Sunday, January 28, 2007

We Are Letting Our Children Become Addicts

The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.
- Harriet Beecher Stowe, abolitionist and novelist (1811-1896)

Why do we do that? Why do we wait until after a person has died to feel the urge to tell them how fond we were of them? Why do we wait to do many things until it's too late?

It dates to the Victorian era, the period of the 60 year reign of Queen Victoria, of the UK. She and any of the nobility that influenced her are directly responsible for some of the backwards and destructive kinds of behaviours we have today in western society.

For example, we believe that children should not learn about sex until they are adult or about to be married. Then we have 15 year olds getting pregnant and blame the parents for adhering to the norms of society, which are to keep their kids ignorant of the facts.

We seem to believe that no one should be told about drugs or other addictive practices for fear that knowledge will corrupt and those who know will become addicts. Then we have preteens using drugs and even selling them to pay for their habit.

Victoria and her clan taught us that childhood is a time of innocence, that there is lots of time in adulthood to learn about the darker sides of life. In isolation, that seems reasonable. But childhood is intended to be the period where children learn everything they need to know about the world of adults. It's why human childhood is so much longer than the childhoods of most other animals.

We fail our children when we don't teach them the gritty side of life. Whether we teach them or not, they will learn about it.

The trouble with that is that when they learn this stuff from their peers or other sources than their parents, they usually get the message wrong. If you doubt this, think about how much you knew about sex (including the usual period of female fertility) and the consequences of pregnancy when you first began to "make out." Most people knew almost nothing, though they were engaging in an activity that we would all agree eventually leads to copulation.

Childhood is not a time of innocence, but of ignorance. The longer we keep children ignorant, the greater the risks we take with their lives and their ability to cope with the realities of the adult world.

Timing of the teaching of life skills and knowledge is important, of course. But how do you know what the right timing is? It is critical (in the extreme) that children know what they need to know before that knowledge is needed. Before, not after kids have problems, as it is today.

Since primary school kids are being introduced to drugs on their way to school or in the school environs, the time to tell children about drugs is when they first go to school. The time to teach them about alcohol is not long after that. Grade school kids in many areas are exposed to offers of alcohol away from their homes.
A responsible parent has learned when kids are first introduced to the activities we would rather them not participate in and teaches what his children need to know before that age. But how many young adults know enough themselves to manage that responsibility?

In fact, what most young parents hear from many sources causes them to believe that their kids are better off kept "innocent" until they are old enough to be addicts or to have destroyed their lives in other ways, such as being parents at age 15.

"Innocence" equals ignorance. Learn it. Make use of it.

We need fewer people in prison and on Prozac, not more.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to bring the truth to those who don't recognize it.
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1 comment:

Jade-Opal-Gem said...

hi! Bill still tunin'g in..