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Lindsay S
Lindsay S
2 months ago

Attachment theory isn’t gentle parenting, it’s about building relationships. It’s about parents being available to their children not too busy working or noses buried in their phones. When children go from womb to nursery where they have to compete with a room full of other demanding children they begin to show signs of emotional neglect. Evenings and weekends, parents overcompensate for their absence with “treats”. What we are experiencing is what happens when parents are too busy for the children they have brought into the world without the time they need to build secure attachments.
nursery workers and teachers are not a substitute for good parenting, nor is technology.

Janet G
Janet G
2 months ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

When I was young there were no childcare centres, no preschool centres. We kids played in the street, often games full of imagination. Our first experience of a “roomful of other demanding children” occurred when we were five years old. I think we had it good.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 months ago
Reply to  Janet G

Both parents didn’t have to work full time simply to keep a roof over your head. That I think is the key difference

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
2 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Is it to keep a roof over your head, or is it to pay for 2+ holidays a year and brand new car! I’d argue that keeping up with the Jones has a lot to answer for, as does the breakdown of the nuclear family!
I had a disciplinarian father and a nurturing mother and while a feared my father, I feared my mother’s disappointment more!

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 months ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

In the UK the average rent is £300 a week (though this includes many smaller homes that wouldn’t be suitable for families so many may be paying slightly more) and the take home pay is £450.
£150 a week doesn’t go very far when you have to buy food, run a vehicle for work, petrol, pay the gas, water, electric, internet, phone, clothes, insurances plus numerous other little bits and pieces that crop up throughout the year.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
2 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Both parents don’t “have” to work full-time now. They choose to do so. One reason is the opportunities that exist for women which were not in place a couple of generations ago. Ladies can be frazzled by the corporate climb just like the fellas. But these choices come with trade-offs, too.

Vicky Ladizhinskaya
Vicky Ladizhinskaya
2 months ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

There is a misconception that stay at home mothers all give more attention to their children than working ones. As said above, up to the 70s most women stayed at home and most of the children spent their time largely outdoors with their friends, only seeing their homemaker mother at meal times.

The idea of quality time with parents is completely modern and doesn’t coincide with women not working but with smaller number of children per household, more focus on their education and helicopter parenting.

I seen plenty of these stay at home mums in coffe shops, activity centres and playgrounds leaving their children to their own devices without any engagement, even if they are not there with other kids to interact with.

What is important to a child is that the time spent with them is actually spent with them engaging and not just ticking off time to justify the stay at home expectations for mothers of young children.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
2 months ago

Attachment theory has nothing to do with how much time you spend with your children. It has everything to do with the child believing with absolute confidence that if it all goes pear shaped when they are at school or out playing , there will be a secure place to return to and get help.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 months ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Funnily enough almost every young mum I know has said they wished they could stay at home a few extra days a week with the kids, unfortunately the finances simply don’t allow it

Roddy Campbell
Roddy Campbell
2 months ago

“A calm and reassured child will be able to make good choices, observe boundaries and thrive in the world. You don’t give orders; you allow them to make choices.”

Except that doesn’t work.

No wonder our country is in such a state. And no wonder our children are so screwed up. We’re expecting children to be saints. And we appear to have no plan B.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
2 months ago
Reply to  Roddy Campbell

Reading this article brought to mind Jonathan Haidt and Lukianoff’s “The Coddling of the American Mind”. 

It appears that schools have abandoned their task of insisting children come to school where there is no properly structured home school system in place. Parents, or too often single mothers, have abandoned giving structure to their children’s lives by trying to be their friend and letting them make their own choices and allowing their children to become emotionally fragile rather than getting them to face up to the challenges the world represents. Coddling is a good word for it. It has lead to a generation of fragile entitled brats. Children who can’t bear to hear opinions that differ from their own. 

Both the parents/parent and authorities now seem to feel it is OK to shirk their responsibility to be respectively a parent or in loco parentis. You are not your child’s friend. Your child needs to develop their own friends. You are a loving guide and if needed enforcer.

Of course I paid a fortune for my children’s education and would certainly not have wanted to see them waste what I paid for. Perhaps the fact that state education is free makes many fail to value it and ensure it is taken advantage of by their children. There is no cost to not insisting your children go to school. What has happened to fines for parents of truants?

Giving children options is a reasonable tactic to give children some sense of autonomy provided the options on offer are both sensible choices not merely the child’s choice or your own.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
2 months ago

I skived school once and my mother gave me such hell for it that I never dared miss another day in my life.

Simon Boudewijn
Simon Boudewijn
2 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

The school and I figured out a policy where I left them alone, and they left me alone. I was sort of a ghost student – there a lot, maybe 2 out of 3 days, but I did noting when there. Not destructive, just was peaceful, but could not be made to do what I did not want. First there was plenty of punishment, but they found that made no difference – what a waste of those years I made of them…

Then I hit the real world – now that was pretty wild – it took me about 20 more years to settle down and join the real world… But then I saw a lot – lots of very weird places and very weird people in those years of running about. I cannot figure if my life was a waste because I have seen so much few have – so is that worth the lost decades? I can never decide – I did see some wild stuff though.

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
2 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

do you mean that you came up against ‘god forbid’ an actual BOUNDARY !! My school would be straight on the phone to mum asking where i was – leading to ‘you wait till your father gets home’ and a serious tongue lashing and/or kick in the bum. Funny thing is we never held it against school or home because we knew exactly where the boundaries were – and felt that they were fair enough. To winge about it was seen as weak and uncool – you had to OMG tough it out – and because everyone was in this together twas seen as OK. One other thing that was different (60’s and 70’s) was that I saw no really nasty bullying that one hears about now – more like a low level jostling for a measure of crude dominance. Actual nastiness was not condoned – and caning was seen as fair enough – actually one HAD to be caned at least once to prove one could handle that. That education/parenting world realized that shock horror children were but pretty primitive creatures and needed firm guidance towards resilience and a level of mature independence – and gosh they were all woefully ‘uneducated’ by modern standards (the teachers/parents). Learning to cope with wise boundaries builds resilience – and of story.

John Dellingby
John Dellingby
2 months ago

I hated school as a child, and even to this day, I don’t miss it. Even so, it never once crossed my mind to skive or miss it. While I hated it, I still understood that it was necessary and I would have to get through it to get on in life. I finished secondary school in 2007, so it’s not like I’m a Boomer from the 1950’s or anything like that. If anything, most of my peers felt the same way. Then again, for the most part, we weren’t coddled to anything like the extent many young people are now.

Take the example of the teenager playing video games in his room all day instead. That mother needs to get mine on the case, who I know for a fact would throw said console in the bin and would suffer no fools if I behaved like that. Yes, it’s not pretty, but it works. In the long term, your kids will thank you.

Carol Forshaw
Carol Forshaw
2 months ago

I was a secondary school teacher for 30 years. I left the profession in 2007, exhausted by constant change without assessing the value of what we had been told to do. But the biggest reason was the behaviour of pupils who increasingly seemed to think that it was my job to get them through exams with little or effort from them. If you add these issues to the increasing number of children who do not have English as a first language (friends talk of up to 30 different languages in one class in my home town) then is it hardly surprising that there is a real problem with teacher retention. The issues covered in this article add to problems I have witnessed and are aware of. Education has had little attention under the Government. It does not bode well for the British workforce in the future.

Sam Hill
Sam Hill
2 months ago
Reply to  Carol Forshaw

Isn’t the problem you are describing though that schools (and parents) aren’t really there now to create a British workforce? In the past that was the clear aim of things. But nowadays we have a reserve army of labour and can rustle up 1.2m migrants to be a workforce. At its bluntest we don’t need you or your school for workforce purposes because we can just import a ready-made worker trained at someone else’s cost and pass any incidental costs onto society. Creating an education sector that meets national requirements, seeing corporates engaged (practically and financially) in that education, provision of entry level training and creating workers who can see plentiful genuine long-term career paths and who aren’t loaded with debt – well that’s all just passe and difficult and pricey now. And we need the money for triple locked pensions for the propertied old anyway.
That is the Treasury orthodoxy that Liz Truss really should have been challenging.
We could, perhaps should, make the point that politicians to a non-trivial extent reflect a public that has increasingly come to see child-rearing as some sort of personal extravagance. So flatlining wages, spiralling housing costs, extortionate childcare are all seen as personal problems because having a domestic young with a stake in its future is nothing to do with the taxpayer at large, and parents need to do it all themselves lacking for direction or control. It is interesting to note that Britannia Unchained made a very big play of a need for more funded childcare.
Yes, of course there is some level of personal failure on the part of some parents – to say otherwise would be to treat reality with contempt. I’m not saying otherwise. But there’s more to this than your classroom.
What’s worse of course is that as little as I like it, the approach of treating the young as just an add on to society is politically and financially sustainable for a good while to come so the problems you identify are here for decades. You as teacher aren’t there now to generate a workforce or youth with a future in a coherent national society with a future – it’s just a matter of muddling through the exam and getting through the day.

Simon Boudewijn
Simon Boudewijn
2 months ago
Reply to  Sam Hill

Excellently said.

Here is the thing. In this postmodernist world they want less native children, and them to be failures. This is what ‘education’ is about – making useless adults instead of making productive ones.

See – the vast Middle Class and robust Working Class – moral, Patriotic, voting for the best of the Nation – that is not good. The political Elites – and those shadowy ones who own them – they want the power to not be in the hands of voters who want a strong, prosperious, democracy. They want broken society, they want huge numbers ignorant and dependent of gocernment – they want Thralls:

”thrall /thrĂ´l/

nounThe state of being in the power of another person or under the sway of an influence.One, such as a slave or serf, who is held in bondage.One who is in the power of another or under the sway of an influence.

They want to own the world. To do that the ones with financial comfort and power, with Morals, education, and Patriotism must be destroyed. This education system is their main tool. Coupled with the entertainment system – and the 250,000 abortions of natives p/a and the importing of 1.2 million mostly unsuitable migrants.

You are a problem to the elites – so they are destroying you. The schools are one of the main mechanisms. The Teaching Unions their useful idiots. The Universities their victory –

Damon Hager
Damon Hager
2 months ago
Reply to  Carol Forshaw

You have my sympathies. Some of my (comprehensive) teachers were competent and dedicated, others were lazy and routinely late for class, and still others couldn’t keep discipline and presided over chaos, to the distress of those children who actually wanted to learn.
I spent much of my own career training businesspeople in their thirties and forties, and I enjoyed it. I never for a moment wanted to teach children or teenagers. I imagine it’s an exhausting, nerve-shredding job.
I don’t blame you for moving on. The individuals who take on this increasingly thankless role deserve our help, perhaps by giving them more leeway to enforce discipline.

Milton Gibbon
Milton Gibbon
2 months ago

Lots of talk about “parents” but no mention of fathers. Perhaps it is just coincidence that the two examples at the top of the piece make no mention of male influence over their children’s behaviour. Someone needs to take a disciplinary role in parenting a child – if you are on your own there is only one option.

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
2 months ago
Reply to  Milton Gibbon

Mothers can discipline children! (I am not sure if you are referring to both discipline in the literal sense of training or in the looser, more contemporary sense of punishment).

Terry Raby
Terry Raby
2 months ago
Reply to  Judy Johnson

Part of disciplining boys is rough housing – knowing that there is someone stronger, playful and not angry.

David Lindsay
David Lindsay
2 months ago

We convinced ourselves that schools were primarily somewhere to put children while their parents were at work, and far fewer people now go out to work every working day, if at all, so far fewer people now go to school every school day, if at all. The problem is what we think that education is. If it is not the idea that nothing is worth learning unless it will get you a job or you could use it there, then it is this.

The thing about school refusal is that the wrong people do it. You can read a book anywhere, so what if our lot decided that, since there was nothing for them there, then they were not going to go? But no matter how much bending over backwards there was as if we did not exist or at any rate did not matter, that is never going to happen. More is the pity.

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
2 months ago
Reply to  David Lindsay

A lot of school refusers have been bullied and many more have learning difficulties. There was a time they could look forward to leaving school at 16 and getting a job that didn’t need qualifications. That’s not the case anymore. Hopelessness is breeding like wildfire.
Not to mention that criminal gangs are now targeting our youth, promising them work without the need for qualifications.

ralph bell
ralph bell
2 months ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

There’s plenty of minimum wage jobs not requiring qualifications, but young people don’t feel compelled to do them and their parent(s) reinforce their thinking as do schools.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 months ago
Reply to  ralph bell

Unfortunately those jobs still pay minimum wage 20 years down the track. Rather than it simply being a starting point too many companies use it as the going rate whatever their employees experience

Matthew Jones
Matthew Jones
2 months ago

I don’t think Mary Ainsworth would agree with how attachment theory is conceptualised in this article. But that’s by the by.

The government should be an example for parents on this issue. The message should be: if you are too weak to parent your own children, then we will help you develop a spine by fining you, and if necessary doling out some punitive measures.

We do not need an illiterate, incompetent workforce. We also don’t want future adults asking their parents why they chose not to challenge them and motivate them to develop their intellects, and instead chose the path of least resistance. The irony of course is that this deeply selfish approach leads, in the long run, to more problems than actual parenting would.

Mike Doyle
Mike Doyle
2 months ago

It ain’t the children that need a slap.

2 plus 2 equals 4
2 plus 2 equals 4
2 months ago

A microcosm of the catastrophic impact which trendy approaches to education have had.
It can surely only be a combination of ideological blindness and self-interest which prevents educators from seeing the obvious truth that these approaches are not only failing, they are actively damaging children’s ability to function in the world.

Dominic A
Dominic A
2 months ago

Many kids identify as sugar-loving, cartoon-watching tyrants, with phobias around emotional, social and intellectual challenges. Schools simply aren’t set up to deal with Their Realities.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
2 months ago

Ultimately, this is about authorative discipline, and the removal, over decades, of many ‘instruments’ for its administration.
In the past, if a child refused to do what their parents or teachers asked, after reasoning with them, they would be given an ultimatum. Do it or else! Sanctions, detentions, groundings, etc. and, if these proved ineffective, or were resisted, physical chastisement.
Remove most of these sanctions and all you are left with are empty words. Children become immune to the word ‘no’, or its utterance triggers in them a barrage of abuse. The power balance between parents/teachers and children and young people has been so inverted by leftist dogma, that we find ourselves in this woeful state today. Moreover, many parents (often from working class backgrounds), who would like to limited their children’s poor behaviour with a judicious smack, are so cowered by the middle-class regime, that they feel completely disempowered.
A final thought. I lived in rural sub-Saharan Africa amongst local people for a decade, and observed how relatively mentally healthy and well-balanced their society was compared to our own. Children, from an early age, were necessarily expected to contribute to family life, whether looking after their siblings, tending livestock, fetching firewood and water. Children were invested in helping the family. School was seen by most children, at the very least, as a respite from these daily chores, and an opportunity for a brighter future and a gateway to better life options.
It seems in the modern, decadent West we’ve lost both the ‘carrot and the stick’.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
2 months ago

Informed by attachment theory, “gentle parenting”, as it is otherwise known, tells parents to be led by their child’s stated needs — and is increasingly popular in the West.
It’s popular among medical practitioners who wish to experiment on children, too, along with gender activists. It’s a wonder that past generations survived without kids leading the grownups around by their noses. No wonder “Lily” is some psychologist’s future long-term patient.
Had Jane exercised some authority over her child, perhaps her child would not be a basket case. On the other hand, had schoolkids around much of the world not had their lives needlessly upended, this child’s issues might well be a moot point.

William Cameron
William Cameron
2 months ago

The main reason Kids dont go to school is because both parents have to work to pay the mortgage/ rent on overpriced housing.
The reason housing to too expensive is that banks have thrown money at it for twenty or more years to increase demand and force prices up – so they can make two people pay the banks for the same houses rather than just one wage.
So if you want kids to go to school limit mortgages to three times one income like they used to be.

William Cameron
William Cameron
2 months ago

Quite a lot of school is pretty unpleasant . Because many of the pupils are unpleasant and dont want to be there. School should only be available to those that obey the rules and want to be there.
And no, I dont care what happens to the unpleasant non attenders. Those wanting to study take priority.

Shrunken Genepool
Shrunken Genepool
2 months ago

Perhaps it’s all the woke indoctrinations and gender BS. Absence might be a smart move in that case.

tom Ryder
tom Ryder
2 months ago

Government locked Lily down and taught that she was a granny-killer killing granny on the exhale; they called it following the Science. Now they pretend to be surprised by the harvest they’ve planted.

Flibberti Gibbet
Flibberti Gibbet
2 months ago

The education reforms implemented just after 1945 did not follow the recommended plan. The original intention was for 3 types of school between 11 and 18. Grammar, Secondary and Technical.
The technical branch was dropped and I think we are still paying the cost today.
I suspect many of those problem children would flourish in an educational environment that majored in hands-on practical skills. The economy sure needs them.

Terry Raby
Terry Raby
2 months ago

No fathers. That situation can be ameliorated by high discipline high agency schools. Every day at Michaela the kids recite ‘I am the captain of my soul, the master of my fate.’ The examples cited of mothers’ toxic empathy and irresponsibility towards their children would not be tolerated.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
2 months ago

There’s this weird idea, usually entertained by well-educated people, that children are perfectly capable of making intelligent and moral decisions entirely on their own and that any harsh language on the part of a parent figure will forever scar and traumatize the child. Unfortunately, children know very much what they want, but not what they need.
What I’m missing from the story above is the father. Where is he in all this?

Sophia Cruz
Sophia Cruz
2 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

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Claire D
Claire D
2 months ago

Or maybe many modern secondary schools are often intimidatingly large and impersonal places where bullying is rife, stabbings not uncommon (knife taken from the school canteen to stab a girl in a recent incident – kids all kept on ‘Lockdown’ in classrooms until the police arrived) and no-one in their right mind would want to attend every day

John Wilkes
John Wilkes
2 months ago

If my child (who is 12 and apart from a week with chicken pox has never missed a day when school has been open) says that he doesn’t feel well enough to go to school, he would be told that “if you are too sick for school, you are too sick for your xbox, ipad or phone”. If he wouldn’t come down to eat, he would go hungry.
Apologies but his mother is enabling the child and failing completely as a parent in the sense that she is not parenting the child at all in this respect. What sort of adult would he become? If he ever got a job (sounds unlikely) would he refuse a request/order from the boss because he didn’t feel doing it.