It seems to be more and more common to hear and see children throwing strops in public and it has certainly come up for discussion and debate quite a lot lately within the news and on social media; with opinions split on whether it’s the parents to blame or it’s just a child being a child – I am not talking about development stages or learning difficulties, I am talking the spoilt brat strops, you know the ones. It made me wonder if it had always been this way and whether we only know about more incidents due to social media spreading the word?
I spoke to my Nan who is now 101 and who has had 4 children. I thought to myself, well if she had 4 they couldn’t have behaved that badly because she would never have carried on having them (knowing my Nan!) She had her first during the war, whilst her husband was away fighting- so when he returned his child was 4… So how does a woman cope with her first child, all alone, with no husband to help and see all the ‘firsts’ whilst not even knowing if he will even return? I personally think my hubby would have returned to find me rocking in a corner and losing my mind! So I asked her how she dealt with tantrums or strops. Her answer was simple, he didn’t have them. She said none of her 4 were stroppy and all were easy children. I was shocked at this as it is something every parent says to one another these days but then she came out with what I had wondered all along… they had all they needed and times were simple. They ate what they were given because during and after a war that was all they had. They appreciated their food and what they could have. There was very little choice and parents stood by the rule ‘if you don’t finish your dinner, you don’t get pudding’. Times may have been stricter, but the methods worked.
There were no computer games, laptops, tablets or gadgets. Toys were simple and everybody had the same as there wasn’t the choice we all have today. Imagination had to be used and the kids were sent out to play (yes it was also a safer time and less traffic which helped). I always remember my Mum telling me about the black and white westerns that her and her brother loved and how they would spend hours re-enacting them in the back garden.
Even when I was little technology hadn’t really fully taken off and not many people had a computer at home. TV consisted of 4 channels and there certainly wasn’t 24 hour kids telly available to us! There was no rewinding episodes, recording several programmes or kids TV on all morning, blimey, for most of my younger days we didn’t even have a remote control!! On school days the TV did not go on whilst we were getting ready in the mornings. When we got home from school we had 2 channels for kids TV and those ended at 5:30pm in time for Neighbours and Home and Away. There were no programmes there to cause us to argue, strop over or want to stay up late to watch. I would enjoy reading until bed, not sat up playing video games. Bed time was easy because there were no distractions and nothing interesting for us to feel the need to stay up.
When we walked through town the shops were basic and essential. Toys were found in Woolworths and you simply added the ones you really wanted to your Christmas list – we didn’t demand a toy right there and then because you didn’t get a gift any day of the week! You learnt that pretty quickly. We spent the first few years of our lives with our Mum and the days would revolve around being at home, visiting friends or family. Pre-school (known then as play group) came the year before school and this was the only organised group I went to.
Today we start giving our children everything from the moment they are born. We buy items that are non-essential, gifts are bought freely and baby showers are now the norm. Baby classes are signed up for and babies are having swimming lessons from as young as a few weeks old. We go to baby massage, sensory, playgroups, sing and sign, music groups, dancing groups and more. The classes progress as the child grows and many are signed up for the likes of ballet, gymnastics, swimming and instrument lessons to help them start young and be the best. The more they want the more we all seem to give. The reason for all this? I believe is parent guilt. We seem to have the mentality that if we don’t buy that toy, if we say no and if we make them cry then we are the bad guys and so many of us give in.
You can’t pass a shop these days without something enticing a child towards the window. With toy’s made of every character they love, balloons, colouring books, books with characters etc. all available in supermarkets, clothes shops, book shops so you can clearly see why it is driving both child and parent mad!
Child see’s all these temptations, child asks for everything they see, parent says no, child has meltdown, parent gives in and child believes a strop results in them getting what they want. As it seems the whole world is now watching a parent’s every move we all feel judged. A child throwing themselves on the floor in the shop because they want an ice cream is no longer dealt with by a clip around the ear or a stern telling off, it is dealt with by making them being quiet as soon as possible, so what do we all do?… Buy the god damn ice cream and get them to shut up, let others around us stop their judgement and get some peace, never mind the mixed messages we are all sending out to the children – I use ‘we’ coz I bet most of us have been in this position, I know I have and it is simply because others around us are far too nosey and full of opinions.
I think it’s just a vicious cycle due to the way society and retail are developing. Society drives the message to be the ‘perfect’ parent into us and we slip into the routine of giving them everything from the moment they are born. We continue with all these classes as we believe they are needed for development and socialisation. We buy them what they want because it makes them happy. We give and give and give because we want them to have the best and be the best and we want to be the best parents BUT is the cost gradually breeding bratty, ungrateful and stroppy children? If we lived in a time where life was harder, where technology wasn’t so developed and stores were not filled with so many items would we see the strops and tantrums diminish? Would a simpler life be happier for all of us? Would a simpler life stop our parenting guilt which seems to plague all of us?
It is an interesting topic and it was very interesting speaking to somebody who lived through one of the toughest periods imaginable and listening to her experience of parenting. It was a joy, she had children who didn’t want it all but were happy with what they had. She always tells me how she wanted a big family and that was what she got. She loved all of it and there was little bad behaviour from her brood.
Maybe we all just need to be a little happier with what we already have?
*Nan passed away on 22nd August 2016- I wrote this blog post before she died but didn’t get around to publishing it. Don’t leave things too late. Thank you Nan for all your words of wisdom over the years xx