Where do you stand when it comes to looking at what is happening to other peoples children and you don’t approve? Do you sit back and think, it’s a matter of parental choice, are you someone that tries to approach the parent, or do you sit back and simply quietly seethe and worry about the child?
I think personally I take a fairly relaxed approach to parenting, I’ll admit it, I feed my kids crisps and MacDonald’s (just not all the time), they are bribed with sweets and they get away with murder. They run rings around me and their behaviour probably needs to be dealt with a bit more seriously on occasion for their own good. I’m not a homework pusher, I try to do a bit but I don’t want to put the boy off education and although we try to enforce bedtime there are occasions when I give up and let them get on with it until they fall asleep through exhaustion.
I think this is probably like most parents although many wouldn’t admit to it. I want my kids to have a normal, happy childhood full of experiences and adventures and I don’t want to come down too hard on them because I want them to be free to express themselves and I don’t want to be too strict over foods because I want them to have a healthy attitude to food.
Recently I heard about a scenario where a mother admitted to giving her children a particular drug to help them sleep. This horrified me as I would hope that it would you. But take a step back, it’s a parenting choice, she clearly thinks that this is for their own benefit for her own reasons. In fact, when one of my kids had difficulties with sleep I was actually recommended a similar approach by my GP. However, I was struggling on the brink of PND at the time. It’s not an avenue I chose to go down personally, but some people might. I think that under medical guidance and for specific scenarios it may be appropriate. Who am I to judge?
However, what worries me is when this sort of situation becomes normal and a recommended approach and something that people do because they know they can. Not only is is dangerous, potentially with consequences for the child’s physical and mental well being its a possible indicator that not everything is right at home.
As a registered childminder I have attended a couple of safeguarding children courses. The main thrust of which is simple ‘Children have a right to be cared for and protected and protecting them is everyone’s responsibility’. There are four different types of child abuse, at least one which I think may surprise you: physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse (this includes seeing or hearing another person being verbally or physically abused) and neglect. If you think about it, you may well know children who could be suffering this sort of abuse.
It’s a hard call, especially if you know the parents. In fact, a massive dilemma. If the parents are reasonable you could discuss your concerns directly with them. If not, one of the best approaches is to speak to the school or health visitor and mention what you have observed, failing that you can give your Local Authority Children, Schools and Families department or the NSPCC a call for some guidance.
Children are often not able or empowered to deal with certain scenarios themselves. If you have your suspicions that all is not right then as an adult it is your responsibility to make sure that everything is alright and that they are being appropriately cared for. Other peoples parenting choices may be different to your own and you need to bear this in mind.
However, I think most people with a little bit of common sense will realise when something sounds or is dangerous and damaging, rather than something which will broaden a child’s horizons (eg watching an (appropriate) PG film as a toddler) or is a bit of occasional fun (eg a trip to McDonalds every other Friday). If you are not happy yourself but are unsure then don’t make the decision to let someone else report it. There have been several high profile cases which led to the death of children when everyone (including the professionals thought others had reported and dealt with it). Behave like an adult, seek advice from the appropriate channels and report it. No-one will think you are being silly and you may just save a child from years of abuse or help a parent who is struggling to find the support they need.
I’d love to hear what you think.