Unschooling? Stop being lazy, attention-seeking parents

IF death and taxes are inevitable in life, I'd add another certainty to that list: As a parent you are never going to get it sensible and right 100 per cent of the time.

But that doesn't mean you stop trying, even when tempted by buzzwords like "empowerment" and "democratisation".

That's right, once again traditional parenting is in the frame.

You remember the theory - the sepia-tainted concept the parents running the family and, with firm love, show kids by example how life works. Boundaries, discipline, focus and consequences.

Family life with a tried and tested message: a metaphorical teaspoon of cement rather than sugar can be rather useful sometimes.

Under the new regime, though, it's children with rights but no responsibilities. Parental narcissism is clobbering the sensible and mainstream methods that for generations saw children raised as adults, rather than kidults.

This week the latest parenting parody came courtesy of an Aussie mum, known as Ally, who in an interview admitted her family practises extreme unschooling.

They're giddy from being part of this "radical movement" and challenging the suburban status quo the rest of us mugs are trudging through like sheep.

Let me paint a picture for you of how a family like this "works": No rules, no restrictions. All choices - bedtime, food, technology consumptions, clothing, activities and so on - are signed off by the Emperor Child with an empty font of wisdom and life experience to draw upon.

This, Ally told Kidspot website, is "about learning to be in tune with their bodies. This is lost when we arbitrarily impose restrictions".

Cake for breakfast, no problem. All night gaming and sleep all day, what could go wrong that? This is how one kid learned to read, we're told. No regular school, that's not for them thanks. Then there's the elective hygiene.

"My second child won't brush his hair so it has become like dreadlocks," Ally said. "My eldest child used to shave her head until she was about six."


What happened to traditional parenting?
What happened to traditional parenting?

At what point did that daughter front up to her mother and ask for a razor or clippers because she wanted to be bald? Did the mother hand her the blade and let her figure it out?

Ally added: "People used to ask why and I was ostracised by a lot of people because they thought I was making her do it for some feminist agenda."

But there's no feminist agenda here. No, the only agenda is self-interest, notoriety and attention seeking.

In recent weeks, we've also seen "breatharian" mums and dads go public with stories of barely eating for nine years because they only need oxygen and "the universe's energy" to live.

UK mum Camilla Castello ate for zero rather than two while pregnant, deliberately starving herself and her foetus during the entire nine months. Why would you do this?

Another couple calling themselves off grid parents allowed their child to urinate on the studio floor during a live TV interview. They shrugged it off as a "leak".


This is not about the children, it's about the parents wanting attention.
This is not about the children, it's about the parents wanting attention.

Spare me. These are the parents who get a second chance to be a winner in life by living vicariously through their impressionable children on a national - or international - stage.

It's a sentiment that could be handy when the infant becomes an adult and has emotional or behavioural issues. "You were allowed to make your own decisions from day dot, so any stuff-ups are your responsibility."

It's the ultimate parental get out of jail free card.

But wind back 70 odd years and we've been in this child-centred spotlight before. There's always been an expert or attention junkie trying to reinvent the parenting wheel. And inevitably there are bamboozled parents too busy worrying about applying what experts say.

In 1946 US paediatrician Dr Ben Spock became controversial for his views that parents needed to follow the cues of their babies.

He wrote a seminal how-to-parent guide introducing the idea of demand feeding but the doc was alarmed when some mums and dads extended the philosophy to all areas.

"Parents began to be afraid to impose on the child in any way," he said. "In 1957, revising the second edition, I put a lot of emphasis on the need that the child has for firm leadership from parents because this not only makes a better behaved child but a happier child."

I have a friend whose 23-year-old daughter has been dating her same-age boyfriend for a few years. He was raised - and she uses that term loosely - in an alternate no rules family where the kids ran free.

Instilling even basic table etiquette wasn't a priority and the kids were free to use their hands as their cutlery. The problem is that those kids are now adults, who still prefer their fingers over a knife and fork.

Last week at the dinner table, the young man eschewed his fork and proceeded to paw at the mashed pumpkin and potato, scooping large portions into his gob.

Traditional parenting styles may have been deemed harsh but they also produced backbone and civility.

A Detroit News intern Kaylee McGhee this week cut through the poor me millennial narrative when she wrote: "But what many fail to recognise is that these millennial snowflakes avoid saying or doing anything that could be deemed offensive largely because of how they were raised.

"Most grew up with parents who did everything they could to provide their children with happiness and emotional wellbeing, at the expense of personal responsibility and self-reliance."

If you raise your children to run free, it might work okay in the privacy of your home, but what happens once you release them into society? They will be incapable of functioning with others, to say the least.

What I don't see is a groundswell of parents jostling to join any of these movements which clearly are not a blueprint for successful society. And that gives me hope.


News Corp Australia

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