Occasionally I wonder how children ever survived in the days before so many experts (many of whom have no children) emerged to tell parents how to be parents. The line up of mostly government-funded experts seems to grow longer every week. They are often spurred on by a crisis, which only their expertise can fix.
The latest thought bubble this week, came from the Royal Australian College of Physicians, is to make smacking a child a criminal offence. Apparently it can lead to depression, anxiety, antisocial behavior and substance abuse.
I do not see the need to smack children. There are better ways to assert discipline. With my two, who are now teenagers I recall needing to issue a smack on one occasion when the then five year old was beyond reasoning. A minor clip broke the hysteria and all settled down.
Is it the highlight of my parenting career? No. Has irreparable damage been done? Of course not!
The problem with these well intended thought bubbles is they never think it through. Firstly it will be nearly impossible to police. Secondly, even if a new squad of smack police is out in the suburbs, how much greater harm will be done to the child when a parent is hauled before the courts with the child as the star witness?
And lastly there is a real problem with equating a minor smack with serious child abuse. It lessens the severity of the latter and would dilute resources needed to deal with actual child abuse. But this is of no matter to those who like to pontificate and get a smug moral inner glow from calling for “government action”.
Meanwhile the push to diagnose small children with psychiatric illness continues. The three-year-old emotional well-being checks have not gone away. Predictions are that some 10% of preschool children have mental health problems. Have they all been smacked
And due to stifling government interference childcare centre staff are now too busy filling in forms to be able to actually care for children. The stupidity of government never ceases to amaze. Health is subject to enormous bureaucratic waste. Childcare is now subject to ridiculous requirements such as daily “reflective journals” and folios to show how the centre’s philosophy is “embedded”.
Of course given that compared to parents, family or friends who may look after children, day care staff now need tertiary qualifications. No doubt that will come in useful for filling out forms. Sadly it will be of no assistance to the children in their care.
In the UK there have been plans to stop children bringing lunch to school. This is because parents cannot be trusted to provide a lunch. Only the all knowing and benevolent government can possibly know what to feed a growing child
This type of thinking highlights everything that is wrong with this top down driven approach. It is the notion that some bright-faced graduate just out of University knows what is good for your child better than you do.
Whilst some people may make better parents than others and there is a small percentage that will fail miserably, the vast, vast, vast majority of people will do their absolute best for their children. This has been going on since the year dot.
And remember too that what constitutes good parenting will also be a factor of age, cultural and religion views. There is no one size fits all. Government bureaucrats don’t get this either.
Rather than set the nanny state onto parents seeking to do their best and childcare centre’s striving to care for children, how about making their lives easier? How about reducing pointless forms? How about not hectoring parents who give their kids an occasional treat?
Simple things matter. Eating as a family at the table has been shown to reduce obesity in children and improve wellbeing. Having a pet is good for children as is letting them play outside or walk to school. (One British council tried to stop parents doing this).
And the good news is that through it all an Australian survey shows that some 72% of teenagers are highly satisfied with their relationship with their parents.
Given that the teen years would represent the low point this says we are collectively getting it pretty much right – without government.