Monday, 27 August 2012
Being Good or Doing Good?
Earlier this year a book came out entitled French Children Don't Throw Food. Apparently us Brits have the wrong idea about teaching our children to behave - with the upshot being that we are raising a nation of rude and disobedient children. I have not been to France recently but the book assures me that if I were to go I would be met with lots of obedient, tidy and well behaved kids quietly munching their brie and baguettes and not demanding to watch le cbeebies every 5 minutes!
But why is "obedience" such a desirable trait in children? Obviously children need boundaries and they also have to follow the rules of society or they risk exclusion but do we really want a nation of compliant robots? Do we really want to knock all the spirit out of our children in order to make them comply with our perception of the 'right' way to be?
It always strikes me as odd how the characteristics that we would value in an adult are the ones that are so despised in children. An adult who thought outside the box, wasn't afraid to voice their own opinion, stuck up for themselves and challenged ideas that they thought were wrong would probably be considered a strong character, looked up to in the workplace and no doubt would achieve success in life. However if a child were to act like that then they would be considered disobedient, stroppy and would constantly be told off for answering back!
This idea that children should be good seems to start even when they are first born. New mother are often asked about their child "are they good?". This basically seems to mean that if they cry, if they need feeding more often than the alloted 3 hour slots in fact if they dare to express any emotional need they are somehow naughty or bad.
I actually feel that it is important that children should feel that they can answer back if they believe that something is not right. Just because we are adults does not mean that we have all the answers. Surely if each new generation didn't challenge the view of those that came before them we would not have votes for women, the feminist movement or gay marriage.
So as a mother I will be teaching my children to be polite and to be respectful of others and I will be teaching them which rules do need to be obeyed. But I certainly don't want them to be obedient for the sake of it. If they feel that certain rules are unfair or wrong I want them to challenge them just as if they feel someones behaviour is wrong they should be able to challenge that. I want them to feel that they can speak up for the underdog. I want them to know that actually doing good is much more important than just being good.