurotic when children bounce up and down on sofa or drop plasticine on immaculate carpets. It is the same with gardens and their immaculate manicured sterile lawns and flowerbeds, where there is no room for children to dig holes or play.
Where adults seem terrified that children will despoil their suburban - as they see it - "shangri la". Isn't it better to have shabbier furnishings where children can use the sofa as a trampoline?  Anyway it saves a lot of money on buying furniture and one no longer has to worry about keeping up with the Joneses; the neighbour's children can encourage their parents to come down to your level! The neighbour's children also can seek refuge from their neurotic parents in a house and a garden with lots of evidence of children's play. Of course children should be taught respect for other people's possessions and one can provide "no go" areas in gardens and houses. But generally the joy of children playing outweighs any transient material consideration.

Finally: a vital part of a child's development is playing with other children. Today we have the dreadful isolation of children sat up in a bedroom whose only companion is a computer or play station. Play is vital and one should make every effort to engage all the local children and school pals. There is also safety in numbers when children play in the local park or open space. Without this play children can never grow into mature adults because of the importance of social interaction. However one word of warning: one should engage other parents to help keep a "distant" discreet eye on the play to ensure there is no bullying. Unfortunately that is often the unpleasant side of children's play.


  1. Children's Society published a report showing the links between mental health and TV.

  2. yes TV watching for the very young can cause ADHD