OPINION: Children need to learn that they can't always run wild
- Credit: Victoria Pertusa
One of the toughest parts of being a parent is teaching children consideration for other people.
Every child believes he or she is the centre of everyone’s world, they come first and foremost and are everyone’s priority. Why wouldn’t they? They are the apple of your eye and quite rightly.
But your eyes only, and grandparents, of course. Then reality strikes. The world is full of other people who want what they want when they want it.
A parent has to tread that fine line from toddler days to teach children that other people’s needs and wants are as important as theirs, often amid tantrums and strops.
It seems, though, that this basic growing up lesson has been skipped in some families with toddlers left to rampage from self-centred tiny people (tolerated to a certain extent) to self-centred young adults into intolerable adults.
On Bank Holiday Monday, a friend and I took a leisurely schlep around Norwich to follow the GoGoDiscover trail of decorated T-Rexes, to take us to places in the city we wouldn’t normally venture, and up our step count.
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Number One dinosaur on the map was Prideasaurus by Martin Wall, sponsored by Norwich Business Improvement District outside The Forum.
I’m sure it was lovely if we could have seen it.
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The low platform where it stands was covered with small children. Swarming over its tail, crawling around its feet, clinging to its neck, children were using the multi-coloured T-Rex as a climbing frame.
Beneath where their tiny trainers were stomping were signs. Please Do Not Climb on Here.
Around the children were five sets of parents encouraging them to play on the platform, pose for photos where they shouldn’t be and do whatever they wanted to to Martin Wall’s artwork.
All blatantly ignored the signs, oblivious that other people were trying to get a look in.
My friend, not one to hold her tongue, said loudly that there were clear signs telling them not to climb on them. Not one parent took a blind bit of notice, shooting her Italian glances for daring to suggest their children should not being doing exactly what they wanted, and carried on taking photos and chatting.
The thing is, even people who love children, don’t want them in their face when they’re not their own.
The trail is for children, of course, but the dinosaurs are there to look at and not to use as play centres. There’s a big difference, involving polite requests, respect and appreciating other people.
Those 10-12 children were having none of these life lessons by their parents, who should have shown them the signs, explained why they shouldn’t jump all over them and why they needed to stand and look instead so everyone could enjoy the trail.
It’s like in restaurants and pubs, where you’re paying for a table and good food to spend time with whoever you’re with, and children are left to use the floor as a playground.
The ‘grown ups’ are having a lovely catch-up, ignoring their offspring children causing mayhem and hazards elsewhere – on the stairs, weaving through waiting staff’s legs, noisily playing around other diners’ tables.
Again, friends have complained to the parent that they need to teach their children how to behave in company and how they had ruined other people’s special times.
I’ve rarely seen people as affronted and indignant as a parent who is called out on ignoring their children and letting them run wild.
My sympathy is with the pub landlady hauled over the coals for banning children because of parents’ lax attitudes.
Teaching children how to behave and why they should is exhausting and stressful. I had nightmares of my two wrestling in public but, if they didn’t stop, they were removed from the situation and soon learned that they ended up missing out.
It’s ironic that the trail delivered by Break, a charity that changes the lives of vulnerable children and young people across the region, was being spoiled by privileged cossetted children, whose parents should know better.
Feed pupils' imagination
An interesting Twitter discussion developed among teachers this week about never asking children returning to school to write about what they had done in the holidays.
It’s the quickest way to be divisive and highlight the stark home life differences in a class, leaving some children starting the year feeling demoralised, poor and inadequate.
Writing about what has already gone can be dull anyway.
The most creative writing is sparked by an unleashed imagination.
Far better for teachers to ask children to write about what they didn’t do in the holiday - fight dragons, rocketing into space, sailing to magical lands where chocolate grows on trees.
After 18 month of lock downs, children deserve to live outside their normal, feed their imagination and not be reminded of the cold hard facts of life.
Where's the healthy fast food?
Desperate to support independent eateries on our city day, we were struck by closed signs and no table space because of staff shortages.
It was even more difficult to find low-calorie food. If we had wanted pizza, fish and chips or burgers, we would have been fine, but searching for light and healthy was like searching for the Holy Grail.
And we wonder why obesity is such an issue.