I went to a conference yesterday. Always interesting.
In a hall of more than one hundred social workers, youth offending workers, people that work in pupils referral units, people that work with looked-after children, school nurses and many others from the caring professions working mostly with vulnerable children and young people, somebody piped up in the afternoon and said something to this effect:
"If you give these attention seeking children attention, won't you encourage the attention seeking behaviour we are trying to prevent?"
I call these people navelgazellites; people that see the efforts in improving children and young people’s emotional health and wellbeing as over-indulgent. They are a dying breed but they still pop up now and again. They are ‘old school’ and haven’t quite moved with the times. They still believe in a slight breaking of the spirit to keep these kids in check – especially the really vulnerable ones, because they tend to be more bother.
I met a Headteacher recently that was a navelgazellite. In a room full of teachers and headteachers. She regularly piped up with comments like,
“kids just need to toughen up.”
“Isn’t all this just ridiculous navel gazing?”
“All this self esteem stuff is wasted effort if you ask me.”
“If a kid is bullied on their way home from school, why should that be something I have to concern myself with?”
Fortunately, she was in a minority and I loved it when another headteacher said in response to the fourth comment of hers that I listed here,
‘well you either care about the kids or you don’t. A child from our school was being bullied on the way home and we got the local PCSO to look out for him. We felt that his safety was very important”
There has been much work in enhancing the understanding about what gives kids resilience. And this is my spouting off about it today……..
First of all, we are all wired up differently. Have I said that before perhaps? I remember at a CAMHS (child and adolescent mental health) conference hearing a speaker talk about the ‘approximately third’ of kids that come from horrendous childhood experiences that still manage to turn out OK. He put it down to their basic wiring. The nature part of them had meant these ultra-nasty experiences had not damaged them as much as they would have another child with different wiring. That makes sense to me.
Secondly, just because a lot of us put up with adults with poor emotional literacy, that were allowed to hit us, that didn’t listen to us, regularly criticised us, sometimes humiliated us, did not see bullying as a problem, rarely praised us and we survived, does not automatically make it the optimum experience or correct way to school children! Perhaps some people have not acknowledged (or accepted?) the steady improvements (with respect to how we treat each other in education) that have been made in recent decades.
Thirdly. How do we develop resilience? I am pretty sure an individual is more resilient if their life is built upon a childhood in which he or she was treated with care and respect. A childhood that ‘damages’ someone leaves them with an awful lot to work out of their system, poor role modelling to follow and a disadvantaged start surely?
I know which end of this particular spectrum I am on but the way we treat our children is surely an indication of the ‘state’ of a nation’s emotional health and wellbeing?
A flavour of direction......