Christine, Wondering

Random Musings of a Human Becoming

Monday, April 14, 2008

No. That's not it.

There was an opinion piece in yesterday’s online Sunday Telegraph (seen on that was talking about the apparent decline of society and the need for children to be taught better morals. No surprises there, until I came to this item in the list of reasons for the current problem:

“. . .the stripping of parental rights preventing mums and dads from properly doing their jobs by setting suitable and appropriate parameters for their children.”

Um, no.

The only “right” that has been taken away from Australian parents is the right to mete out sadistic, severe beatings as punishment. And the fact that many physically abused children are still killed by their parents before the authorities intervene, shows that even this former “right” is still available to parents, for as long as they can get away with it.

Apart from the restriction of beating as a punishment, parental “rights” are still intact. The parents of today do not, on average, parent any differently to the way they did 25 years ago when I was a small child: the majority smack, almost all use some form of punishment, a tiny minority use none. And overall, this is not much different to how it was when my mother was a small child 50 years ago. A little less violent, perhaps, but generally very similar.

Falsely claiming that parental rights have been stripped is a cop-out, an abdication of responsibility for the situation. There is nothing stopping parents from parenting in much the same way as they have for the past century. Something is clearly going wrong, but that is not it.

And as families like mine can attest, you do not need those punishment-based trappings of parenting to raise happy, healthy, obedient, socially responsible children.

I don’t know what’s going wrong. I personally believe that it has to do with the fact that childrearing has not changed – it is still largely based on control, coercion and force – while schools, workplaces etc have moved into a culture of positive reinforcement and a collaborative approach to generating agreed behavioural boundaries. It is the contrasting levels of respect, and anger at authoritarian parents, that leads to disenchanted, rebellious children. But hey, what do I know? I only observe it, I don’t study it.

But whatever the problem is, the stripping of parental rights it is not. Parents who believe this are in denial about their own refusal to do the hard yards and parent their children properly. That I do know.


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