We have some sympathy with the neighbours of the noisy four-year-old whose parents face a fine if they don't control the noise he makes in their garden.
Of course, all children can be noisy and there's nothing wrong with the sound of their natural exuberance as they dash around letting off steam.
My two grandchildren – both boys – love nothing better than to career around imitating the sounds of motor-bikes, racing cars, and aeroplanes, but when I'm with them, I never let these rowdy sessions last that long. I'm always there ready to distract them with something quieter if I think we're about to disturb the neighbours. Nor do I let them play out until I'm sure everyone around us is up and about. And if they hurt themselves and cry, I hurry them indoors so as not to disrupt the neighbourhoold.
There is, after all, a fine line between 'natural exuberance' and being 'out of control'. Some of our members feel strongly that there's been too much of a shift towards children being allowed 'freedom of expression', and have discussed on the forum how they'd prefer to see then under control rather than rushing around, getting under other peoples' feet in supermarkets, for instance.
I personally have experience of living near some little girls whose main form of lay seemed to involve constant screaming and screeching. Had I been their parents, or grandparent, I'd have turned a deaf ear for a while but not have allowed it to go on for hour after hour as they did. Living beside that level of noise constantly could quickly become unbearable.
So this case must surely rest on the frequency of the noise as well as its level? And it's surely encumbent on all of us to make sure we do nothing to make life intolerable for those around us?
We were chatting on BBC Radio Derby (about 85 mins in) this morning and then again on BBC Radio Bristol (2 hrs 32 in) about how grandparents can help their grandchildren on days like today when GCSE results come out. The general consensus seems to be that our young people have done very well this year – but that grandparents provide a very comfortable and comforting shoulder to cry on if they haven't quite achieved the grades they wanted. We tend to love them unconditionally….so no matter what their results, it won't make any difference to how we feel about them.
Grandparents can be a great help in defusing family tension around the up-coming GCSE results. After all, we've usually lived a long time and can look back on our own school days dispassionately; we know how our lives have panned out with – or without – good exam results. We know how much importance was placed on exams during our school days, yet how little they really count in later life. We know that the young today are urged to do everything possible so that their C.V's look good, and yet that your CV changes with you as you move through life with the latest achievements eclipsing the earlier ones.
The trouble is that parents have a tendency to invest a huge amount of emotion in their teenagers' exam results – and sometimes get things out of proportion. This can feel like a huge pressure on the young.
So it can be really helpful to our grandchildren at this time if we take them aside for a quiet chat, and give them our longer perspective, explaining all the things we love and value about them, reminding them of their good deeds and lovely natures – and explaining how at our stage in life, all this fuss about GCSE's can feel overblown. They can recover from bad results: they can re-sit the exams or change their subjects. And once they're back at school and moving on to A levels, GCSE's will so quickly become yesterday's news.
I see the Daily Mail's at it's usual knocking again – choosing today to have a go at my age group – over our drinking habits. The excuse for this 'elder bashing' is Gerard Depardieu's extraordinary behaviour on a plane: the fact that he couldn't wait to relieve himself until after take-off is now being used to inform us that the over 60's are at greater risk from a daily glass of wine than any other age group.
Well I'd like to stand up for those of us who enjoy a glass of wine in the evenings. Yesterday I spent an action-packed day looking after the grandchildren. My day started at 6.45 and ended 12 hours later. We went to the park in the morning, played football and hide and seek. Home for lunch followed by making chocolate crispies. We then had a teddy bears' picnic, where we and the teddies ate the crispies, we played musical bumps and musical statues and then I got tea. It was a lovely, happy day and I always enjoy spending time with them, but I admit I was relieved to see my son before bathtime so that my shift could end.
And then I came home and poured a very large glass of wine and I'm not ashamed to admit it – even if in doing so, I risk the ire of the Daily Mail. I wouldn't dream of drinking while minding the grandchildren, and if they're staying, always wait until they're sound asleep before pouring a drink. But drinking in moderation is my age group's only vice and I believe we should be left to enjoy it in peace.
More thoughts below from our friend Mark Ostling on what may have gone with UK society which led to the riots, and on how we could be treating our young people differently in order to prevent more disaffection in the future.
I've been thinking about BF Skinner and his behaviour experiments- he concluded that reward and punishment both can shape behaviour but of the two, reward has by far the most powerful effect. This is borne out in many parenting techniques, even things as simple as giving a gold star to a child for good work.
I wonder if we have got the emphasis the wrong way round in UK society- I feel that there is always a keen focus on punishment
When I lived in Italy, most of my friends and students pretty much conformed to their parents' wishes, but I found out that this was largely because they were richly rewarded for doing so in both subtle, and blunt ways- if you married a person your parents approved of, they would build you a house. It seems to me that in Britain, many people find life to be very unrewarding or even punitive, before they have even done anything wrong, and there are not really any compelling positive reasons for "toeing the line".
I was interested to hear some interviews with young people from the riot areas who resisted getting involved- they nearly always cited the fear of jeopardising something important to them- parents' or grandparents' respect or approval, job or future prospects. I guess for those young people it appeared that there were rewards to be had, but I would imagine that many of their peers did not feel that they had much to lose.
Maybe as parents, grandparents and a society we would be better off by focussing on what behaviours and attitudes we want to see in our young people, and investing time, energy and resources into finding ways of rewarding, encouraging and fostering those desired behaviours, rather than always focussing on how best to punish undesired behaviours once they have already occurred?'
Spent a lovely afternoon with the grandchildren this week. We went to the local playground where the 3 year-old climbed up rather too high on a climbing frame and scared himself. I helped him down (twice) and soon after he said he felt 'a little bit sad'. We had lots of cuddles and being the good counsellor (!), I offered him the chance to talk about feeling sad. But in truth he's a bit young for that!
What joy, though, to hear him getting in touch with his feelings and expressing them. It's the first time I've heard him describe anything other than hunger, or love, or the fact that he misses someone. Big moment.
Big day tomorrow for our youngsters who’ve taken their A levels. Results day is often a nightmare as the tension builds and the young people have to turn up at school or telephone in to find out their grades. It can be a hard time for parents and grandparents too……we have to sit on the sidelines and watch while our young go through huge emotional turmoil as they endure this build up. So what’s the best we can do to help them at this time?
First of all, families need to relax and take off any pressure. Young people don’t need nagging to find out their results; let them do it in their own time. Then when they tell you the results, try hard not to put your own feelings/judgements on to their own reactions. In other words, let them have their ‘moment’.
They may be elated and excited by a result that is below your expectations…..in which case don’t let your disappointment show. Or they may have exceeded all expectations…..so it’ll be fun for you all to celebrate. But, if they’ve not come up to their own and your expectations, it’s really important that you let them go through their own disappointment without sharing yours with them too. They’ll be feeling bad enough anyway.
On the other hand, don’t try to give them a false boost by jollying them out of their bad feelings. Disappointment is part of life and they need to know what it feels like.
What you can do though is reassure them that you know they’ve done their best, and remind them that this isn’t the end of the world. ….there are always re-takes. Also let them know that there is more to life than exam results - that they are more than the sum of their grades. So remind them of all their good qualities and how much they’re loved and then offer them practical help in getting on with uni applications or retakes.
Photo by Axelsrose
Having worked with teenagers for years, I'm often asked how families should 'deal' with them, how to ensure their lovely small children don't turn into monsters once they hit the teen years, how to ensure that the family stays together in a loving relationship even during these turbulent years. I've posted a piece on this subject today under Advice – hopefully of interest to parents and grandparents alike.
I’ve been talking to my friend Mark Ostling about the riots and how we as grandparents can have a positive effect on our grandchildren’s lives and so, hopefully, help them either resist criminal activity or if they do get into trouble, how to help them through it. He worked for the Probation Service for a number of years and more recently provides consultancy services to the Prison and Probation Services as well as to Mental Health teams. He has so many fascinating insights on the current tensions that I’m reproducing them in full under Features. But for now, here are the extracts most appropriate to grandparents:
‘For many young people that I have worked with, their immediate family can be a risk factor rather than a protective factor- parents are not present, or are present but not able to give the child what they need because they are overwhelmed with their own problems, incapacitated by drug or alcohol abuse, involved in crime themselves, or just lacking in the skills and personal resources needed for effective parenting. Many times when I have been looking for potential protective factors in young people who are involved in the system, they will mention a grandparent as a key positive figure. This may be because the grandparents have stepped in to make up for parental deficits, some times to the extent of taking over the parental role. It can also be because the grandparents are able to act as a positive role model in a way that parents have not been able to do; sometimes grandparents have inspired a great deal of respect in otherwise rebellious and difficult young people. Sometimes it is because the grandparents are able to reach out to the young person, perhaps because they see the young person in a different light, or are persistent and don’t give up on them, or because they have higher expectations and beliefs in the young person’s capacities and are able to communicate these to the young person. It would be hard to overestimate the potential for a grandparent to act as a powerful protective factor for even the most troubled and difficult young person, whom others may have labelled as a “lost cause”.
Grandparents can play an unglamorous and often unrecognised (but nevertheless vital) role in creating the right kind of environment to help young people stay away from crime, without any special training and by using the qualities and skills that they already possess. In addition, grandparents can be the key factor in helping young people come through the process of getting in trouble and to recover from this, learn what they need to learn and try to get back into “normal life” as best as they can. The crucial thing is to be patient and persistent, and to keep the lines of communication open with the young person, even if they seem to be doing everything they can to wreck the relationship! The crucial thing is to avoid falling into the trap of seeing people as mindless “hoodies” and rioters, and instead ask ourselves what would lead a child or young person to behave in that violent and destructive a way?’
Mark Ostling – Head of Consultancy at Ostling Training
Went along to BBC Radio Berkshire this morning for an interesting chat with Anne Diamond. Of course, our conversation covered the riots; we discussed how complex the whole situation is, and how easy it is to rush to judgement. But I personally would rather try to understand the difficulties some of our children, - and their parents- face on a daily basis, than rush to condemn.