Thursday, August 03, 2006


I'll say it again: aaaarrrrggggghhhhhh!

Yes, tonight I enjoyed that fabulous bit of entertainment, so loved by so many of us: kids misbehaving while their parents do nothing at all to stop them.

I'll spare you the gory details, but basically for the best part of an hour I had to put up with two wee brats running more or less riot in a train carriage, while parental figures (one per child) looked indulgently on.

Did I say anything? Did anyone else? Of course not. Who does, these days? We just did our best to ignore them. But since I was sitting directly opposite them, this was no mean feat, and I eventually sought refuge in the Proclaimers, played loudly through the headphones of my mp3 player. This almost worked.

A question well worth asking is, is enduring such behaviour harder for teachers than for the general public? I get frustrated for two reasons: firstly, that most teachers can get 30 kids behaving better than such parents can manage with 1; secondly, I can't help but wonder how these kids then behave when they get to school, if this is the measure of structure and control they are used to.

Or, to be blunt: I blame the parents.

OK, this is what teachers always say, so of course it can't be the whole truth, but by jings we're talking high percentages here. I've got pie charts and graphs and everything to prove it. Somewhere...

So, what's to be done?

Heck, who knows? We certainly seem to have reached a tipping point, where it's just not the done thing for anyone to comment on kids' behaviour when the parents are around (for fear of causing offence) or even when they're not (for fear of getting abuse from the kid in question, if not actual physical violence). How do you get back to the good old days, assuming they ever existed? How do you "untip"?

I will say this much: that a lot of the problems we have now are caused by the rise in the cult of the individual; the idea that there's no such thing as society. So, who am I to complain about how your kids behave? They're your kids and that's your call. Apparently. And who is the school to tell you that your kids are wee monsters? You know your kids, and they're lovely. And if you know one thing, it's that they never lie. Apparently.

I suppose, to be fair to parents (it won't last), teachers have access to a "big" picture at school - the behaviour of a class, or a year group - while they don't. We need to appreciate their point of view more, I can see that. But if we collectively decide that parenthood gives us a right to say "stuff the bigger picture", well that worries me. That way lies parents lying about their place of residence in order to get their kid into a "good" school, and then justifying their behaviour on the grounds that they're doing it for their child so that makes it OK.

We're already there, let's face it. And I don't like the look of it.

Cheery stuff, eh? Still, for any new teachers out there, remember: it's the parents fault. Failing that, blame Mrs Thatcher. Works for me.

[One final point: I have experienced contact with parents who, when faced with evidence of inappropriate behaviour on the part of their child, then go on to ask me if I have children myself. I have always refused to answer that question, and I'd suggest you do the same. It's entirely beside the point, whatever the answer.]

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