Sunday, 16 February 2014

Modern Parents : a discussion


There is one phenomenon that truly irritates me and that is the powerfully insular way some  modern parents view ( and expect everyone else to view) their wonderful little darlings.
It's as though the children and the children's behaviour is the centre of everything that is Holy.
Life is child dominated
Child is king.
And the rest of the world can go f@ck itself.

Yesterday, on the way back from the vets, I listened to a radio 4 discussion between a Scandinavian psychologist and a prickly British Child " expert"
The  Scandinavian was bemoaning his country's liberal attitude to child rearing, stating that Swedish teens now have the largest drop out rate from school in Europe and worrying high levels of suicide and self harm especially in young girls.
He quoted many other surprising facts about the disenchanted Nordic youth before suggesting that " making your child into a Prince or Princess at an early age " wasn't doing them any favours"
He concluded that children that are told and treated as though they are the most important people in the world have huge problems adjusting when the real world informs them that they are in fact, normal.
Of course, there is more at play here, there always is, but I did find the general premise interesting.

I came from a home where both parents never praised or applauded anything we did, so an occasional crumb of congratulation and adulation would have worked wonders on my shy eleven year old psychi....Now....I am in total agreement that children should be praised, nurtured, supported, loved and most importantly not criticised when they are growing up
But what I do not agree with, is the overwhelming way that some nuclear families allow and indeed cultivate the myth that their child rules all, and the rest of society ( and community) can go hang.

The Swedish psychologist ( who incidentally had six kids) concluded that kids nowadays often think that they are brighter, more talented, and more popular than reality would dictate...so they often come down with a bang when realisation hits.....on reflection....my slightly unhappy childhood might have
given me an uneven start......but when I did eventually find out that I wasn't as bad and as useless as I originally thought I was, life took on a rather different and more rosy hue!
The only way was up!

79 comments:

  1. When I received my degree (1st Class Hons), my father asked "Did they give you some piece of paper?". When I replied 'yes', he simply said "Jolly good"; and that was that.

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    1. But you KNEW he was proud

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  2. But shouldn't it just be about common sense balance, neither too much one way or the other?
    I spent my entire childhood trying to make my father proud of me which carried on into adulthood even after he died. He always used to say "its the winning that counts, not the taking part" and I never won, in the conventional sense.
    Since I blossomed and started to like myself, I don't give a fuck and its much more fun!

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  3. the other expert was Rosemary Leach and I heard it too and have to also side with the Scandinavian as even though my upbringing boarded on abuse today's children all seem destined for university even though clearly many haven't even grasped basic literacy.
    Come out with debt and a degree not worth anything but with a sense of entitlement to all the good things in life.
    Being childless myself next week's half term will be spent as much as humanly possible behind closed doors...eateries are red flag areas for for out of control long haired middle class children....yuk and double yuk
    What's wrong with being seen and not heard? being seen...ha ha ha

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    1. Those children that you speak of are obviously 'new money' middle class. 'Old money' have manners.

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    2. I didn't like the way ms Leech blamed society and the government for kids dissatisfaction

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  4. My own view, for what it is worth, is that children need boundaries. They need to know that they are loved, that they are part of a family, that they are praised when they deserve it, chastised when they deserve it (no smacking allowed these days, and I can't say I like the idea of the naughty step) but there are plenty of ways a loving parent can devise - every child is different and therefore needs a different approach in this area I think.

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    1. The one thing I cannot abide are parents who say their kids are their best friends
      No, they are your kids not you friends

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    2. Dear John - I love you - I say this all the time!!! Thank you thank you thank you!

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    3. OH Amen brother on that one!!!

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  5. I've worked with children, many with autism and other learning difficulties, for over twenty years and I'm with The Weaver. Boundaries are absolutely essential for children to feel safe; if every time they kick out against 'the system' the whole edifice crumbles and falls down then life can become very scary for them. If there are understandable and predictable rules and structures to guide, support and protect the individual then a complicated life becomes bearable.

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    1. I think that this is a trick for all adult relationships too

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    2. Excellent point, John

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  6. I don't know the secret, I can only try. Two of Alex's new school friends are staying for the weekend and whatever their parents have done has obviously done the trick. These two are the most well behaved and balanced five year olds I have ever had the pleasure of hosting.

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    1. I bet those boys were and are a part of an extended family and community tom....I doubt like yours they are not just part of a small oppressive group?

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  7. I agree with Weaver and John by Stargoose. I was never praised as a child and although I became a confident person once I had had my two (well-behaved, well-adjusted) sons, I often still harbor bitterness at my rather unemotional parents. Now with seven grand-kidz, (sixth one arriving mid-May), we watch from the sidelines how the next generation is raised. The son with the larger family (soon-to-be-six), is raising his children without technology except when needed for home-schooling by their mum. The oldest two 11 and eight don't have mobile phones, i-pads, computer games or whatever kids that age normally have. They also live on a farm and enjoy mostly outdoor activities of motorbikes, horse riding and mountain hikes with their parents. They are praised and chastised in equal measure (in SA we may still spank our own children!) These young ones are a pleasure to spend time with. We find that the kids who have all the mod-cons to "play" with are the unruly ones.

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    1. A good point well said x

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  8. Such a shame about your parents' child-rearing skills. They in turn maybe had rotten upbringings. Children who are criticised very often end up being highly critical themselves but I think, on balance and because I only 'know' you as a 'cyber-friend', you've turned out quite admirably. x

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    1. They were a product of their time that's all.. It was just the way of things.... I got support from other places....pity the kids that didn't
      If Swedish psychologist is correct then over indulgence is more of a worry

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  9. ps My two sons are the most intelligent,handsome,loving,caring members of the male species and my precious Grandaughter's a Princess!Make of that what you will.lol x

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    1. Perhaps I'm just jealous

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  10. the two 20-somethings that work in my company - their work ethic sux, they are constantly playing with their cell phones or on the internet, they refuse to pick up the (business) telephone, "just good enough" is their goal instead of "perfect". it is bloody annoying!

    another co-worker is into every aspect of her (now adult) children's lives. when the oldest graduated college, she got him a job. (say what?) the youngest can't make a decision on her own without her mother's input.

    disclaimer - never had kids and never will, can't stand the little bastards. parents want to be "friends", not "parents" these days.

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    1. PS - I LOVE the w.c.fields pix; a philadelphian and proud of it! :)

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    2. He was a delightful old buffer

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    3. Unfortunately, there are some parents who live their lives through their children and that is quite sad really and terribly detrimental to the children themselves. Roots and wings are what you give your kids as opposed to interference and self-doubt.
      ps They're not all little b's!lol

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  11. H.I. had the most perfect upbringing from her parents I have ever heard of, set in a tiny terraced house in Sheffield, but all she did was tell them what was going to happen as if it was destiny, and it did happen. I don't think they particularly indulged her, but they did wonder where she came from. They used to call her the Queen of Sheba. Nobody is born a parenting expert, and not many people bother to get trained in it before the child arrives. It's a difficult balance between letting the kid know that it is capable of anything at the same time as knowing it's limitations. H.I. just let her daughter get on with it, so long as she wasn't a social nightmare. She gets on with anyone now.

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    1. I have a feeling that the term " Queen of Sheba" is a particularly northern thing...I know a couple of Sheffield people that use it

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    2. Yes, I think so too. 'The Queen of bloody Sheba' may be more common.

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    3. Just for the record - my granddad used to call me the Queen of Sheba, and he came from a long line of east end of London born and breds.

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  12. I was a disappointment to my parents from before day 1. I was 12 day's late so messed up their holiday plans, BEFORE not being a boy. Until I left home (NOT with their permission), I had to hand over my wages to "pay back the expense of raising me".

    Somehow or other, I turned out reasonably sane, once I escaped.

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    1. We all need to escape sometime x

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  13. Dear John,
    I agree with you: I love children very much, but to make them the navel of the world does them no good. It is not for nothing that your fine English language has the word 'spoilt' in a double meaning.
    Children are bright, creative, fun - but they also need rules, and 'borders' - when they trod over them and thus hurt other people that goes too far. I also observe that those children who are allowed 'everything' are trying to test out, when that will be stopped. Often, I think, it is sheer laziness of the parents, to confront or discuss with them - or self-centeredness. The allow their little "Doubles" what they don't dare to do themselves, but wish to.
    Again: I really love and admire children.

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    1. There seems to be a dreadful amount of GUilt nowadays
      Parents seem to feel guilty about almost everything
      Could that be the reason?

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  14. When I was small I had to sit on the floor as the 'settee' was for grown ups. Children were to be seen and not heard. Libraries were places that you would go for peace and quiet and not used as a baby sitting facility and hangout for Nannys. We didn't sit down on public transport as we hadn't paid for the priviledge, we sat up straight at our desks before being given permission to leave the class, we played on building sites, sat on the kerb and picked out dirt from in between the paving slabs with old lolly sticks. We knew that we had to earn our place in the World.

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  15. Teachers call them Tea Cup Kids. Fragile, delicate, easy to break..

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  16. The raising of children is tricky business...the little dears don't come with instruction manuals and each one is annoyingly different. By the time you've done your best with them your hair is white and thin, you have wrinkles and parts of you hurt you didn't even know you had. They, on the other hand, are just starting out...young, fresh and firm...may they have children...every single one of them.

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    1. I guess each generation brings with it , it's own individual set of problems

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  17. I think it's a numbers thing.You and I are the last generation brought up in big families, no mod cons. Our parents didn't have the time or energy - or indeed money - to spend on us. We grew up quickly, didn't bring trouble home and learned there's no such thing as a free lunch. In hindsight I think I had too much responsibility thrust on me too young but I think that's probably a better grounding than no responsibility at all.

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    1. An interesting point... My mother did everything for us...which sounds a contraindication .but she was also a martyr and critical......
      Oh I need a sleep...off to work tonight........thank goodness I don't have kids to care for

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  18. We have three children, 9,10 and 13. They appreciate, not expect, praise when they deserve it. They also, unbeknownst to them, appreciate having boundaries; you can see it on their faces and feel the relief at times when they want something or to do something that isn't quite within their emotional "reach". I don't necessarily want to be their "friend" but there is some cultivation that needs to be done that encourages confidences that would otherwise be tricky in a dominating parent role. I never talked to my parents because they werent all that interested in what i might have to say. It doesn't take much attention and kindness to let a child know that you love them and care about them. It is all about balance and having the desire to raise kind, pleasant, independent and productive children.

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    1. The raising of children is a favorite subject of mine and I am the mother of a 30 and 35 year old. You are right on with your parenting. This worked for me so well. Indeed it is a balance between being a freind and parent. To respect them, but also to encourage that respect for you. I could write a few pages on the subject. But the main thing is IMHO to realize that how your childhood was affects you for the rest of your life.

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  19. Amen!

    I did everything I could as a child and nothing seemed good enough. I caught my mother bragging about me behind my back.

    I think my parents instilled a can do spirit along with no matter how rough, tough, smart or pretty you think you may be there is always someone that is one up. Never give up and always, ALWAYS be honest.

    Great post, John.

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  20. I have never understood children, I was the youngest, there were never younger children around.

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  21. The more I see of children and their parents' attitudes towards them, the happier I am that we are child free.
    Jane x

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  22. The sooner a child engages with reality the better in my honest opinion. It is reality we should be preparing them for.

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  23. Well said.
    Praise was scarce when I was a child, As were expectations.
    I was just encouraged to do the best I could and expected to show respect to my elders and betters, that was all.
    Today's kids all seem to have unrealistic expectations. They all want to be rich, without having too work too hard for it either.

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  24. So funny; everyone puts their two cents in.....kids are kids as far as I can see; its the adults who are mystifying these days. Dont let this become a rant against the younger generation; I heard too much of that when I was a kid (and I m 70). I think almost everything parents do comes from love and things are not always what they appear to be on the surface. A lot of adults see children as competition, for time, attention, resources etc. The kids are great, the adults are a bit a sad; maybe they would like to be kids again and be spoilt rotten, but they spoil and indulge themselves instead.
    I have five kids and twelve grandchildren........
    When we are lying old and broken in some hospital bed somewhere and a eighteen to twenty year old is attending to us will we ask whether they were spoilt as kids ?

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    1. Great point Lizzie. Who develops all this rampant consumerism and advertising that is pushed down our children's throats and leads them to expect they can have anything they want at the drop of a hat? It isn't children. It truly takes a village to raise a child, and many people in the village have opted out saying it isn't their problem. As you pointed out, those children turn into adults that we all will depend on....wouldn't it be more productive to support their development instead of sitting back and complaining about how rotten they "all" are? There are some rotten kids with rampant expectations out there and there are also some that are lovely and generous; not so different from the adult population. ;)

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    2. Th thing that worries me is that today's kids don't like having to get their hands dirty, or crease their dress or spoil their hairdo.
      It's the immigrants from poorer countries that are glad of that kind of work.
      I do also believe that consumerism, the marketing people and the image makers have a lot to answer for. They're making a lot of money by exploiting young people.

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    3. Lizzie, I only have time to reply to you, as I am now off to work....yours is a good point
      Children are the blank piece of paper..it's the parents that need to adjust and parent their kids in the best way.
      How that is achieved
      Bugger alone knows

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  25. Great post John! And some great comments in this discussion.
    There were so many of us kids(9 in all) that I sometimes marvel that we have all 'turned out' relatively well. I can only give that credit to my parents. They, mostly Mom, praised us when we deserved it and needed it, and we were punished when we deserved it. I guess there was a balanced approach after-all come to think of it now. Nice job Mom and Dad!
    Oh yes, I am so pleased that I was spared all this child-rearing!!!! I am sure I would have had a few 'princes' and princesses'!! lol

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  26. Being #3 in a line of 9 kiddos....I was doing my share of "parenting" at a very young age. The little ones got most of the attention as my mother and dad knew who was in need and rested their attentions there....when one addicted brother was having troubles that's where they were needed when another brother "came out" that's where they offered their love and support...a sister with severe asthma was always needy for attention...they split themselves where needed.... God love em, they did their best at the time. None of us ever doubted their love and missed them both greatly when they were gone.

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  27. Hear hear! Part of this preciousness comes from such small families, too. Only children don't have to compete or share attention. It's about them all the time, and they know it.

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  28. I have to say I'm glad to hear that this isn't just a USA problem. The attitude of some young ones (and their parents) go hand-in-hand IMHO with 'helicopter' type parenting.

    Going to use this as a chance to promote one of my favorite bloggers/writers. http://www.freerangekids.com/ Lenore Skenazy, who was vilified by the media when she allowed her son to take the subway alone. Check out the FAQ page for a quick overview.

    I have one child -who is now 26 and married - (and for reference I am one of six siblings from a blue collar Catholic upbringing), and although at times he drives me batty, he is polite and shakes hands and looks at you in the eye when he meets you on the street. Being polite, and honorable, honest and humble was something he heard a lot from me when he was growing up (I was a single parent to him until I was married 10 years ago) I am also happy to report that I live in an college town, and many many of the young ones around (college student age on down) are solid good people. (There tends to be, at the college that is here, a bit over-doing it on the inclusion front which also annoys me at times, but enough about that) Don't get me wrong, I know of some self-absorbed ones too, and I do roll my eyes at the parents, too.

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  29. As you often do John, you started a fascinating discussion.I have enjoyed reading all the comments. I am 68, and don't remember being praised as a kid, in fact a cousin who lived with us for a few months when we were about 5/6 ish remembers my Dad always criticising me all the time….not my memory! Maybe that is why I have never had a good opinion of myself..who knows. I have brought up 3 lovely boys, now aged between 27 and 37..they seem to be well adjusted and nice young men.

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  30. One aspect of American schools that drives me insane is that they teach children they should have self-esteem. That can't be taught. It must be earned. Better to praise accomplishments and discipline when necessary.

    Love,
    Janie

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  31. We call it Organic Parenting in our house.

    There is too much 'stuff' and too much to want. Parents go into debt to get the must have of the season for their child. for fear they will be bullied at school. I hear it at work.

    I also hear some quite frightening things from my very young co-workers that they will not have children as they cant afford them and a house or are worried what type of world they are bringing them into.

    I have no children, so I cant defend or say much about it. All I know is if I had children I would try and send them to a fee paying independent school. My neighbour is a retired state school head teacher, what she tells me scares me.

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  32. I have only one thing to say...being a parent is a damn hard job.

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    1. Thank you Sherry!!!! That says it all!!!!!

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  33. There's a school of thought that neither praise nor criticism are good for children - praise because then they feel they have to keep living up to some exalted standard, and criticism because it makes them feel inadequate and useless. The important thing is simply to take a close interest in what your child is doing and make them feel that whatever they are doing is worth something.

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  34. I think balance is so important -- and such a tricky thing: helping a child feel loved with attention and affirmation while setting firm boundaries, helping him or her to learn right and wrong and the reality of living with consequences for decisions made. And then there's the challenge of fashioning a life with and without children -- family time vs. adult time.

    All of that said, it seems that in way too many families today, the children are the bosses and that really doesn't work well long-term especially when they become young adults and have to deal with real world expectations of others for whom they are NOT the center of the universe. I grew up in a home where we were dearly loved but also physically and emotionally abused when our father was drinking. We knew poverty and want and fear. It propelled us out of the house and to make lives for ourselves. It was far from ideal, but not crippling. I've noticed that my siblings have been far too easy on their children as a result of our harsh upbringing and, from what I can see, the results are worse: obnoxious kids with no rules or expectations who think they're the center of the universe -- which really is crippling in the case of a niece who is now a young adult.

    I have friends who have kids who have grown up wonderfully and their secret seems to be a good balance of encouragement and discipline from the earliest years. They have been taught responsibility, to be caring for others and to have the skills to gain confidence in dealing with the world rather than feeling that the world owes them big time.

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  35. I am a teacher of 2nd grade children and I have some students who demand (seriously) the attention of any adult at all times. Not that they are ill behaved, but obviously they dominate the scene at home. It can be exhausting.

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  36. The same discussion happens here. My partner describes it rather well. Children use to be part of the family, not the pinnacle.

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  37. As someone who became a parent unexpectedly, surprise!, I am grateful my husband and I had discussed a "hypothetical child" for a few years. We started to see and hate the parents who were raising their own "special snowflake". The entitled git, wrapped in a cocoon of constant praise and adoration and whoa to anyone who tried to reprimand the child or tell them their book report was no good. (Cause mommy or daddy wrote it and they would never let junior fail!)
    One thing we abhor is giving every child a trophy in sports pretty much just for signing up to play. There has to be winners and losers. By teaching them they are all "winners' to help with their "self esteem", we have created quite a mess with some kids.
    Children are meant to be loved and guided well. We are gifting them to society and what a grand, upstanding gift they should be.

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  38. I was an only child, not by parents choice, and I certainly wasn't treated as any kind of princess. But I did know my mum and dad loved me. Now I have three grown up kids of my own. All of them are hardworking decent people. But each were different. Parenting is a hard job and most do the best they can.
    But having said that can somebody tell the parents that if their kids are riding a scooter or bike on the pavement they should stop for other people. Also whoever invented the kids supermarket trolleys should be run over by one.

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  39. Oh thank god I am, and will remain, child free. You know what gets my goat? When did it become normal that parents expect children to be given a seat on busy public transport while adults stand. I have been given a nasty stare on the London tube on many occasion by a man with an 8 year old, in fact I regularly see the parent stand so the child can sit down. This turn about must have happened in the last 20 years as I would never have been allowed to sit if an adult had to stand.

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  40. hmmmm.... listening to parenting radio shows are we ?

    ;)

    xoxox

    btw you are spot on - i think what is lacking in modern parenting though is teaching your child to be sincerely kind...compassion is a decision not an emotion...

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  41. I still hate having to tolerate unruly kids in restaurants, pubs or on aeroplanes. Usually it's the stupid parents' fault. Some things have to be nipped in the bud and that means making the boundaries clear from a very early age. Behaviourally speaking, if you let cats out of bags, it's almost impossible to get them back in. Of course real parental love means giving praise where praise is due but it is also about helping your child to understand his/her relationship to society and that means creating frameworks.

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  42. Certainly not just a Swedish phenomenon but also one to which a great many USA moms and dads subscribe. And as the Swedish have found out (and as I wish this country would find out) letting your kid constantly think they are the "king of the hill" often has dire consequences. I too am thankful that my parents, particularly my mother never subscribed to this belief, my mother's feeling about children was that that they should be "seen but not heard" OR be sent to child communes (slave labor camps?) when they're very young and not return home until they're young adults. Thankfully my father was considerably fairer than this, so I managed to survive till I left home. There are so many truly important things that children need to learn when they're young...how to survive in a difficult world ...responsibility for their actions...concern for their fellow human beings...impossible to do when you're the "king of the hill."

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  43. Of course, some of us think that dog owners who allow their animals to leap all over you with an enthusiastic cry of "they're only being friendly" are just as bad...

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    1. That wouldn't happen in my house

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    2. It certainly never did back in the day! But then you never heard me eulogising about my child either!

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  44. Thanks for the comments.. Didn't have time to reply to all.... Needed to go to work x

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  45. You didn't happen to hear the discussion on 'The Great Tapestry of Scotland' on Radio 4 did you? My pal Andy was being interviewed about it.

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  46. We call parents who believe their children are the best, etc. "helicopter parents".

    Did not happen in my era. Oh, my, no.

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