Children should be allowed to form their own opinions of the world

Anti-Trump protest in Norwich.
Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Anti-Trump protest in Norwich. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Children are unavoidably an extension of us, their parents.

Part of that is nature – the genetic make-up they inherit from mum and dad, which shapes how they look and behave.

Fortunately for my sons, they inherited far more of their genes from their mum.

Another part is nurture – what we feed them, how we behave towards them, the environment they exist in and the experiences we expose them to.

Anyone who wants their child to be able to develop entirely free of influences might as well be trying to fling a balloon onto the Moon from the top of a Norfolk hill.


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It is our duty, however, to give them the breathing space to form their own political, social, environmental and religious views.

Children are not there to lap up and regurgitate all of our opinions.

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That's why I was uneasy when I saw footage of the protests held in Norwich and King's Lynn against the US President Donald Trump.

I certainly supported the aim of the protest, to oppose the racism and narrow-mindedness that Mr Trump has spread with such vigour in the early days of his spell in the White House.

But among the crowds were little children holding anti-Trump placards and being encouraged to join in the chanting.

Nobody will convince me that those youngsters had been studying contemporary American politics and had formed a lucid view about the infamous Mexican wall or the ban on the citizens of seven largely-Muslim nations from entering the US.

They may have been Mozart-esque child prodigies, but it's unlikely.

In truth they were being used – though not with any sinister intent – to bolster the crowd and add a cute and photogenic aspect.

Those children should only be taking part in political protests when they have arrived independently at a viewpoint that provokes their passion.

We can only hope that none of them arrive independently at a viewpoint that mirrors that of Mr Trump. One day they will look back at the photos and live footage and if their politics doesn't match the protest, they won't thank their parents.

On a slight tangent, I wonder how Norwich North MP Chloe Smith's baby son Alastair will feel when he finds out that he was in the Commons chamber during the historic vote to trigger Article 50 and rubber stamp Britain's exit from the EU.

Aged 16, trying to scratch out an existence in an post-apocalyptic, economically-ruined Brexit land, he might resent the fact that he was there when we slit our own throats.

I've tried to avoid politicising my children, and it seems to have worked: they are independent thinkers (except in the area of football, where I applied intense – and entirely righteous – propaganda to ensure that they support Norwich City).

But I'm not without guilt in the area of religion, having had them Christened as infants.

Ultimately, I don't think it harmed them, but I now have a very strong aversion to any baptism without the dipper having a clear understanding of what it means.

Such occasions are an expression of faith in a God that very young children simply cannot comprehend or believe in.

As parents, we ought to be secure enough to not need to tie our children to us religiously.

The same goes for politics, so let's just leave them out of it.

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