Stazjia’s Commentary

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Child Cruelty – Local Council Apologises

I didn’t want to write anymore about the case of Baby P because I find it immensely distressing and I can’t get out of my mind what that poor child suffered and how alone and distressed he was. That’s before I even think about the pain.

Yesterday a member of the ruling group of the local council, councillor George Meehan, apologised at a meeting. He said, “There is no failure to apologise in full by this council, we do so unreservedly.” When asked if he apologised personally, he said, “I have no problem saying I personally apologise.”  Now read more


I’ve started writing a very shortened account of my life on my Lensography. The first section deals with my restless, rootless childhood. I think one of the reasons I like writing about places in England is because my parents found it hard to settle in one place during our childhood. Find out how we went from Windsor to California by way of two London suburbs, Somerset and Devon, all before I was 16 years of age.

In the the next section of my life story, I tell more about my childhood and my parents’ stormy relationship. This is hard to write about, even so many years later. It feels disloyal because, even as children, we never spoke about it although some days we were very tired at school as we’d been woken up during the night.

I’ve quite surprised myself writing about all this because I’m usually an intensely private person. Some people have known me for years and still know very little about me. On the other hand, people I’m close to know all this stuff.

Crybaby Waltz

Crybaby Waltz

OK, so this seems like an odd topic but I started thinking about it after seeing a normally good toddler being naughty for a while. I noticed something I’ve seen before in the interaction between parents and kids.

When the child is naughty, often one or both parents tells it to stop being naughty, or stop doing that, or generally tell the child off. Sometime one or both try to pacify the child and/or bribe it – “Here, darling, stop doing that and I’ll give you an ice cream” – something along those lines. When you’re not involved (ie one of the parents or other responsible adult) you can see that the child really wants attention. When he or she plays quietly, nobody takes any notice. If the child sits and watches TV, everybody ignores it. They get attention when they whine, throw a tantrum or start banging on the furniture with a hard toy.

When you’re training a dog, the value of positive reinforcement is usually stressed. When you’re training your dog to poop and wee outside, you aren’t supposed to punish it for doing it in the wrong place but when it does it outside you are told to go into raptures -“Good boy! What a clever dog! Good dog!” etc, etc. I know this works because I’ve used it on my own dogs for training them to do all sorts of things. It’s the principle of catching more flies with honey than with vinegar. I want to know why more people don’t do it with kids?

Dogs and children love attention and they’ll do most anything to get it. To stop our dogs becoming a real nuisance we reward them with stroking and warm words when they are quiet or doing what we say. When our children play quietly or do as we tell them, we act as if it’s nothing much or say to ourselves “Thank goodness for a bit of peace and quiet”. No wonder children play up, it’s the only way to get us to notice them. OK, so being shouted at or told off isn’t as good as telling them they are a good boy or girl, or playing a game with them but it’s better than being ignored.

I truly believe we should use positive reinforcement with children. Praise them for being good, playing quietly, looking at their books, clearing their toys away. Give them rewards too, small things like a star on a chart on the kitchen wall would give them pleasure, it doesn’t have to be an expensive toy.

Teach them to do something. My grandmother (obviously a woman of infinite patience) taught me to embroider when I was about 6 years old. Because I had all the attention from her teaching me, of course I loved to embroider and still do it. That meant I spent long periods quietly doing my embroidery. She always praised what I’d done when I she looked at it or I showed it to her so I got on going rewards and she got some peace while I was doing it.

The other point about all this is that children nag when they want something. When I was a child, no meant no and we knew it. Once an adult had made a decision, that was the end of the matter. Nowadays, so often children will whine and nag, parents keep saying no, then they say later, not now, then they give in. What does that tell a child? It tells him or her that it pays to keep on till they get their own way. It’s bad enough in a two year old, just think what it’s going to be like telling a pubescent girl or boy they can’t go out with their friends till 3am. Then think of the possible consequences when they don’t take no for an answer.

It’s the first of August today which made me think about what we did as kids on the first of any month.

As soon as we saw a friend, we said, “A pinch and a punch, the first of the month” – gimme a break, it nearly rhymes and we were only young. 🙂 We did the actions, usually relatively lightly, as we said it.

Then our friend answered with, “A thump and a kick for being so quick”, the answer to which was, “A smack in the eye for being so sly.”

I don’t know if children still do this but I think it was done all over the country when I was a child. Every month, kids thought this was hilarious.

No Bullying Here

No Bullying Here

When I took the dogs out yesterday evening about 9pm, there was a group of children in the alleyway to the fields, maybe 10 to 12 of them ranging from perhaps 10 years to 13 – 14 years old. They were shouting and laughing and I wasn’t sure what was going on. One of the younger ones broke away from the group and I wasn’t sure if he was crying or not. Then he called in a friendly way to two of the others who followed him. The others carried on laughing and shouting but I wasn’t sure what they were saying as they were all making so much noise it was hard to distinguish the actual words.

I went past them into the field so the dogs could do their business but I could still hear the kids. I definitely got the impression from snatches I did hear then that they were bullying the young boy and laughing because he was upset. I was only in the field for 10 minutes (it’s not a proper dog walk, just a chance to do what’s necessary before bed and it gets too dark) and when I went past the group which was a bit smaller than before I heard one of them saying, “His mother’s walking him home” and then laughing derisively.

If I could have been sure the young boy was crying and was being bullied, should I have interfered? If I should, would I be brave enough? I think the answer is that I should have said something, asked the boy if he was all right, did he want me to walk him back to the road? Told the other children how disgusting they were and there is nothing big and brave about a group making a young child cry. I think I’m brave enough – I’ve certainly told off kids before that I don’t know when they’ve behaved outrageously.

I’m haunted by the time I didn’t interfere and have always thought I would never live with that regret a second time. When I about 30 I was on a bus with a friend in an area neither of us knew well and a group of about 15 girls (maybe 12 – 14 years old) got on to go home from school. It was only a short journey of about 10 to 15 minutes. They started picking on one girl. They laughed at her, they threw her stuff around, she started to cry. My friend and I made nasty remarks to each other in audible voices saying how disgusting their behaviour was but the girls either didn’t hear or didn’t care. Anyway, the girl was sobbing by the time it got to her bus stop and her mother was waiting for her. She threw herself into her mother’s arms, almost completely hysterical. The girls on the bus laughed and laughed.

I was so ashamed of myself for not having the nerve to have stood up and spoken openly to those bullies. I swore I would never sit idlely by a second time and I never have. I still regret I didn’t try to help that poor girl. She’d be about 35 to 38 now and I wonder if that bullying, which was obviously a long term thing, has scarred her for life. I do hope not and that she has been able to put it behind her.

I was never bullied at school and I wasn’t a bully either. I was fairly quiet and studious but had enough about me not to allow anybody to bully me. I suppose I should be grateful to my parents for giving me enough confidence to stand up for myself so never became a victim at school.

Isn’t it strange how a 15 minute episode can stay with us for over 20 years and make us wish we could turn the clock back and change what we did or didn’t do?

We have a rhyme in the UK:

A son is a son till he takes him a wife
But a daughter’s a daughter for all of her life.

I think that is largely true. Most women don’t distance themselves in quite the same way as some men once they are married. It’s usually the adult daughter who takes responsibility for ailing parents, for example, no matter what other responsibilities she has.

I don’t necessarily think that this is a bad thing. It seems that the most successful marriages are those where the husband is fully committed to his wife and puts her way above his mother in priorities. So often a son is the apple of a mother’s eye. A woman told me recently how the only time she sobbed in public was when her son married but she was quite OK when her two daughters married. She liked her son’s wife so it wasn’t that, she just didn’t want to lose her ‘little boy’.

You do find some men are so emotionally committed to their mothers that they put her interests above those of their wives. They constantly visit and phone and are at their mothers’ beck and call. They take the side of their mothers when they should be supporting their wives.

I know a man who has been married twice and is now in a third relationship. He has children from both marriages and from this relationship. He is a devoted and excellent parent, he really can’t be faulted in any way.

His mother is an extremely possessive person and he was the favourite out of her three children – she absolutely doted on him. When he first married in his 20s, she bought a flat near where she lives and let him and his wife live there. She had her own key and would ‘pop round’, maybe to put some food in their refrigerator or bring something useful, any excuse, really, and she would let herself in with her key. It got to the point where the son was confiding in his mother about rows and difficulties with his wife. The mother, of course, didn’t calm him down and talk sensibly, she stirred him up and eventually she was happy when they divorced. The second marriage followed the pattern of the first with exception of not living in his mother’s flat.

Luckily for him, the man’s new partner is a strong woman who wouldn’t stand for this level of interference and put her foot down. He no longer dances attendance on his mother nor confides in her about his relationship. It’s taken him to become a middle aged man before he could finally cut himself free of his mother’s apron strings.


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