One thing I often notice about British expats to the US is the sort of ’shock’ at how US parents are involved in the lives of their children. Of course they love to ridicule the ‘helicopter parent’ (as do Americans) but once that formality is out of the way there is a second realization that comes as quite a punch. When they realize that their neighbor in the nicer house with the better job is actually taking three hours to help with the local school’s academic calendar, or a social function, or an extracurricular activity (instead of say going to the pub with their mates) they have a sort of ‘are we doing something wrong’ moment?
Of course with any expat there is the question of is this ‘better or worse’ which in reality usually equals just ‘different’ but today I read an article (inflammatory though it is) that points out some of the ‘differences’ with being a child in the UK and other countries. Suffice it to say the article is not at all pleased with either British parents basically leaving their kids ‘in the garden to grow on their own’ nor the social welfare state that has accepted nearly anything a UK parent can dish out without regard to the long-term impact on the children.
One interesting statistic and observation in an article full of them was this on ‘in the home’ in the UK:
Eighty percent of British children have televisions in their bedrooms, more than have their biological fathers at home. Fifty-eight percent of British children eat their evening meal in front of the television (a British child spends more than five hours per day watching a screen); 36 percent never eat any meals together with other family members; and 34 percent of households do not even own dining tables. In the prison where I once worked, I discovered that many inmates had never eaten at a table together with someone else.
Let me speculate briefly on the implications of these startling facts. They mean that children never learn, from a sense of social obligation, to eat when not hungry, or not to eat when they are. Appetite is all they need consult in deciding whether to eat—a purely egotistical outlook. Hence anything that interferes with the satisfaction of appetite will seem oppressive. They do not learn such elementary social practices as sharing or letting others go first. Since mealtimes are usually when families get to converse, the children do not learn the art of conversation, either; listening to what others say becomes a challenge.
Unfortunately, statistics in the US are still pretty poor for many a thing, from pregnancy to teen alcoholics so it’s not simply a matter of saying do this and all will be better. Materialism here is as great if not greater than back in the UK.
Anyway, worth a read.
UPDATE: Or you can just get the user’s guide to being a Chav now out on Amazon.