Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Do You Have a Naughty Kid?

I'll give you a clue - the answer's "no".

I read an article today about Pastors' Kids, and the pressures unique to them.  One of the things that struck me was when the author wrote that many Pastors' Kids feel a pressure to be better-behaved than their peers, so they don't make their parents look bad - and that many pastors feel they are being judged for their children's behaviour.  I find this really sad.  I used to be an Assistant Pastor, and the thought that I could stifle my children or lay harsh laws on them, just to try and force them to become a "good" little performing robot to please the judgemental types looking at our family - well, it makes me feel ill, to be honest.

My boys have been labelled "naughty" in the past.  Especially Middle and Youngest.  I take real issue with that label.  Middle as a five year old in school was many things: anxious, emotionally unskilled, depressed, bored - and his behaviour was not always that of a "model student",  but he was not - is not - a "naughty child".  Yet he, and most of his classmates would have said that was what he was.  If Youngest were in school I can only too well imagine the labels that would be pinned to him by now.  But again, he is not "naughty".  He is active, confident, inquisitive, vocal.  In my opinion, "naughty" is a label given to children by adults who try - and fail - to control them.  There is nothing respectful about the term.  Children are not "naughty".  They may do things that you consider to be naughty, but that does not define who they are.  There is no such thing as a "naughty child".

A local friend is trying to arrange a trip to London to see a stage show inspired by a children's film.  It sounds lovely, but I'm told that children under six are not usually allowed, and children over six have to be VERY quiet. There is an autism-friendly performance where you can take noisier children apparently.  This just made me so sad!  It all feels more and more like we are stifling a whole generation.  It's not bad enough that they are funnelled into schools earlier and earlier, subject to a whole battery of tests and assessments, with demands placed on them that they "should" meet certain standards when said standards are arbitrary and unattainable by every single child anyway - now they have to be quiet even in their leisure time.  Don't get me wrong - I appreciate that theatre audiences would not appreciate having the performance drowned out by a child who won't stop screaming - but all I have heard lately seems to imply that a "good" child is a quiet child who sits still and obeys instructions, passes all the standardised tests put in front of them, and takes part in so many extracurricular activities that they have no time to JUST PLAY.  All of the above without whining, complaining, arguing, lying, crying, fighting, procrastinating, sulking - or doing any of the normal healthy range of behaviour demonstrated by a small person still learning to find their way.  THEN they will be a "good child". *Shudder*

The other day a young friend told Youngest that he was naughty.  "I am NOT," Youngest stated confidently.  I was so proud - so very glad that among all the mess and confusion that parenting can be, I have managed to communicate one truth into his soul: he is not a naughty boy.  He is a boy who does naughty things some times - just like every single person on the planet, but naughty as an identity?  No.

I am not interested in raising "good" clones.  I believe obedience is rooted in trust - that if I ask them to do (or not to do) something they trust me to be looking out for what is best for them and those around us.  It is not about "do as I say" control.  I am not an Assistant Pastor any more, but even if I were, I genuinely hope that I would reject the attempts to judge and stifle my children just because of some random job title.  I would hope that a Pastor (or their Assistant) would set a great example of love, love and more love - and nowhere in that love would I expect to see people making their children "perform" as anything other than free to be who they are.  As it is, I have been entrusted with three fascinating, unique and beautiful boys.  I refuse to try to mould them into anyone's idea of what a "good" child is - Yes, I want to provide a moral compass based on love, respect and truth - but mostly I want to help them to be free to find their own identities and to know that whoever they are, they are loved.  Nowadays it seems that is becoming a rare thing indeed.