Telling off the grown ups
Battle of Ideas – After the riots
Saturday 20th October 2012
Too often adults seem powerless in the face of young people behaving badly. During last summer’s riots, well-equipped police officers looked on impotently as teenagers looted shops and even confronted the police themselves. Teachers complain they no longer have official support to deal with misbehaviour. Strict teachers stand in dread of malicious complaints of abuse. On the streets, adults avoid reprimanding misbehaving kids for fear of being accused of inappropriate interference. And as MP David Lammy controversially commented, parents are wary of disciplining their own children in a society where smacking is conflated with child abuse. Many a parent has been threatened with a call to ChildLine when trying to get their children to do as they’re told. Children today expect to be negotiated with, convinced and have their opinions taken into account.
It seems we are witnessing a topsy-turvy ‘reverse socialisation’. While adults feel deprived of options to discipline children, kids are all-knowing, rights-bearing, disapproving. It sometimes seems it is the young who feel they are in charge. Whether it is smoking, recycling, healthy eating, using excessive electricity or driving cars, adults often find themselves under a barrage of criticism, and it is our children who are telling us off. ‘Mum, don’t you know fatty foods are bad for me’; ‘Dad, your smoking indoors is killing me.’ And children cannot fail to notice adults are constantly told their own disciplinary methods are problematic. Meanwhile, teachers face school councils and pupil representatives who are given official encouragement to assess the standard of lessons by OFSTED and sit on interview panels for school staff. And with endless political initiatives chastising adults in front of children for their bad habits, from drinking to leaving the lights on, how can children not internalise the message that Mum and Dad are ‘not the boss of me’?
Do we need to reassert the idea that children should respect their elders and adult institutions such as the law, the property of others and school? What incentive is there for children to want to grow up, or for teens to be mature, if all they can expect in return is to be told off like big children?
|Professor Maurice Biriotti
founding trustee, SHM Foundation; CEO, SHM Productions Ltd; publisher, Youth-led investigation into the August riots 2011
writer; head of sociology, JFS Sixth Form Centre; contributor, spiked
author, Children’s Social and Emotional Wellbeing; lecturer, University of Manchester
children’s writer; lecturer and educationalist; author, The Queen Must Die, first part of a time-travel trilogy
founder member, IoI Parents Forum; opinionated mother of two
Source: Battle of Ideas
Tiemo Talk of the Town Review
Sometimes answers to our problems are right in front of us, but we fail to see because we are saturated by the problem.
It was interesting that although this debate was about “telling off the grown ups” that young people were not represented on the panel. Therefore trying to make sense of the riots without talking to young people seemed to highlight one reason for the riots i.e. an absence of real interest in the voice of our young people. A factor that ironically was reinforced during this debate.
Various reasons were given by “grown ups” as to the reasons behind the riots of 2011. These ranged from political dissatisfaction to an evil perversion of consumerism. Yet according to Carl Emery, author of Children’s Social and Emotional Wellbeing and lecturer at the University of Manchester, the riots were not down to one factor but many.
He suggested that we lack the ability to ‘authentically listen’ to our children and the culture in which we live does not support the wellbeing of the family. Emery states that our issues with parenting cannot be divorced from economics and other societal pressures. He stated that following to emphasise his point:-
- Parents focus on economic issues and may have little time at the end of a working day to listen authentically.
- Schools are opening for longer hours,
- Playing fields are being sold off and
- Funding for youth projects has been cut.
Emery stated that despite socio-economic pressures (indeed because of them) parents should find time and be willing to listen and negotiate with their children. In addition, Emery believes that we should not equate well-being to economic success but well-being can evolve from psychological complexity i.e. constructive criticism is healthy and should be heard. The opinions of teenagers are not always based on hormonal rage. It is perfectly normal and healthy for young people to be angry. Without authentic listening, up risings in society may well be inevitable.
Furthermore each generation has a moral panic about the younger generation, therefore what we are dealing with is nothing new.
Neil Davenport (head of JFS sixth form centre) supports the viewpoint that it is important to listen. He also adds that parents are undermined by schools and government policies, which constantly tell them what to do.
The government tell us how to raise our children and we should accept this as they have our best interest at heart was the message from KAS Quinn, children’s writer, lecturer and educationalist. Such a naive view on the government’s policies was not overlooked; a member of the audience pointed out that what the government says and does is not always in the best interest of the general public. When Quinn was asked if she truly believed what she had stated, she backtracked a little by adding that she had to give a counter argument to that presented by Carl Emery, but did believe that on the whole that the government’s advice was accurate!
Out of the nonsense presented by Quinn came some common sense. A young man stood up and stated that all that was required to move towards solutions was understanding between adults and young people. This would seem to be something that emerges from authentic listening. However we may have a long way to go before we achieve this.
One young lady stood up to share her views on the undermining of young people and Sally Millard (Chair) interrupted her due to time restraints! The panel were then allowed to state their final comments before the session was ended. This was disappointing and disrespectful, as an opportunity to listen authentically was missed and as stated in my opening statement…… Sometimes answers to some of our problems are right in front of us, but we fail to see because we are saturated by the problem.
Links and further reading:
Tiemo Talk of the Town
8th November 2012