A recent report has me seriously questioning the kind of world we are becoming. A nanny state if I may say so. The exact definition of a nanny state is this:
A nanny state is the perception of a situation characterised by governmental policies of over-protectionism, economic interventionism, or heavy regulation of economic, social or other nature. [Source]
Personally, I haven’t had a problem with some things the Australian government has done which have people shouting till they are blue in the face about us being a nanny state. For instance, I have no problem with the government wanting to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes. I understand this as being a heavy regulation but one that may have its benefits. Nor do I have an issue for stricter alcohol regulations in terms of having bars and pubs not serve alcohol after midnight if it will help curb alcohol-related violence.
I think what I do have a problem with is the “over-protectionism” part of the definition. The one where every one is told what to do and how to do it. Not necessarily in the form of a law but with ‘experts’ telling us what to do and what not to do. The most recent one that I mentioned at the start of this post was one where nanny agencies are asking the government to enforce a law where kids under the age of 14 should not be allowed to babysit younger kids. Added to that, there is a comment by someone who says it should be 18. Apparently, teenagers are not responsible enough to babysit.
And this is where I go on my rant. Are parents supposed to be that stupid? Can’t they decide which teenager is most suitable to babysit their kid? I mean, most parents are unlikely to get a teen who is themselves immature to babysit their 8 or 9 year old sibling. Children mature at different ages. As surprising as it may sound to the nannies calling for this legislation, some 12 and 13 year olds are in fact quite responsible. So they may not be able to drive their younger sibling to a hospital in an emergency but I’m pretty sure they know the phone numbers for an ambulance, the police or the fire brigade as well as know enough to call their own parents too!
Moreover, how are we ever going to teach kids to be responsible without giving them a bit of responsibility in the first place? I remember my parents leaving my sister (who is 5 years my junior) and me alone in the house with a set of instructions when I was around 8 or 9 years old. We never set the house on fire. We didn’t end up killing each other. We didn’t break anything or let strangers in. In fact, during those days, that was probably the time we got along best because we weren’t competing for our parents’ attention. The worst that I probably did was watch TV when given instructions not to. Maybe if I had been a feral kid, my parents wouldn’t have left me alone at 8 but they would have when they thought I was responsible enough.
I have a gripe with some psychologists on this matter too. Now I tend to see some clients who thrive on being given responsibilities and then praise for it. Especially the behavioural ones who are written off. But some psychs can go to the extreme when you say that a 10 year old was given the responsibility for one day to prepare breakfast (cereal) for themselves and their siblings because apparently, that is parentifying a child in some way! What the hell?? On the other hand, the child loved the responsibility and it gave them the older sibling status and more importantly, positive reinforcement from the parent.
In my line of work, I see more and more legislation about what kids and parents can and cannot do. And to be honest, it’s getting out of control now! I agree parents should not be allowed to hit their child. But there are some idiots out there who are now saying parents are not allowed to put their kids in time out because it is harmful to the child’s self-esteem! Excuse me? What are parents supposed to then to discipline their kids? It’s not all about positivity, you know. There have to be consequences too.
I think with some things, people should just let things be. Unless there is significant damage, there doesn’t need to be a black and white legislation. Some matters can be considered on an individual basis.
Until then, I say, if a 12 or 13 year old is responsible enough, let them babysit! They are learning valuable things. And in any case, who is to say that an 18 year old babysitter can’t be irresponsible? We see enough of P-plate accidents to see how responsible they can be!
Until next time,