Prime parental duties

Our writer says it is timely that we all re-consider the ‘rights of the child’ together with the diffi culties faced by parents and teachers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Picture: JONA KONATACI/FILE

To begin, I must make it clear that I do not condone child abuse in any form.

But, now that we can expect schools to open in some way soon, perhaps it is timely that we all re-consider the ‘rights of the child’ together with the difficulties faced by parents and teachers.

In 1765, Sir William Blackstone recognised three prime parental duties – maintenance, protection, and education.

Since that date the laws concerning the rights of the child have been debated and amended and expanded.

Yet, even 208 years later, in 1973, then Attorney Hillary Clinton declared “child rights” to be ‘a slogan in need of a definition’.

She also said, “When we fail children, we fail ourselves and we fail society”.

During this current coronavirus pandemic many people, world wide, have been arrested for wilfully breaking curfews and lockdowns, and I dare to suggest that much of the motivation behind this insensitive and unsocial behaviour is because of the methods of child rearing that have been in favour for a number of years.

Many teachers around the world, through no fault of their own, are demoralised by their inability to enforce discipline.

Parents around the world have found their disciplinary measures undermined. Children, who need established boundaries of security, now set their own standards, like those children in William Golding’s 1954 novel Lord of the Flies who, without any civilising adult supervision became lawless.

The prime parental duties and responsibilities are to raise children to be a credit to their family, their society and their country.

The prime responsibility and duty of the child is no different.

The parent does not have the right to harm a child, mentally or physically, but the child, likewise, does not have the right to thoughtlessly run riot in the classroom, at home, in the supermarket or other peoples’ homes.

Obviously not. Parenting, teaching, and childhood should be a pleasure.

We have all seen on television, families discussing being in lockdown with their children, while those children pull faces at the camera, tug at their parents’ hair and clothing, interrupt the conversation, and generally behave abominably: children as old as 10 or 12 – while the parents, frustration clear on their faces, try to ignore them. Some airlines now have childfree zone flights.

Hotels have adult only areas and swimming pools.

Some restaurants, of necessity, now have family rooms to separate children from other customers.

We have all been in the company of children who are utterly obnoxious.

This separation of child from adult is sad.

It should be unnecessary – and is detrimental to the social development of the child.

Without early training the difficult teen years become almost impossible for some parents to manage.

That said, all children are people and each has his or her own personality.

Along with a general acceptance of discipline some adaptation for the individual child is required.

But the fact remains that many of today’s children lack basic self-respect and self-control, and have no sense of consideration for others, and little or no respect for authority.

To expect to reason with a three-year-old is ridiculous – children have to learn to reason.

That the law prohibits parents from instilling discipline is absurd.

Parents and teachers are deprived of their responsibilities.

In today’s world if a parent or teacher reprimands a child, the child has the right to disagree and retort: “You can’t do/say that”!

Pre-Covid I attended a school function, which required pupils to sit and watch and listen.

It was obvious that they considered this requirement needless – running around, slapping and punching, shouting and giggling.

I watched as they pushed adults out of the way running past: and noticed that the parents and teachers present, obviously trying to subdue their charges, did so furtively and guiltily.

It was very sad to see. I know a teacher who, on attempting to part two children who were physically fighting beside a glass window, was reprimanded more severely than the children – because
he had physically touched them.

Teachers are sworn at and have chairs and other objects thrown at them.

In some countries, including the US and the UK, there is an “Emancipation of Minors” law (a minor aged 16 – 18) that permits a child to divorce its parents.

The best teachers, far from cramming little heads with facts for exams, instil a love of learning and encourage childhood’s natural curiosity.

But such teachers are becoming rare – because they do not have the support they need to control a class.

There is no way that a teacher can instil a love of learning in a classroom of children who, with impunity, deny them the respect they deserve – and refuse to sit down and listen.

Teachers need our support and cooperation – they are, after all, “in loco parents” with total responsibility, yet no real authority.

Now, with COVID-19 an ever-present threat, is a time when we need universal responsibility more than ever.

I suspect that many of those who defy lockdowns and curfews are those who have never been taught respect for others, self-respect, and responsibility towards themselves and their society – through no fault of their own.

The political correctness of the so-called ‘rights’ of the child has been taken too far and is undermining parents, teachers, the children themselves, and all those who come into frequent contact with children.

Education methods, the rights of teachers, parental and guardian rights, and the rights of the child, need to be revised and resolved.

Never mind international rules and regulations – this problem is urgent, and needs to be addressed
from the ground up, at a national level.

It is both unrealistic and negligent to expect children to grow up instinctively unselfish, self-controlled, considerate, respectful and self-disciplined.

Parents, guardians and teachers are currently in a loselose situation – they are both morally and legally uncertain and apprehensive about those three prime duties – maintenance, protection and education of a child – all of which should be a joy rather than an anxiety.

A solution must be found because we are, indeed, failing our children, failing ourselves, and failing society.

  •  Sue Cauty is a regular writer to this newspaper. The views and opinions expressed are her’s and not necessarily shared by this newspaper

More Stories