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The kids aren’t alright Adults shouldn't capitulate to teen ideology

Who are the adults? Jesus Hellin/Europa Press via Getty

Who are the adults? Jesus Hellin/Europa Press via Getty


June 13, 2022   6 mins

A few months after I had my twins, I heard a phrase that, I was promised, would change the lives of me and my children, and only for the better: “baby-led.” I was complaining to a friend about my difficulties with the babies’ napping schedules, and my fears that I would be breast-feeding 24 hours a day for the rest of my life.

“You should do the baby-led approach,” my friend said.

Baby-led weaning was coined in the early 2000s, and it advocates that, instead of parents spooning food into their baby’s mouth, they let the baby take the lead by feeding themselves, with parents putting a boiled piece of broccoli, say, or a small cup of hummus on the high-chair tray, which the baby can eat with their fingers. Baby-led weaning became so popular that the baby-led approach has expanded to all areas of early parenting, with baby-led sleeping, baby-led walking and baby-led potty training. Baby-led parenting, in other words.

I embraced the baby-led approach with enthusiasm that was really relief. Hell, I didn’t know how to do anything with these babies – I was just some idiot who put their nappies on the wrong way round every time. How marvellous I could delegate all complicated decisions to my infants! Now they wouldn’t scream at me anymore when I tried to make them do something they didn’t want, ie have a nap. The babies would be in charge.

This did not work out as well as I’d hoped. Baby-led weaning was fine. Baby-led sleeping, however, meant that none of us slept at all. It turned out that my babies were even more clueless than me about how they should be raised. And so, I returned to attempting to get them on a schedule, which they didn’t love, and it wasn’t always fun for me. But eventually, all three of us were sleeping at night.

The first generation of kids who grew up with the baby-led approach are now in their late teens and early 20s, and we are currently living in a baby-led world. Young people have always believed that they know better than the older generation, and now the older generation agrees with them. Middle-aged and experienced editors working in journalism and publishing live in fear of printing something that might displease the twenty-somethings who work in their company’s digital and publicity departments. Parents defer to their teenaged children about the correct languages to use and opinions to hold.

Some teachers even capitulate to the teenaged bullies in their class: last month, the Times reported that a girl in a London private school “was surrounded by up to 60 students who screamed and spat her” after she questioned gender ideology. “Teachers were initially supportive but withdrew their backing after the other sixth-formers accused the girl of transphobia, and the school ended up apologising for not maintaining a ‘safe-space’ in the sixth form,” wrote Nicola Woolcock, the paper’s education correspondent. This girl, ‘Kate’, was interviewed by Julie Bindel for UnHerd last week and she described overhearing her favourite teacher apologising for Kate’s “terrible, hateful behaviour”. Kate, who had only recently left hospital where she was being treated for anorexia, ended up leaving the school.

Babies are tyrants. If they don’t get their way, they cry, they scream as if the world is ending and no compromise is possible. Two babies screaming together, I can tell you from experience, is a nightmare. A pack of them is unimaginable, so I have some sympathy with the teachers at Kate’s school. Anyone who has ever raised a toddler might find the now regular Twitter meltdowns when someone’s employer hasn’t done exactly what they wanted strangely familiar. This is part of the reason the phrase “baby-led” is so alluring: no parent wants deal with a screaming tantrum, and no employer does either. So much easier to let the kids lead the way, even if it does lead to a Lord of the Flies-type scenario, with the adults fearfully letting the kids dictate the norms, as appears to have happened at Kate’s school.

Younger generations have always looked for ways to differentiate themselves from the stuffy old farts who came before – their parents, in other words – while also seeking an identity that confers upon them a set of ready-made beliefs and a supportive social group. This has become much harder with the dissolving of traditional barriers between adults and young people; parents chase social media likes as passionately as their children, the kids are listening to Harry Styles and Kate Bush, just like their mum and dad. In previous decades you could be a punk, or a skater, or a goth. For the current young generation, it’s being a social activist, and the changing parameters in discussions about race and, in particular, gender have become the defining generational divide. Telling your mum off for using the wrong words is great way to prove that she’s old and passĂ©, even if she does still go to Glastonbury. A lot of good has come from this: today’s teenagers are far more clued up than we were in the Nineties, when jokes about disabled, fat, BAME and gay people were pretty much par for the course in any stand-up show and school playground. But a lot of deeply weird shifts have emerged from this, too, and all of them are due to us now living in a baby-led world, where the grown-ups are too scared to say “No”.

Baby-led doctoring, for starters. In the appallingly sexist but undeniably revealing documentary, What is a Woman?, provocateur Matt Walsh interviews American paediatric professor Dr Michelle Forcier, who is dressed in a toga and talks in the soothing, beatific voice of a cult leader. She says that children are ready to be put on medical treatment to change gender “when they ask for it”. By “medical treatment”, she means Lupron, which is now used as a puberty blocker on gender non-conforming children, but has been used in the past, Walsh rightly says, to chemically castrate sex offenders. Forcier wrongly insists that puberty blockers “don’t have permanent effects”, and ends the interview.

Forcier is not an outlier. Trans activists now argue that confused four-year-olds should be seen as analogous to trans adults. Not very long ago, I received an email from my children’s nursery to say that a three-year-old who I’ll call Daisy was now a boy and should be called Robert. As it happened, my three-year-old had, that same morning, informed me he was an astronaut, but it hadn’t occurred to me to tell anyone (or NASA), and that’s because children’s identities are mutable. They are still discovering who they are, and that’s as true for three-year-olds as it is for 13-year-olds. By now, I’ve received several emails from parents I vaguely know, telling me their child — always under 15, invariably female — is trans and now goes by a new name. Those parents are, of course, only trying to support their child. But it is not supportive to publicly lock a child into an identity when, in a week, or month, or year, they will likely be a very different person.

In March, the Cass Report, an independent investigation into the quality of care for gender dysphoric young people in this country was published. It found that treatment by the NHS’s specialist Gender Identity Development Service had become mired in ideology, with clinicians too scared to raise concerns about rushing children into changing gender, or asking why girls are disproportionately now identifying as boys, lest they be accused of bigotry. If even doctors are too scared to press the brakes on unhappy children diagnosing themselves, what hope for parents?

Discussions about gender are often described as “toxic”, and that means they are characterised by tantrums and threats from activists — again, arguing tactics that will be familiar to parents of teenagers and toddlers alike, and yet that does not diminish their effect. Parents have been terrorised into buying their unhappy teenage daughters binders to suppress their breasts because ignorant and bad faith organisations have told them — without any evidence — that not doing so will push their children towards suicide. Similarly bosses of liberal organisations have allowed feminists to be muffled and denounced so as to avoid censure from young activist employees.

Adults in their 40s and 50s — my generation — remember what it was like when we were teens. Many of us cringed at the words our parents used: “the blacks”, “poofters” and worse. We tried to tell them not to use those words, but there wasn’t the embarrassment then as there is now about being a bit bigoted. An adult didn’t gain anything, really, from being what was called then politically correct and what is now called woke. Like I said, things are different now, and that’s clearly a good thing. But in our rush to not repeat the mistakes our parents made, too often we have forgotten that, as well as loving and accepting our kids, it is our job to guide and safeguard them.

I was talking to a friend recently about a mutual friend whose daughter has said she is a boy, and so her mum bought her a chest binder, and I said how sad I found that. My friend was shocked by my sadness.

“But what would you do if your daughter wanted one?” she asked.

“I’d ask her what she thought she could do as a boy that she can’t do as a girl, and I’d ask if she wanted to be a boy, or did she want to be different person,” I said.

“But it’s the daughter’s choice,” my friend said.

“It would be her choice if she wanted to self-harm. But I wouldn’t buy her the razor,” I replied.

I don’t know if I’m right, but, like Kate, I was a very unhappy adolescent girl who was treated for anorexia. So I know a little about unhappy and confused adolescent girls, and how much we attack our own bodies to express that unhappiness. I also know what it’s like to be a desperate parent who just wants their kid to stop crying, to be happy and healthy and safe, and to feel like I’m a good parent who listens. The baby-led approach is an expression of that because sometimes (often) we don’t know what’s best for our kids, especially when it comes to a new issue like gender. But guess what? Your kid doesn’t know either, and nor, it seems, does anyone else who is supposed to safeguard them. Our kids aren’t breaking down barriers, they’re rock climbing without any safety ropes, and we’re encouraging it. It’s time for my generation to grow up, and be the adults.


Hadley Freeman is a staff writer at The Sunday Times. Her latest book, Good Girls: A Story and Study of Anorexia, was published in 2023.

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Spencer Andrew
Spencer Andrew
2 years ago

This article should be laminated and stapled to every school noticeboard across the land

Jim Wiggins
Jim Wiggins
2 years ago
Reply to  Spencer Andrew

A popular sentiment, at least if the number of thumbs-up on your comment is any reflection of that …

Alice Bondi
Alice Bondi
2 years ago

Absolutely on the nail. The notion that parents should be their child’s friend, rather than parent, is another aspect of this. Children need parents, and the boundaries they set. They’ll fight the boundaries, of course – that’s the point, to test oneself against boundaries, rather than flail around having no idea what’s what. Without parents parenting, kids have no idea how to make decisions they will still be glad they made ten years later. Thanks for the sanity, Hadley.

Mary Bruels
Mary Bruels
2 years ago
Reply to  Alice Bondi

Yonks ago my mother told her early teens daughter (me) that I could have several friends but that I would only have one mother. She understood her role as guardian when I would use her values (rules?) as an excuse to my peers not to do something I inherently knew to be wrong.

tom j
tom j
2 years ago
Reply to  Mary Bruels

‘several’ friends sounds a bit harsh, you can have as many as you want Mary.

Ralph Hanke
Ralph Hanke
2 years ago
Reply to  tom j

It is easy to have many acquaintances. Friends, I find, are much harder to come by.

Jason Highley
Jason Highley
2 years ago

The Left has no idea how much damage their brand has taken by hitching themselves to the trans agenda. I don’t think I’m alone as a parent in thinking that if I ever found anybody pushing trans ideology on my daughter (especially after reading Irreversible Damage by Abigail Shrier) that I would have zero compunction about moving to an entirely different city, state, or country overnight to get her as far away from it as possible. If I’m willing to uproot my entire livelihood over this issue, maybe it’s better not to also tempt my sensibilities with relentless, gaslighting ad campaigns and corporate homages. Boycotting is THIS easy. I don’t NEED any of their s***.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
2 years ago
Reply to  Jason Highley

” ever found anybody pushing trans ideology on my daughter (especially after reading Irreversible Damage by Abigail Shrier) that I would have zero compunction about moving to an entirely different city, state, or country overnight to get her as far away from it as possible. ”
As a father of a young girl, absolutely, a hundred recommends if I could.

“The Left has no idea how much damage their brand has taken”
Agree, but the problem is twofold

Firstly, typical leftists exist in a physical and intellectual bubble. They rarely encounter dissidents to their weird theories, and those that turn up are usually treated as heretics in their domains (academia or civil service for instance)

Secondly, the basis for this trans ideology didn’t turn up overnight, but was laid down over decades by those same feminists who are now protesting it.
See for instance, hidden in an amazingly well written piece, an interesting phrase that is pretty much gospel for decades despite being utterly false and absurd:

“I’d ask her what she thought she could do as a boy that she can’t do as a girl”
Plenty, anybody with half a brain cell would point out (and vice versa of course), before being trampled by hordes of furious feminists.
The root of trans is no biological gender differences, which is the core philosophy of “gender equality” and taken to its logical conclusion means a) you can swap genders like changing clothes and b) you have men competing as women to prove, ironically, how false the original hypothesis is.

Caroline Watson
Caroline Watson
2 years ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

There is a difference between being physically able or unable to do something – men cannot give birth – and being prevented by law or social convention from doing something that is not related to physiology or the reproductive system.
It is entirely possible to accept that girls cannot impregnate other girls, or compete in sports against post-pubescent boys, without believing that they should not play sports against other girls, have professional careers, or live in relationships with other women.
Feminists recognise, accept and celebrate physical differences. They (we) fight against legal and social discrimination and will continue to do so.

leculdesac suburbia
leculdesac suburbia
2 years ago

Thank you. Wow. I’m stunned how some of the commenters here appear to accept that Blacks should have civil rights in 2022 but those pesky “feminists” fighting for women to have civil rights were misguided and the misogynistic transactivist movement is all our fault.
Seriously, what do they want? For women to lose the vote? For women to lose their jobs if they’re pregnant? For women to not have legal custody over their children, their income, their body? For women to remain in abusive marriages with no way of leaving unless they kill themselves? For women to be blamed for rape? And I use the term “woman,” but we’re really talking about girls too, aren’t we?

M. Jamieson
M. Jamieson
2 years ago

I think you are missing the point people are making. It would be pretty unusual to find people who think the political gains of the women’s movement were themselves problematic.
But many people do think that there were ideas pushed by feminism that eventually came to create a mindset in the general population that was a fertile ground for gender ideology. Mary Harrington has described some of this really well in some of her essays. The tendency even in pop culture products like movies, for example, that shows women as physically as strong as men, is in part responsible for the difficulty many people have in understanding that putting men in women’s sports compromises them significantly. Some of the insistence by certain feminists that all cultural expressions of masculinity and femininity shoul dbe unmoored entirely from sex is another area that’s had unexpected results.
It’s possible to look back and see where outcomes haven’t been as helpful as hoped, or reconcider certain ideas, without throwing out suffrage or insisting men be allowed to beat their wives.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
2 years ago
Reply to  M. Jamieson

Thank you for your well-thought out reply. Your response highlights a recent feature of Western debate whereby if you are not 100% behind a political or civil rights movement then you must be rabidly opposed to it. This loss of nuance is a worrisome trend as I believe it leads to totalitarian thinking.

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
2 years ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

“I’d ask her what she thought she could do as a boy that she can’t do as a girl”
Can’t pee standing up! Again it all comes down to toilet issues. On a more serious note, I can’t do anything which involves great physical strength nor can I focus singlemindedly, my woman brain goes off in all directions and I tell myself it’s multi tasking and a good thing.

Tim Knight
Tim Knight
2 years ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

Radio 5 live celebrated a woman winning a golf tournament in which men also were participating. It was a triumph for women’s golf etc. It is great. Obviously a fantastic achievement for the lady concerned. Their celebration however struck me as oddly incompatible with the belief that trans women can participate in female sports. If there is no inherent advantage in being a male sportsman what’s the big deal about a women beating a man?

kay quillan
kay quillan
2 years ago
Reply to  Tim Knight

Is this because golfers have a handicap to level the playing field? But at a professional level they’d all be scratch players so it would still need to be categorised by sex.

Kerie Receveur
Kerie Receveur
2 years ago
Reply to  Tim Knight

And yet men and women have been competing equally in Equestrian events for decades.

Golf is so behind the times … and a good walk spoiled.

Beth Owen
Beth Owen
2 years ago
Reply to  Kerie Receveur

The horse is the athletic strength, the person riding is the guide, so in Equestrian events it’s human mind vs mind rather than a physical contest between man vs woman so to speak. A fair contest I think. Wait, I’m not sure what gender the horses are?!

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
2 years ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

The point is, a woman should absolutely have the right to try anything she wants, without hostility or prejudice.

What statements like that imply though is that women are absolutely the equal of men.

The worst part is that by doing so, the special skills and talents women genuinely have are also treated with contempt. No society, no matter how nasty or patriarchal, treats motherhood, nurturing and teaching – the most vital parts of humanity – with contempt. Except for modern western society.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
2 years ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

I think the underlying reason for this is population control, both in terms of numbers (hence the widespread promotion of homosexuality and transgenderism) and scientific management (via the creation of a resentful and contemptuous slave morality). People who are divided into ideological, sexual, and ethnic groups are unlikely to form a united front against government and corporate overreach.

Last edited 2 years ago by Julian Farrows
Rosemary Throssell
Rosemary Throssell
2 years ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

As a little girl I played with boys and was quite proud that I could wee standing up, it was messy, but hey, I managed.
Never once did I think I was a boy, never wore dresses and hated anything frilly and still do. Back then we were called tomboys.

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
2 years ago

I’m very aware of a what a tomboy is, I don’t conform to gender stereotypes or feel the need to refer to myself as anything other than a woman, I am aware of my limitations though. After 45 years on this earth I accept that I have some.

Emily Trokey
Emily Trokey
2 years ago
Reply to  Jason Highley

Is boycotting it easy? The Biden admin isn’t making it easy. Your workplace is eager to dole out punishment for not toeing the line. Perhaps CPS might interfere, because they deem it “abusive” to not subject your daughter to hormones.
No, avoiding this cult is not simply a matter of changing states. The danger is everywhere, and we need to change how we fight this insanity.

Max Price
Max Price
2 years ago

“Those that can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities”
This is terrifying. We are training a generation of Red guards.

Lennon Ó Náraigh
Lennon Ó Náraigh
2 years ago

I think the author has hit the nail on the head. Trans and the 32 genders are the youth culture of today. There is no better way of sticking it to your old man than to say you are two-spirit genderqueer. It’s the same way that kids in the 80s got a nose piercing and said they were punk. Trouble is, today’s nonconformist youth want the government and HR departments to validate their identities, through taxpayer funding of various NGOs, legal protection for the same 32 genders, hate-speech laws, and so on. Back in the day, punks would have been embarrassed to have state recognition of their chosen identity. It would have been a total buzzkill. How times change.

Penny Rose
Penny Rose
2 years ago

Isn’t this a product of Jonathan Haidt’s ‘victimhood culture’ where people are encouraged to run to the authorities with any problem they have, as opposed to the preceding ‘dignity culture’ where people were expected to sort things out for themselves. To give a tiny example, I went alone, on the train, to all my university interviews. It never occurred to my parents or to me that they should be there. I cannot imagine that happening very much these days.

Kirsten Walstedt
Kirsten Walstedt
2 years ago
Reply to  Penny Rose

Yes and helicopter parents vs. free range parenting. Today’s parents for some reason are terrified of letting children play among themselves and learn to work out their own rules and solve their own in group conflicts. This is robbing these kids of valuable lessons in diplomacy and conflict resolution that nearly every other Western generation learned in childhood. These kids look to parents to monitor their play and swoop in to solve any conflicts. It’s no wonder when they grow up that they expect their school administration to adjudicate every conflict and they compete over which childish faction is better able to manipulate the authorities to do their bidding.

M. Jamieson
M. Jamieson
2 years ago

I think this factor may have a lot more effect than people realize. There is so much that goes into learning to negotiate these things that we don’t realize as adults who can already do it. Fairness, how to convince others, a certain amount of horse trading, judging what others will do or think, the consequences if you coming on too strong or failing to stand up for yourself., making the best of bad choices, how to be gracious. All of these require experience, and failure, to learn to navigate them effectively.

Last edited 2 years ago by M. Jamieson
Liam Brady
Liam Brady
2 years ago

Reminds me of when I was young and into raves and ecstasy. The media attacked us, despised us and never understood us. And I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way – great times.

Andrew Horsman
Andrew Horsman
2 years ago

It’s bullying, simple as that. And the way you deal with bullies is to stand up to them – if they hit you, hit them back. They’ll think twice before doing it again. Everyone who has survived playground bullying, or has been a playground bully themselves (and many fall into both categories), knows that bullies go after weak targets, kids who can’t or won’t fight back.

Bullies bully others because they themselves feel vulnerable and scared. The same dynamic played out with people bullying others into face masks and vaccine passports. It’s the same basic fear and vulnerability (of loss of domestic power) that drives the Chinese Communist Party into bullying people across the world into spouting its lies and ideology, and tacitly supporting the brutal repression of ethnic minorities within the territory it controls. The same dynamic that leads political leaders in liberal democracies to allow themselves to be bullied into taking the knee, talking palpable nonsense about gender identity, and into signing up to tyrannical global health treaties that will facilitate more bullying. It’s the same thing that drives the leaders of Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon and other monopolist bullies to bully out competitors: scared little unhappy children throwing their weight around.

One of the best ways to deal with bullies is to mock them, laugh at them, but otherwise ignore them, until the point they actually attack you and you have to fight back. And here’s where my analogies break down: the likes of Gates, Xi et al were all once victims of bullying, but their material power means that they now deserve nothing but our contempt and mockery. Ditto with establishment bullying organisations like Stonewall. Whereas a confused teenage girl who thinks she’s a boy needs the compassion and support of responsible adult role models who have the moral courage and backbone to tell her that she is loved, that she is valued, that she can and should express herself as she feels but that employing novel medical interventions that will mess with her body’s biology is not a step to be taken lightly – and that her fear and confusion don’t entitle her to bully others into adopting her childish worldview or perception of who she is.

Mike Patterson
Mike Patterson
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Horsman

Excellent insight into the common link behind many parts of the global ideological bullying campaign to replace liberalism, which has kept us warm and safe for several decades, with a postmodern dystopia of absurdist groupthink.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Horsman

“And the way you deal with bullies is to stand up to them – if they hit you, hit them back. ”
Agree it’s bullying.
The problem is though, you are thinking in male terms – stand up to them, hit back if they hit you …
What if they don’t try to hit you because they don’t rely on physical strength.

Think mean girls instead (and usually, quite literally it’s packs of mean girls).
What if they then spread anonymous rumours, or refuse to invite you to the cool parties, or use their influence with power authorities to get you into trouble?

Andrew Horsman
Andrew Horsman
2 years ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

Fair point. When I said “hit them back” I meant it more in the metaphorical rather than literal sense, eg if some ideologue decides to attack you with a false accusation of bigotry because of your expressed belief in objective reality, don’t be afraid to hold your own and argue back. As Hadley Freeman suggests in the article, it is incumbent on sensible, responsible adults now to side with bullied and put an end to the bullying, recognising that it’s complex, many bullies are also bullied, that no-one has a monopoly on wisdom, and we can each learn from each other. Staking out that position, and holding it, may sometimes require a bit of courage and fortitude in the face of a cynically manipulated mob, but It’s within our collective power to do this if we really want to.

Graham Strugnell
Graham Strugnell
2 years ago

Great article. I’m sure the writer must feel isolated on the staff of The Guardian. I was anorexic at 13, became effeminate in an all boy school as a sign of my misery, and was horribly bullied. I didn’t need gender reassignment. I needed protection from bullies and a gentler ethos at school. Within a year I dropped the effeminacy and learned to accept the male part of my identity. I didn’t need it surgically or chemically removed

Caroline Watson
Caroline Watson
2 years ago

But, even if you had continued to be ‘effeminate’ and decided that you were gay, you would still have been a boy and would have then become a man. You would have had no choice in the matter and neither does anyone else.
’Identity’ is simply another word for personality. No one has to conform to social conventions, but mammals cannot change sex. Children do not understand the arcane concept of ‘gender’ (does anyone?!) and will believe that they have literally turned into the opposite sex. When it finally dawns on them, probably in mid to late teens, that that will never be the case, the impact will be devastating – and that’s if it happens before they have been mutilated.

Simon T
Simon T
2 years ago

An excellent, but somewhat unnerving article for someone who is hoping to have children within the next few years. I was born in the early 90’s and even as early as starting secondary school in the early to mid 00’s, I could swear that people began to raise their children in this manner. Instead of getting the child to behave when out shopping, parents would give them whatever they wanted to keep them quiet. This was also around the time “participation trophies” and such seemed to become more common. Even at such a young age, it didn’t seem like a particularly good idea.

Even so, it’s not really fair to blame the Zoomers and youngest of the Millennials for this. It was an abject failure of the parenting of those born in the late 60’s and 70’s to instil this discipline that is badly required to face the world. Now we see Zoomers being so scared to fail and question things, they often won’t try or think of anything outside their comfort zone which is one reason (among many) why their mental health is all over the place. For us Millennials, we need to teach our children that failing isn’t a disaster, it’s how you respond to it and to ask difficult and uncomfortable while also being asked them. If not, we’ll all lose.

Lennon Ó Náraigh
Lennon Ó Náraigh
2 years ago
Reply to  Simon T

You will be pleased to know that young kids are seeing through wokeism, they already see it as something their parents are into, there is no better way to kill a social trend than for parents to be into it.

M. Jamieson
M. Jamieson
2 years ago
Reply to  Simon T

It’s interesting to think about what it was about theor own upbringing or lives that led that generation to struggle so much with setting boundaries for their own kids. I don’t really have any ideas myself.

Melissa Martin
Melissa Martin
2 years ago

Puberty blockers are reversible the same way induced comas are reversible when the comatose patient has to ask to be wakened. I can think of few things more evil than injecting a 10 year old with Lupron, waiting 6 years & then declaring the de facto 10 year old capable of adult consent.

C E Steves
C E Steves
2 years ago
Reply to  Melissa Martin

Puberty blockers have terrible side effects, from causing infertility to triggering metabolic disorders.
The worst part is that the brain does not develop fully so this person gets stuck emotionally. The decision making part of the brain will not reach full maturity which is essentially what makes you an adult.
Watch a documentary called “Dysphoric” on YouTube.
The endocrinologist explains it in great detail.

Grace Darling
Grace Darling
2 years ago

I moved my child to a different school when I complained her work was going uncorrected, and was told that the other children ‘peer-reviewed’ each other’s work. Unfortunately, most six year olds are not great at spelling or maths. I suggested a qualified adult overview would help and the teacher gaped at me and said earnestly “It’s excellent for team-building skills and that’s what employers want to see!”. At a new school, she made rapid progress on spellings, tables etc. Adult insight, supervision and expertise is always needed for good results, it needn’t stifle nature creativity or energy but…it is needed! And the same now applies to public life, workplaces, government…you name it, we need some adults in the room. Bravo Hadley.

Kirsten Walstedt
Kirsten Walstedt
2 years ago
Reply to  Grace Darling

What dolts! Just when you have heard every way of preventing children from learning, there’s always one more.

Fiona Hok
Fiona Hok
2 years ago

Yes, and the children it hurts most are those who do not have parents who are able to remove them from the school, or help them at home.

Tamara Perez
Tamara Perez
2 years ago

‘In the appallingly sexist but undeniably revealing documentary, What is a Woman?’
What’s appallingly sexist about it? Just stated as a fact. Because he’s an openly conservative writer? How did that sexism manifest?

Mary Bruels
Mary Bruels
2 years ago
Reply to  Tamara Perez

Matt Walsh does a good job letting his interviewees skewer themselves by admitting what we all know to be true. I don’t see what’ sexist about that.

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
2 years ago
Reply to  Mary Bruels

He has also outlined, on his YouTube channel, his interview methodology, making reference to his Dr Phil appearance and the importance of centring truth as the most fundamental goal of any investigation or discussion.

Last edited 2 years ago by michael stanwick
Marcia McGrail
Marcia McGrail
2 years ago

Centring which/whose truth? His?
The interviewee’s? Does Mr Walsh gets to define my truth? I believe today’s truth is relative, or not, whichever you prefer.

Tamara Perez
Tamara Perez
2 years ago
Reply to  Mary Bruels

Although she agrees with every word, she can’t square that with the knowledge that he’s a ‘conservative’, to be mocked and despised. So she has to throw in the nonsense accusation to keep in with the kool kidz.

Sue Ward
Sue Ward
2 years ago
Reply to  Tamara Perez

My comment exactly. I think the writer is embarrassed to have liked a film made by a right wing commentator so has made something up to enable her to put the boot in to it a little bit.

Michael Askew
Michael Askew
2 years ago
Reply to  Sue Ward

Exactly.

Kath Rogers
Kath Rogers
2 years ago
Reply to  Sue Ward

He’s an anti-abortionist

chris henry
chris henry
2 years ago
Reply to  Sue Ward

Yeah not that I agree with her assertion that it’s appallingly sexist, I can understand where she’s coming from. To have your article received, you sort of have to mildly placate the person who truly should be reading this. Have to let them feel as if she’s reasonable with them.

Alice Bondi
Alice Bondi
2 years ago
Reply to  Tamara Perez

You didn’t find the pink and blue at the start and his wife’s response to “what is a woman” at the end (“open this jar for me”) at all sexist?

R Miller
R Miller
2 years ago
Reply to  Alice Bondi

No, not at all.

M. Jamieson
M. Jamieson
2 years ago
Reply to  Tamara Perez

His opening sequence was a bit unreflective with all the boy wants a bb gun and the girl wants a tutu stuff. I wouldn’t have been caught dead in a tutu but I’d have sold my eye teeth for a bb gun.
I don’t disagree at all with his view that boys and girls are different, but he presented a strong stereotype that was far more rigid than what was normal among my male and female friends back in the 1970s.
Arguably it was a bit hyperbolic for the purpose of making his point. But I felt like that lost some opportunity for reflection, because since the 90s strong gender norming for kids seems much more common may and have some real connection to the rise of this form of rebellion when some girls get to the teen years.

Last edited 2 years ago by M. Jamieson
Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
2 years ago

Of course the young are immature and want to do stupid and risky things from time to time. It is the task of their elders to try to stop them or at least issue clear warnings regarding the risks. Unfortunately, the fact that in the past the young have been stopped doing things that were not in fact harmful or particularly risky or are no longer so harmful has undermined the self-confidence of adults. A lot or moral rules had practical purposes which have become less pressing with, for example, the availability of contraception.
Unfortunately, so much emphasis has been placed on “rights” that sensible advice to women that might help them avoid being sexually assaulted is often regarded as victim blaming and resented as an attack on their “rights”.
However much some child might have a right to make a foolish choice it remains the duty of parents and other adults to do their level best to advise, warn and prevent them from taking decisions with potential long-term adverse effects.
The threat of suicide is merely the extension to the threat to “scream and scream until I am sick” and should not be endorsed by professionals.

Peter Dunn
Peter Dunn
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

The main task of parents who care, is to identify all trans lobbyists in/out of schools,organisations,institutions&exile them by whatever means necessary..

Michael 0
Michael 0
2 years ago

I really put the blame of the current state not on the young but on the middle-aged and older. They raised these kids to be self important and not challenge them and the people heading the institutions such especially universities and media have not held the ground against the radical youth but fed their delusions. All this woke nonsense could have easily been nipped in the bud before it did any damage.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
2 years ago

I watched “What is a Woman?” and didn’t find anything remotely “sexist” about it, let alone “appallingly” so. This author admits the documentary is “undeniably revealing”, but feels the need to make a false claim about it in the same paragraph. Ideology-led, perhaps?

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
2 years ago

I haven’t watched it due since I don’t want to have to sign up fore the whole deal. However, I have seen highlights plus Walsh talking about the film on other platforms.
I too was intrigued by Freeman’s “appallingly sexist” claim and wondered whether she meant the views being espoused in the documentary by trans ideologues/activists etc?

S Ash
S Ash
2 years ago

The author of the documentary is on record as making some mind bogglingly sexist comments – which may be for show – it’s difficult to judge in the American context. So maybe Hadley meant to say that.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
2 years ago
Reply to  S Ash

Such as?

Jill Corel
Jill Corel
2 years ago

Yes, agree Allison. Very annoying.

Kath Rogers
Kath Rogers
2 years ago

He’s an anti-abortionist

Marcia McGrail
Marcia McGrail
2 years ago
Reply to  Kath Rogers

Pro-life for the silent unborn, you mean? Good for him.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago

Good essay confirming that we are dealing with grown ups who never grew up.

Derek Smith
Derek Smith
2 years ago

“ In the appallingly sexist but undeniably revealing documentary, What is a Woman?, alt-right provocateur Matt Walsh
”

Really???

Last edited 2 years ago by Derek Smith
Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
2 years ago
Reply to  Derek Smith

Giver her a break – she’s from The Guardian.
The distancing is obligatory. Even with all that “appallingly sexist” and “alt-right provocateur” coding she could still get ostracised just for admitting she watched the video.

Lennon Ó Náraigh
Lennon Ó Náraigh
2 years ago

Exactly, the author deserves to be cut some slack, she was very brave in how she broke with the Guardian. There is more happiness in heaven because of one Guardian-writer who repents than over 99 others who don’t need to.

cynthia callahan
cynthia callahan
2 years ago

As a public school High School teacher I watched this live and in person. During my Master’s degree program in 2010 we read yet another book on child development. All of us teaching K-12, me- 11-12 Physics & Chem, saw our students ALL not matching the descriptions of developments for their age. I am reading about elementary ages and seeing the faces of my 16-18 year olds reflected in the descriptions. All the teachers said the same thing.

Once we rec’d an email from a principal- read this! Research shows what students want from their teachers! 20 things were listed. 3 items in I understood OMG they want ‘PARENTS’.

I left off teaching HS because the kids run the show and the stress was killing me.

I went on to teach College and they are infants, too. And all the ‘adults’ are being Baby-Led.

Retired now but recalling all the teaching experiences still raises my blood pressure.

Last edited 2 years ago by cynthia callahan
N Forster
N Forster
2 years ago

Some of this parenting approach may come from the popular belief that children are born perfect, and that they already know everything. This idea is surprisingly prevalent in education circles despite seeming like a religious belief.
We have friends who have raised their daughter this way – they refused to teach her anything, saying she already knew everything. So they taught her nothing, including language. It has been an interesting experiment to observe. 
At one years old she was great, a cute, fat healthy baby.
By two she was very bright, keen, engaging, highly social, desperate to learn, and a truly magnetic child .
By the age of three it seemed her polarity had been reversed. She was repellent. Disengaged, disinterested, conceited and rather vile. 
It was amazing to see that little of this approach had had really impressive results (my wife is an early years teacher and was very impressed with her development at two.) But that a little more had produced one of the least likeable children either of us had ever dealt with. More interesting still was the total denial of her parents who had committed so strongly to this notion that their daughter already knew all there was to know, that they could not or would not acknowledge the experiment seemed to have run its course. 

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
2 years ago
Reply to  N Forster

This reminds me of one school I taught at where the mantra oft quoted was: “there’s no such thing as bad students, just bad teachers”. The idea behind this was that when students misbehaved or failed exams, it was seen as the teacher not doing enough to keep the students in line and on track. It effectively removed all pressure off students and placed it on the teachers. This is the main cause of grade inflation, bad behavior, and now the reason why many teachers are leaving education.
This isn’t just limited to secondary education; it’s playing out in higher education too. It’s not the children who are to blame, it’s the institutions themselves.
There are two books that explain what’s happening very well:
The Coddling of the American Mind by Jonathan Haidt and The Servile Mind by Kenneth Minogue. They go a long way explaining the slave morality and impulse-driven control that is being imposed on the young. In the US there is massive push-back coming from parents who are waking up to the nonsense that is being taught to their children, but I don’t think the UK is quite there yet.

S Ash
S Ash
2 years ago
Reply to  N Forster

I think Voltaire tried a similar approach 300 years ago with similarly distressing results

Marcia McGrail
Marcia McGrail
2 years ago
Reply to  S Ash

Human history has a rhythmic cycle that we ignore at our peril, don’t you think?

Paula Adams
Paula Adams
2 years ago
Reply to  N Forster

I fell for this type of parenting after going to a liberal college and studying psychology. They failed to mention that children want and need someone to enforce limits and they will push until they find the limit, especially three year olds who are much worse than two year olds. Kids don’t feel safe when no one is taking care of them, protecting them, and teaching them the rules of life. We see the results of that today. Thankfully I did not buy in completely to letting the kids rule the roost. Once I had a few kids, I knew a lot more about kids and had to take charge or lose control of the house. (Mother of six here.)

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
2 years ago
Reply to  Paula Adams

I’d also add that some kids respond better than others, know your children and apply appropriate boundaries. My daughter super easy, and very responsible from an early age, her brother complete opposite and needed different routine and boundaries. There are freedoms that need to be earned with displays of responsibility. In the end they both got where they need to be, just via different routes.

Michael Askew
Michael Askew
2 years ago

“It would be her choice if she wanted to self-harm, but I wouldn’t buy her the razor.” Perfectly expressed. By convincing a confused child that their transient and incomplete understanding of themselves represents a permanent state, parents are unwittingly doing great harm. The risk assessment part of the pre-frontal cortex does not complete development until the mid twenties, so what makes anyone think that a fourteen year old is ready to make irreversible changes to her body?

Kathleen Lowrey
Kathleen Lowrey
2 years ago

I loved the spirit of this article but I am not at all sure we are dealing with a situation in which youth is leading age. In fact I think we are in a society where age is sitting in hideously elephantine fashion on youth. Has there ever been, in human history, a society with the demographics of the contemporary West? Tons of old people, fewer babies born every year?
Boomer youth culture was created by a huge demographic boom of youth.
Today’s youth culture seems to me to be foisted on young people by old activists, trans activism being the most distressing example. Trans activism is mostly funded by autogynephilic men — men who transition in middle age to satisfy a fetish. They spin a narrative about themselves (“I’ve *always* been a woman”) that requires young trans-identified people be conjured up as supporting evidence.
Generally speaking, trans-identified young people are very unhappy. They are correct when they identify the source of their unhappiness as social mores and values being imposed upon them. They are incorrect when they see “TERFs” as the source of those unhappy making values. TERFs have no funding, TERFs have not created the culture in which they are living and suffering.

Lang Cleg
Lang Cleg
2 years ago

Good article. Kids need boundaries – to respect those of others as well as to uphold their own – to be positive adults in a relational world. Baby-led went far too far. Also, baby-led has been appropriated by extreme genderism to hide the adultification it is actually doing, lifting children out of their right to be safeguarded from predatory ideologies.

Ri No
Ri No
2 years ago

I’m glad that someone, at last, has written this article. I fear that many parents don’t understand what the word ‘responsibility’ really means and to have consistent boundaries. Our society, particularly through our media, infantilises everyone

Richard Powell
Richard Powell
2 years ago

Hadley writes so well, and makes perfect sense on this contentious issue. One small point: the Cass Review published only its emerging finding in March this year; the full report is still to come. The Review is indeed independent, but was commissioned by NHS England and so is officially approved and authoritative.

Sue Ward
Sue Ward
2 years ago

In what way was the documentary film What is a Woman “appallingly sexist”? Having watched it and enjoyed it I am genuinely bewildered by this assessment. I suspect Hadley is so ashamed to have seen and agreed with the film she feels obliged to disparage it in this way on the grounds that a film made by someone on the right just has to be sexist surely?

Jill Corel
Jill Corel
2 years ago
Reply to  Sue Ward

Just cannot help themselves. You are quite right Sue.

Peter Dunn
Peter Dunn
2 years ago

I hope Hadley Freeman has made the leap from the Guardian..she is too good a writer to stay with
the ‘professional whingers’.
Excellent article!

Sandi Dunn
Sandi Dunn
2 years ago

Does anyone remember Enid Blyton’s Famous Five character George? She was a girl, Georgina, who dressed as a boy. She influenced me so much that I began wearing my brother’s clothing. It was fun for a while and it relieved my boredom – until I started sprouting breasts! And so, I gave up the pretence, embraced being a gutsy girl and moved onto other interests.

Mark McKee
Mark McKee
2 years ago

It’s our job as parents to protect our kids from ideology that is designed to destroy them and the family unit. I also tend to find it extraordinary how little kids get their own smartphones with no parental filters and some as young as 9 having access to SnapChat — that is opening the doors to the content that seeks to normalise neopragmatic, destructive identity politics explicitly designed to destabalise society. The fact that these applied postmodern activists think that 2+2=4 is racist and oppressive shows the kinds of personality disorders that have been let loose. Heaven and God help us all!

Julian Pellatt
Julian Pellatt
2 years ago
Reply to  Mark McKee

Bullseye, sir!

Josef Oskar
Josef Oskar
2 years ago

The attitude of the adults to capitulate in front of the younger generation’s ideas is not new and has presented itself again and again. Based on the concept that young is beautiful and old is, well, old, ie obsolete.
In such cases a look at the good, old Bible is very useful. In the original language of the Bible, hebrew, youngsters are defined by the term NOAR which comes form the verb LENAER ( to agitate ). The idea is that the young is restless and endlessly “agitated”. Hence the need of the older generation to come in and let the things cool down, then matters can be considered calmly.

F Hugh Eveleigh
F Hugh Eveleigh
2 years ago

This article hits the spot: children are not at all ‘all right’ and allowing them to control their own lives and, tangentially, the lives of many of us, is societal madness reducing many of us to whimpering idiots. Oldies like me find it bizarre and a reflection of the West’s decline (Where’s that copy of Gibbon?) or it’s so madly and obviously wrong as to make us unable to even remotely emote with those concerned. My mother would have said ‘for Heaven’s sake pull yourself together and grow up’ but I suppose these days that would not do at all.
We all know that the political world continually changes and we are alive only at some stage in that larger process. It is bad luck for those of us who concur with the tenor of this article that it happens to be now. We do not have to give in to current wokedom though and we absolutely must not. Speak out, laugh at its insanity, mock its adherents … but don’t succumb.

Jean Nutley
Jean Nutley
2 years ago

A very timely and welcome article. Parents are getting out-manoeuvered by their teens at every hands turn. Just tell the little darlings that you love them enough to say “No”. Sure they’ll rant and rave against it, but stay firm, and once you have said “No” don’t wobble.

Shelley Benitez
Shelley Benitez
2 years ago

I don’t know if I’m right, but, like Kate, I was a very unhappy adolescent girl who was treated for anorexia. So I know a little about unhappy and confused adolescent girls, and how much we attack our own bodies to express that unhappiness. I also know what it’s like to be a desperate parent who just wants their kid to stop crying, to be happy and healthy and safe, and to feel like I’m a good parent who listens. The baby-led approach is an expression of that because sometimes (often) we don’t know what’s best for our kids, especially when it comes to a new issue like gender. But guess what? Your kid doesn’t know either, and nor, it seems, does anyone else who is supposed to safeguard them. Our kids aren’t breaking down barriers, they’re rock climbing without any safety ropes, and we’re encouraging it. It’s time for my generation to grow up, and be the adults.

Alan Elgey
Alan Elgey
2 years ago

I seem to have read that somewhere before.

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
2 years ago

To often problems stem from a lack of listening, if the parents aren’t listening to the child, why should the child listen to the adults, exasperate the problem with social media and voila!

Douglas H
Douglas H
2 years ago

Great article, thanks.

Lord Rochester
Lord Rochester
2 years ago

“always under 15, invariably female”

You missed ‘always reads Manga, not interested in make up or sport, probably a bit mousy, would have absolutely been an Emo ten years ago.’

Trust me.

It’s almost as if it isn’t about trans issues at all and is more connected with a crisis in female subjectivity and body image at the point of puberty…

Because, the thing is, I have not met a trans-boy yet who has the faintest idea about what being an actual boy is actually like, if pushed they wouldn’t have a clue about the teenage male subjectivity that they seek to appropriate like a faded Nirvana t-shirt and a Jack Skellington backpack: the reality is that they usually avoid actual boys and have a coterie of natal female friends, often deciding they are [insert identity here] as a group to maximise attention.

Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 years ago

Just to add to my earlier comment, the report of the pupil being surrounded by up to sixty of her classmates, and my comparing it to being worse than anything in Dr Zhivago, the movie, well, let me rephrase that: it wouldn’t have looked out of place in Dr Zhivago. There are some very grim scenes in Dr Zhivago.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
2 years ago

What else should we expect from people who practically shut down our whole civilization for a year over a virus with a fatality rate of less than 1%. That’s not a rational mature reaction, it’s more like a child hiding under the bed to hide from monsters in the closet. There aren’t enough real adults left to keep all these kids in check.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
2 years ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

Your post has nothing to do with the article, but now that you’ve got it off your chest I hope that you’re feeling better.

Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 years ago

The country’s gone from the lax Space 1999 era, glorious TV theme tunes and the old farts that came up with them to Safe-space 2022, complementary tantrums and threats, and kids listening to Harry Bush and Kate Styles, whoever they are.

The youngster who was surrounded by three score of individual fellow pupils, recently, and spat at, sounds horrific: worse than any scene in Dr Zhivago, I would say (except for the officer of the Tzar’s army who is pulled violently from his horse by his men and disappears under a whole bunch of them). Where was the young lady’s safe space?

What the UK lacks is a simmering volcano that keeps everybody wise. In some countries of the world, there exist active volcanoes, typhoons, earthquakes. Mother Nature makes the people living there grounded. What would they think of the topics covered in this piece? What would they think of Britain and America today? Would they say that the very young in the West are being pushed around too much, pushed from pillar to post, and don’t live the carefree lives of, say, their grandparents? Childhood is very fleeting.
Somehow when a tornado blows through an area of the American mid-West, it blows away the nonsense of the infatuation with the new ideologies. For a short time.

Andrew Horsman
Andrew Horsman
2 years ago

(From Mrs Horsman)

“It would be her choice if she wanted to self-harm. But I wouldn’t buy her the razor,”

This is the first time I’ve understood this issue through the lens of self harm. I remember puberty vividly. I was traumatised by it. My breasts suddenly sprouted giving me stretch marks, I gained weight, I got spots on my face, dark hair grew under my arms, I began to stink, and I had cramps in my abdomen every month and bled like a wounded animal. It was horrific. I wanted to die. Many teenage girls go through the experience of wanting to STOP being a woman, they don’t want to be a man, they just don’t want to grow up. Much as they might clamour for more independence, the reality is – even that is just testing their boundaries. Leaving childhood is traumatic, but we all have to do it. Teenagers need help and support as they transition into ADULTHOOD, not enabling to block their own physical development. I’m so pleased that there is such a strong pushback against the pernicious trans agenda. It will fail because it is inhumane and self-destructive (none of these kids who’ve been given hormone treatment will be able to procreate) but so many children’s lives will be destroyed before it’s over.

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Horsman

Add to it the early exposure of porn and the relentless tales of rape culture on campus and its clear to see why so many young girls are learning towards being trans men.

Paul Turner
Paul Turner
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Horsman

You raise an excellent thought. Perhaps we need to supplant transitioning to another gender with transitioning into adulthood.

Kirsten Walstedt
Kirsten Walstedt
2 years ago

It started with the 1960s counter-culture telling everyone to “question authority,” a trend that has had tremendous sway over the generations since. But instead of evaluating authority where they find it and asking whether it is legitimate, the generations since have interpreted this maxim to mean, “Negate and disrespect authority wherever you see it as authority itself is an invalid concept.” The values system where someone who has spent an entire career or lifetime learning and perfecting their skills in a field of human endeavor until they became a virtuoso has been thrown out the window. A painter, a musician, a dancer, a scientist, a teacher, a writer, an architect who has honed his or her skill for decades is now considered to be on par with someone who just took up that pursuit. There are articles all the time about dismantling the “elitist” system where we only value those at the top. “All art is beautiful.” “Anyone can be an artist/writer/sculptor/creator.” “Art by prisoners/kindergartners/unemployed bus drivers, while naive, is just as beautiful to some people as the works of famous artists!” they announce gleefully.
Why should someone who has been training as a pianist since the age of three get to be the only performing at Carnegie Hall? Parents teach their children to “question authority” before they can ride a bicycle. Why should a professor who has studied a subject for 30 years be considered an “expert” on a subject when anyone’s opinion is just as valid? Of course sports are a huge exception to this. We choose our top athletes by their skills and experience in their chosen sport and we only allow the best (elitism!) to perform on the best college and professional teams. We do not choose our sports teams by lottery so that “everyone gets an equal chance to participate.”
And an unfortunate analog to this attitude is the one where parents feel no right to have any “authority” over their children. They are not “raising” the children, but rather keeping them fed and safe while their inner self emerges with no influence from them. Who is the parent to tell the child when to go to bed or whether to finish their supper? No one! The child will naturally go to sleep when it feels tired and eat when it’s hungry. Why should they have to finish their homework when it doesn’t interest them as much as Fortnite? If the teacher wants the child’s attention, s/he should strive harder to make math and English as fun as a game.Forcing a child to use the toilet before it’s ready will give it neuroses for life! So what if it’s still in diapers in Kindergarten? So what if a 7-year-old is still nursing from his mother’s breast? He’ll stop when he’s ready. And other children better not dare make fun of him for it or they’ll have to have a special “circle time” about how differences need to be celebrated, not criticized.
People take their five year old to go house shopping and ask their opinion about which house to buy because after all, “She’s just as much a member of the household as anyone and why shouldn’t she have a say in where she’s going to live?”
There was a great book about this called “The Omnipotent Child” by a psychiatrist with many years’ experience with troubled children. He talks about the huge psychological burden that children feel when we include them in decisions that they are far too young to be able to handle. It happens when a divorced parent uses their young child as a sounding board for his/her feelings about the divorce or new people they are dating. It happens when parents ask the child’s input on grownup decisions that the child is not capable of evaluating. And it causes great anxiety in children to be made responsible for things that are beyond them. Having decisions made for them can be an extraordinary relief to an overwhelmed child, even when they argue about it.

Last edited 2 years ago by Kirsten Walstedt
ruth novaczek
ruth novaczek
2 years ago

really great points here, and yeah self-harm is a choice but you wouldn’t give your daughter a razor

Anton van der Merwe
Anton van der Merwe
2 years ago

This is one of the best articles I have read on any topic. Every adult should be required to read it.

h w
h w
2 years ago

Maybe if we let babies suckle and sleep freely we would not have as many self-harming teens. The author makes the error of equating babies’ pure instinct – which is from Mother Nature – with teens’ de-natured tribal fixations. Few parents living under anti-family, GDP/greed-driven policy in nuclear family societies are able or willing to fully embrace the adult/parental role of satisfying children’s attachment needs. That would be inconvenient and unappreciated for parents and, more importantly, lower corporate profits. Few children have adults who meet their attachment needs, thus they attach to their peers and peer culture’s social media ‘friends’ and gurus instead of attaching to their caring adults. The parents of today are yesterday’s peer-attached children. Our attachments dictate our preferences and beliefs. Parents unwittingly facilitate attachments that are hostile to them by putting children in group care for too many hours long before they are developmentally ready and by providing digital babysitters and phones. Thus there are a lot of profoundly attachment-needy children of all ages all around us.

Paige M
Paige M
2 years ago
Reply to  h w

Your children can be securely attached without unmitigated round the clock nursing and sleep whenever it suits. There is a reason the first three months is called the 4th trimester. Your job with your newborn is to patiently and gently stabilize their metabolism and adjust their eating and waking to occur somewhat predictably. It takes consistency and saint level patience but it occurs. Growth spurts throw a spanner from time to time but it all goes back to the median. The number of families I see with demanding kids and zero household routines suggests the opposite about attachment. These children do not find their environments predictable and expect the world to revolve around their every whims. These kids are not secure, they are entitled brats with no boundaries or resilience.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
2 years ago

It’s time we all just started saying no again. Because there are far more sensible people who find the time we are in insane but we’ve all gotten too afraid to say, No. if we all just pony up and put our foot down, the tides will turn. No more jury by social media. No more life ruining ostracism for viewpoints. Due process matters and allowing activists to litigate our society is a grave error. No, you can’t be a boy if you are a girl. You will be a trans individual and that comes with a lifetime of challenges and pain. Testosterone won’t fix it. Think long and hard about the road ahead. What we are doing to a generation is criminal.

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
2 years ago

You have to wonder if the parents who are embracing baby led are the children who were raised by helicopter parents. We seem to swing from one extreme ideology to the opposite extreme ideology. I’m all for children learning independence and responsibility but if they aren’t being parented at all then they wont learn responsibility because they can blame a distinct lack of parenting.

M. Jamieson
M. Jamieson
2 years ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

I don’t think so. Weirdly, the baby led parents are often also helicopter parents.

David Clayton
David Clayton
2 years ago

As it happened, my three-year-old had, that same morning, informed me he was an astronaut, but it hadn’t occurred to me to tell anyone (or NASA)”
HA!
Thank you, good stuff

David Lewis
David Lewis
2 years ago

At my all-boys minor public school in the 70s Sex Education was cringingly ‘delivered’ as part of the biology syllabus. As a pre-pubescent teenage boy I remember being bewildered by what I had learned. I could not, for the life of me, understand the need for contraception. I imagined that after 5 years of marriage Norma would turn to Norman and say: “My dear, I think it’s time we had a baby. Tonight we’ll do that disgusting business we learned about in biology, but it’ll be worth it when we have our beautiful baby. Why on earth was there a need to allow people to do that disgusting business without pregnancy resulting?
About a year later puberty hit me like a cricket bat and I suddenly understood why contraception was such a good thing.
The thought of kids making irreversible decisions about their bodies before experiencing sexual drives and desires is, frankly, terrifying.

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
2 years ago
Reply to  David Lewis

That’s exactly why they act early, how else do you coerce people into becoming, effectively, eunuchs! Language matters too, if we point out to those claiming to be trans that actually they desire to be eunuchs they just might feel differently about it. The majority of those who transition later do the minimum of surgeries and hormones and more closely resemble good old fashioned trannies because very few in their right mind wants to trade their sexy bits for a non functioning facsimile.

Martin Dukes
Martin Dukes
2 years ago

It seems that every new generation of earnest clear-eyed young people must tear down some new injustice and rebel against the tenets of the previous generation. We have had women’s liberation, gay liberation and now the triumph of self-perception and liberation from factual reality. I worry that the next generation will have no new targets to attack. Where do we go from here?

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
2 years ago
Reply to  Martin Dukes

I fear it will be ‘children’s’ rights next.

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
2 years ago

My wife and I adopted a few parental strategies early on that have served as well as our 3 girls have entered their teen years:
If you wouldn’t want your 15 year old wearing it, don’t dress your 7 year old in it.
The behavior you tolerate at 4 will still be going on at 14. So choose what to tolerate well.
Raising a teenager is like warfare. Choose your battles carefully, but make sure you win the ones you choose.
Children don’t need a large number of similar age peers; they need a small number of adult mentors.

I’m sure others here can add to this list, and as my kids are 13, 15, and 15, I would love to hear others suggestions. We still have a ways to go, so I need all the help I can get. 🙂

I do want to push back on one thing in this article: ‘younger generations have always looked for ways to differentiate themselves from the stuffy old farts who came before”. This is actually a very WEIRD (Western Educated Industrialized Rich, & Democratic) perspective. Most of the world today and most humans that have ever lived would disagree that teenage rebellion is normal and healthy. Most would find the broad toleration of it antithetical to a functional society.
Jus thinking out loud… I’m pretty sure our encouragement of teenage independence from elders is partially responsible for the gradual disintegration of social bonds in the West in the latter 20th century. But I wonder if it isn’t also partially responsible for the economic dynamism that characterized the previous century. Maybe these are 2 sides of the same coin: greater generational independence breeds entrepreneurial drive and opportunity but also cultural upheaval and dysfunction, potentially undermining its own society. Like most things in life, there is no utopia — no perfect level of parental involvement in this case — but rather just competing tradeoffs.

M. Jamieson
M. Jamieson
2 years ago

I’ve often thought the same thing about the western prevalence of teen rebellion leading to unprecedented, ongoing social upheaval. I also suspect the fact that teens don’t work in a meaningful way plays into that. When you don’t need to set out to seek your fortune, or use your strength to protect the group or feed them, perhaps you need to make your mark in a different way.
Your thoughts about the connection to progress are interesting. It reminds me a bit of a remark that I heard in a lecture about music, how there was increasing innovation once musical compositions began to be attributed to named individuals. I wonder if the link is individualism and the desire for individual attainment and validation drive all of these things.

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
2 years ago
Reply to  M. Jamieson

The musical thing is very interesting. I would never have thought of it, but it makes total sense.

I re-read my comment 2 days later now (it was late and I was just speculating) and I do think I might be onto something there. I may explore that a little bit more and see if I can find someone who wants to run it.

Nikki Hayes
Nikki Hayes
2 years ago

The thought of all the teenage girls that are being brainwashed into thinking they are really boys in the wrong body fills me with horror! I was a tomboy, got on better with boys than girls, had few so-called feminine interests – would I too have been under pressure to declare myself transgender? The vast majority of these girls are, like I was (and to a degree still am), tomboys, lesbians or suffering from conditions such as autism. This rampant rush to prescribing life altering drugs, and even surgery, is both a form of child abuse and extremely misogynistic. Fancy girls instead of boys? Oh no you are not a lesbian, you are a boy trapped in a girl’s body – the explosion in the number of teenage girls identifying as trans is seriously concerning! The 21st century parent needs to stop trying to be their child’s friend and start acting like a parent – ie doing what is best for your child, which is not always doing what they think they want that particular month of the year. I sincerely hope that, as with all teenage fads, this one dies a death sooner rather than later.

Abi Caffrey
Abi Caffrey
2 years ago

Spot on. Just brilliant . I wore my gender non conformity with pride as a WOMEN. I shaved my head, wore big boots and femmed myself with red lippy. God loves a punk. I did what I wanted, when I wanted and truly knew I was breaking fresh ground. I took my eye of the prize to have babies in my late thirties and nearly twenty years later, I’ve stuck my head above the parapet to realise things have slid backwards.
I understand the pain, I was a teen riddled with bulimia and body dysmorphia, but being different gave me the escape I needed. Being a rebellious WOMAN gave me the escape that I needed.
As a side, Ive done the spooning and the baby led weaning, baby led defo has ease and more photo ops.

Toby Frith
Toby Frith
2 years ago

Julia Boyd’s “Travellers in the Third Reich” articulated very well the observation that it was the Hitler Youth that made the Nazi regime tick – that swelling ideological hatred that indoctrinated young people. Just as it was the Red Guard of the Communists in China that oiled the Cultural Revolution.

Last edited 2 years ago by Toby Frith
Ludwig van Earwig
Ludwig van Earwig
2 years ago

A timely article. We’re getting an overdose of “teen ideology” in New Zealand under Jacinda Muddleduck (with apologies to Beatrix Potter’s estate). Here’s NZ’s Children’s Commissioner stressing the importance of “hearing children’s voices on policies affecting them”. The article’s a bit old now, but if anything it’s got worse since then.

Jeff Campbell
Jeff Campbell
2 years ago

“A lot of good has come from this: today’s teenagers are far more clued up than we were in the Nineties, when jokes about disabled, fat, BAME and gay people were pretty much par for the course in any stand-up show and school playground.”
Are you sure these things aren’t somehow connected? As the great Thomas Sowell says, “there are no solutions, only trade offs.” When you start to police peoples’ speech, and no matter how “good” your motives are, you start a chain of actions and reactions and it is difficult (or is it?) to see where it all ends. Perhaps telling fat jokes had some positive effects? Or am I not allowed to make that case any longer? We seem always so eager to try any “solution” – and considerations of costs and consequences (intended or otherwise) are such a buzz kill…
Overall, great article and I believe spot on with respect to the analysis of the upside-down nature of current generational relations.

Andrea ...
Andrea ...
2 years ago

Hadley,
the comments here seem to be rather positive, but even if I have to be in a minority I have to stress that you either you misunderstood the concept of “baby led” as applied to infants or you simply misapplied it make a point in your article.
“Baby led” means exactly that, the baby when growing will go through certain milestones according to his or her pace, not the parents’. You yourself said that your twins didn’t like the “schedule”, and that is a fine example. However you then carry on saying that “baby led” means “free for all”, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. You seem to be equating that to what we see in films (or should I say comedies) when you see the “progressive” parent with the child that does what he likes when he likes it, with no restraints of any kind. That is not “baby led”, but at most “spoilt led”.
“Baby led” if you like is more like “pick your own battles”. For example, does your toddler (I am thinking of slightly older kids for simplicity) want to wear his shirt back to front? Suit yourself, I say. He doesn’t want to eat breakfast? Fine by me, just remember that there won’t be another meal till lunch. And so on. He doesn’t want to wear a seat belt in the car? Alas, that must be worn, and we all know that is non negotiable.
As you see, I am not spoiling the child, I am just making everyone’s life easier.
When the children are still infants, baby led means that you take the cues from what the child tells you, rather than deciding unilaterally that he shall eat x grams of this and that, sleep for Y hrs in 30 mins’ time and so on. Such approach, which I have tried with both my kids does make your life SO MUCH easier, and my kids are not spoilt. There are always boundaries. For example, my kids have always been able to choose what to eat from what there is on the table, but they may not open the fridge and get something else or get something different cooked on order.
I think you are conflating two completely different things and in so doing you are not doing a good service to new parents who might read this (to me rather) dis-informative article.
If you wanted to make a more apt comparison you could have spoken of the “child led” schooling in Scotland – thanks Curriculum for Excellence! I suggest you look that up.
In any case, baby led does NOT lead to having a spoilt child.

Last edited 2 years ago by Andrea ...
C Spencer
C Spencer
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrea ...

Did you have twins Andrea? If not you really can’t judge. I think you’re one of those people who thinks that twins eat/ sleep in sync, well they don’t as they are individuals. Unless you have gone through the total sleep annihilation of twin babies you should really not opine on this. I very soon understood that it was an absolute waste of time taking any advice from non twin parents and that parents of triplets, quads and upwards must be superhuman.

Andrea ...
Andrea ...
2 years ago
Reply to  C Spencer

I do not have twins and do not opine on that matter. It was the author who said that they were not responding well to a schedule.
Anyway, my point is that she is misrepresenting what “baby led” means. Whether you have twins or triplets is neither here nor there.

Last edited 2 years ago by Andrea ...
M. Jamieson
M. Jamieson
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrea ...

What you are describing is, I think, what people who came up with approach were trying to get to. In part as a response to some rigid ideas about babies that weren’t helpful. They werre suggesting that by looking for cues from the infant, and responding to where they were developmentally, their job would be easier and more effective.
But that is not where the baby led/attachment parenting movement ended up, I am afraid. I remember going to a LLL meeting for women brestfeeding older babies and toddlers, and one mother complaining that her toddler would bite her. I suggested that when that happened, she should put him down and go do something else for a bit, not being mean or yelling, and he would quickly learn that biting wan not on. She was terrified that this was not in line with attachment parenting principles which said that whtever he asked for was what he needed, and would cause some kind of psychological damage.
That wasn’t a one-off, I saw that kind of attitude to things like feeding, sleep, and discipline among mothers at that time. A lot of them were devotees of Dr Sears.

Jp Merzetti
Jp Merzetti
2 years ago

Me and much of my generation was raised by casual, relaxed adults. For the most part. By comparison with today, certainly so. And there’s the story. Unfolding modernity has not been kind, in divers’ ways. There is a presiding cruelty in the world now, that was not so prescient, then.
And the antidote to that cruelty, and whatever else ails us, is hardly to be found within the herd mentality of a mob, of almost any description. There used to be a time when intimates spoke of the necessity in life for a very small handful of very close friends, while no amount of associates and acquaintances add up to a hill of beans when the chips are down, or even up, for that matter. This was solid kitchen-brand wisdom. Reflecting the necessity for wearing adult clothes and endorsing and expressing the solid thinking behind the arrival to that station in life.
I have been chasing the concept of SEL (social emotional learning) around like a crazy lepidopterist with a very small butterfly net, and there is a thing that I just can’t quite put my thumbtack on. Somewhere in my early twenties, I came to realize the importance of emotional health, in life. Not necessarily the same thing as mental health. Not always a thing to be discussed or examined in psychological terms. Especially when contemplating the life of the soul, the dance of the spirt, and other such esoteric activities.
An emotionally healthy social life is a given for much of what most people seek. But it is not achieved within any shortcut sort of expertise (sold for large amounts of money by ‘experts’) or the schlock they serve up to children in classrooms today. When perusing much of the support material for these whackjob ideas, I notice a very obvious thing. The style and motif, the language and the visuals – all seem to jump off the bus somewhere around grade four. Yes, that young. And the ten year-olds in grade 5 are already parsing a kind of acid reflux replay that may clue in the smarter ones to just how clueless the adults in the system actually are.
The theme of youth rebellion has always been a sexy starter. Splendor in the Grass was positively crushing, heartbreaking and wild in its classic beauty. And so on. But whether they know it, or are willing to admit it or not, kids still need adults to be adults – and that is always because they aren’t adults. For any child of any age who has managed to attain that remarkable stage of maturity astonishingly young, I take of my hat to them, and commend them on how rare an accomplishment that actually is. Not to suggest that the natural resting point of anyone under the age of, say, 18 is sheer stupidity. Far from it.
But something has happened to that lovely game of chess, that tennis back and forth, that natural debate, the testing ground, the give and take, the arm wrestles, the challenges – that used to be the rites of passage for stages of maturity that granted increasing levels of freedom. As if the family home was indeed, the correction facility. And the kids were the inmates. And the parents were the wardens.
And the lovely byproduct of all this was the gradual and relentless unfolding of the concept of freedom. It’s qualities, usefulness, desirability, and all things boosting a kid’s self-esteem and confidence. In short, kids learned to dream of freedom. Because it was a good thing. It came with a price tag, and with responsibilities. Freedom was hardly free, or automatic. If it was (very much like trust, when you think about it) then it was a worthless thing – to be tossed around and aside like an encumbrance.
I enjoy a good joke now and then. Like “the smarter we get, the dumber we are” as a stand-in for our over-technologized, compartmentalized, smug and self-satisfied whoop-de-doo world in which we’re all the stars of our own movies and PR campaigns. Anyone who has ever had a good argument with an algorithm knows and understands this, deeply and with feeling. So if the trick is not in our stars and stats, but to actually care, and in a way that suits our ticking inners, then the same rules that motivated very many generations long gone by, still apply. History did very definitely not start tomorrow, and tomorrow and yet again, tomorrow. It is far more of a lifeline than most of us think. And that’s a passage of time illuminating to contemplate. We are in such a hurry to get – where? As far away from the past as quickly as possible?
Mao had a bright idea about that – which became 10 solid years of batshit crazy meltdown, the echoes of it still reverberate 46 years later.
And yes, I do agree. Somewhere beginning in that strange decade, the 1980s, we began to alter so very many things in society that became decidedly kid-unfriendly. We didn’t notice so much at first. But we sure do now. And far too many people just turn that off, as if it’s too painful a thing to contemplate. Like it or not, the kids are our future. They are our continuity. They are a reminder of how damned important this is. They always were. But now we just apparently freak out about it, make a mess of it, and operate with this weird impression that perfection, and even a utopian dream, are the requirements we’re hung out on the line to answer for.
This reminds me of one of my favorite Mark Twain stories in which someone (I forget whom) shows up at the Pearly Gates hoping to pass muster with good old Saint Peter. He brings his dog. Unfortunately, he doesn’t make the cost of admission. But the dog gets in.

Last edited 2 years ago by Jp Merzetti
Richard Turpin
Richard Turpin
2 years ago

Nailed it.
Every educator, at every level and every school governer currently paralysed by antics of the vile trans lobby and their ilk, should be made to read this. Parents often know their children better than anybody and their opinions and roles need to be recognised and most importantly, respected.
The ideolgues currently launching a wrecking ball through societies and families need taking away at the knees..

Martin Goodfellow
Martin Goodfellow
2 years ago

Although I can appreciate Hadley’s writing talent, I can’t help but wonder about her sense of practicality. If she was finding coping with babies difficult, why didn’t she seek advice, perhaps from her mother, or other experienced women?
Today’s society seems lacking in basic experience of children. My own was much different. I learned about baby care from seeing how it was done in my family, and I, a boy, earned money looking after other people’s children, as did several of my mates. We changed nappies, and learned about kids from their mothers (1960’s). At 13 or 14, our masculinity was never in question. I learned about sex, too, and it wasn’t shameful, or nasty. I was fortunate, I suppose, to have had good people to learn from.
Nowadays, people seem to live in isolation, and lessons that might have been learned from the past are not possible. Present attitudes and ideologies do not offer positive prospects.

Paula Adams
Paula Adams
2 years ago

You said, “I don’t know if I’m right..”. Yes, you are right and thanks for speaking out. However, baby-led goes way back. My oldest is 30 and I was into that same crunchy parenting. Thankfully I am also a Christian and homeschooler, so my kids are not quite as screwed up as the rest of them. However, they are very confused like all the rest. Good article. I hope you don’t get cancelled.

Peter Johnson
Peter Johnson
2 years ago

I love the rock climbing analogy. However I don’t blame parents for ‘going along’ with anything short of drugs or surgery. I know several people in this situation. They are trying to maintain a relationship with their child – and they know if they push back the child will hide their intentions. In fact schools, counsellors and physicians may encourage them to do so. Parents know this is a phase for the vast majority of children – they are just hoping they will ride it out without permanent damage. However unlike in the past – they will get no help from any of the institutions that are supposed to guide and protect children. An analogy might be trying to stop your child from getting a tattoo on her face – but the school has a facial tattoo club – encourages students to join – tells them to hide joining from their parents – and the National Tattoo Association tells tattooists that they will be investigated if they refuse to tattoo a child’s face.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago

“Discussions about gender are often described as “toxic”, and that means they are characterised by tantrums and threats from activists”
That’s been the same for 50 years

Henry Haslam
Henry Haslam
2 years ago

It’s not whether the idea comes from teens or adults: it’s whether the idea is right or wrong, wise or foolish. We have had centuries of experience of pondering and debating such matters.

Nicholas Taylor
Nicholas Taylor
2 years ago

Parents defer to their teenaged children about the correct languages to use and opinions to hold.” Isn’t this roughly the Cultural Revolution again? We know how that turned out. Is there a Mao somewhere orchestrating it?

M Harries
M Harries
2 years ago

“ Younger generations have always looked for ways to differentiate themselves from the stuffy old farts who came before
”

> I do think that this was the case until after the Second World War and also a western phenomenon, principally American.

M Harries
M Harries
2 years ago

“ Younger generations have always looked for ways to differentiate themselves from the stuffy old farts who came before
”

> I do think that this was the case until after the Second World War and also a western phenomenon, principally American.

Martha Halford
Martha Halford
2 years ago

A very good article: as adults, we must fight this ‘infantilisation’ of society and embrace our responsibilities. It is very difficult to have the knowledge and the courage to stand up against the Woke ideology (the sane have become a minority!!) but articles like this help readers in shaping arguments to put forward in relevant discussions.

Martha Halford
Martha Halford
2 years ago

A very good article: as adults, we must fight this ‘infantilisation’ of society and embrace our responsibilities. It is very difficult to have the knowledge and the courage to stand up against the Woke ideology (the sane have become a minority!!) but articles like this help readers in shaping arguments to put forward in relevant discussions.

Abby Wynne
Abby Wynne
2 years ago

Fabulous article thank you.

Abby Wynne
Abby Wynne
2 years ago

Fabulous article thank you.

Lewis Lorton
Lewis Lorton
2 years ago

I have past the point where I have to think about the correct ways of raising children but I do resist the cant in the article and comment that insinuates all the dangerous ideas come from the ‘Left’.
I protected my children from dangerous ideology regardless of the source and didn’t expect that any source was infallible. I am pleased to say my children have grown to be happy, intelligent well-centered adults with a minimum of bruising from life.

Last edited 2 years ago by Lewis Lorton
Paige M
Paige M
2 years ago
Reply to  Lewis Lorton

Culture is being driven by the Left. Kids are far more exposed to Left ideology then any other thinking. Heterodoxy does not exist in the mainstream anymore. It’s far, far more difficult as a parent now
.my kids are older teenagers and I’d be distraught if my kids were preschoolers right now.

Savelij Balalajkin
Savelij Balalajkin
2 years ago

One may see though, that if it is so easy to label What is a Woman? an appallingly sexist, it is even easier to label this article as appallingly ageist and transphobic.
See, the establishment feminists still believe that their “revolution” stops right there where they achieved pinnacle of power and freedom without having much of a burden of responsibility, henceforth all these baby-driven shortcuts in parenting, so popular with new age single moms.
This is an extremely naive point of view. Saying that old norms should give way to feminist empowerment does open the door to the new generation of challengers, brought up by these new rules, to try and knock the feminists off their moral high grounds. Should we resist these new revolutionaries? By all means yes. Yet the feminists should get off their high horse for a few minutes and do some deeper soul searching instead of indulging in the usual ruling elite hypocrisy.

Last edited 2 years ago by Savelij Balalajkin
Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
2 years ago

Sometimes the kid complaining about being bullied is the source of the problem.

Fiona Hok
Fiona Hok
2 years ago

Could you be more explicit?