This is a thing now?

Mums who let children aged just SEVEN walk alone to school:

Umm, when did it stop being a thing?

I know damn well I was doing it for perhaps a mile or so at 6 and 7 given that I left that school to never return at 8.

99 thoughts on “This is a thing now?”

  1. Tim, I found out about this recently and was as surprised as you are.

    Apparently kids expect their parents to be chauffeurs now. Apparently most parents think it’s child endangerment to expect the wee darlings to use Shanks’ mare.

    Course, you were never really “alone” when I was a boy. Just tagged along with the other kids going to school, then my younger siblings followed me.

    Only children were a rarity when I was at school, and we pitied/envied them. Now there’s a helluva lot more of them, and their parents wrap them in cotton wool.

  2. Bloke in North Dorset

    We were never taken to or collected from school. The only instruction was that the 4 or 5 of us who went to the school went and came home together. It was also about a mile.

    When we lived in Bucks one of our neighbours drove her child to school every morning, it was about 200yds and it probably cost her more time getting out on to a busy road and then finding parking then walking the precious darling.

  3. Local school catchment areas in cities are usually around a mile or two in diameter. The thought that a seven year old is incapable of walking this is insane. Usually stems from a fear of traffic; a large part of that traffic being made up of parents driving their kids less than a mile.

  4. About that age, I was getting a 1 1/2d bus ride to school, on my own. (Or spending the money on ha’penny chews & walking)
    Any one else remember trolly-buses?

  5. Here in sunny Holland, it’s perfectly normal for children of that age to walk (or indeed cycle) themselves to school.

    However, in fairness, it’s not common to come across a situation where they would need to negotiate a busy road – there is often an underpass for bikes under anything big.

  6. We started them walking at 8, and that was for the reason Steve said – it was when the kids started walking together around here (we also have busy roads around us, and that seemed reasonable). But we let our kids play out in the street from about 6 and I remember someone we knew looking at us in horror about that.

  7. Bloke in North Dorset

    “Any one else remember trolly-buses?”
    Yep, Bradford was full of them. Then the infrastructure was ripped in the name of progress. No doubt we’ll soon be hearing how green they were and paying a small fortune to get them reinstated.

  8. Was the “cry bully” outbreak at US universities precipitated by the trauma of having to find their own way to lectures?

  9. Don’t worry, the Mail are running a story tomorrow attacking local authorities prosecuting and harassing parents who let their kids walk to school.

    It’s all about the OUTRAGE! Which side doesn’t matter.

  10. My mate and I used to bike the mile or so to school when we were seven. However, my grandmother lived with us and she had a son (also named John which didn’t help) who at the age of 7 went off to school one day and never returned. He was later found face down in a river, must have fallen in and drowned on his way to school. God forbid did I ever not come straight home else she would be in a hysterical panic and I in a world of shit. Still, despite that family history my parents understood that you can’t just wrap your kids in cotton wool and expect them to be an independent adult one day.

  11. Just a thought: how much is helicopter parenting about women having children later? If you have a couple of kids at 19 and 21 and one of them dies in a car accident at 7, you’ve still got time to have another. If you start at 30, you probably don’t.

  12. I started school a few days before my fifth birthday and on the first day I was accompanied on the walk by my five-year-old sister. We went to school together but frequently came home on our own.

  13. Somebody on here (Steve?) recently put it well: until recently, the world was an adult world and kids had to learn to adapt to it. Nowadays, parents seem to want to reshape the world for children, and these children are now growing up and expect the world to be reshaped for them some more.

  14. I started school just before I was 5. Apparently, when my mum picked me up the first lunchtime I said I didn’t want her to take me any more & I would go on my own. And I did. It was about 1/2 mile away on suburban avenues. So little traffic in those days though (mid 50s).

  15. @TimN
    We see this with the internet, don’t we? That it has to be a safe play zone for tots & so everyone needs training wheels.
    When the simple answer’s “Keep you f****g kids away from computers. They ain’t toys.”

  16. I was driven to school till I was eight, simply because the school was in the next town. But I was also roaming the neighbourhood, going to the park, etc, by myself from age five or so, and no-one was bothered. Started walking to school at age eight, because we moved house and the new school was closer. Half the kids in the school walked past our house on the way in, so it was just a matter of joining the crowd. Even walked into school after we moved to South London when I was ten. And that was South London. It was fine. Was usually alone, because my brother’s a cunt, so I’d avoid him like the plague.

    It’s not all just mollycoddling, though. Things have changed. Traffic’s a hell of a lot busier, for a start. And yes, there are predators. People always trot out the statistics about how the number of child abduction cases hasn’t increased since 19whatever, but, considering that parents have got so much more protective, we should reasonably expect the figure to have dropped. For it to remain stable is in fact a bit worrying. Especially when you consider the massive drop in rape rates. Anyway, regardless of whether there are more abusers around than there used to be, you can’t deny that the Internet has made them a lot more organised, and of course has made it easier for them to monetise what they do. There was a couple trying to grab kids and get them into a van in our area a few years back, when I was walking Daughter One to school. Yes, I know there are always hysterical scare stories like that doing the rounds — my immediate reaction to any such story is that it’s probably a hoax — but this one turned out to be real. It happens. And the thing is, if your kid is one of hundreds walking to school, they have some herd protection, but, if every other parent is accompanying their offspring, sending yours in by themselves is problematic.

    Quite apart from all that, there’s the far more common and likely problem of other kids. I know a lot of commenters round here think bullying is a wonderful character-building part of growing up, but the truth is that bullies should be rounded up and euthanised.

    We’ll be taking our kids to school for a while yet. We walk them if the weather’s nice and there’s time. But then we run into the final problem: the difficulty of getting Daughter One out of bed and the house even remotely close to on time. We have to bloody drive her everywhere, because she’s always bloody late.

  17. @ GlenDorran
    Indeed. I live near a junior and an infant school. Around starting and finishing times the roads are heaving with parents cars – presumably parents scared to let their little darlings deal with “all that traffic”.
    There is a “lollipop man” on the junction at the top of the road.

    It’s very noticeable on my commute that when teh schools are on holiday, the morning traffic is a *lot* lighter.

    I don’t know when I first walked to/from school alone – I know it was 5 or younger. I know that because I recall that when we moved when I was 5, I was told that Dad would pick me up from school that because I wouldn’t know the way to the new house. I’d already been walking to/from school on my own for some time.

  18. I remember regularly walking to the local playground without parents at the age of 6, but looking back I’m pretty sure they were following from a safe distance.

  19. I also walked to school at 7.

    I wouldn’t let my kids do it at that age, because a) it’s a lot further and b) there’s the M25 in between. Not to mention that the mums on that school run are the craziest bunch of driving nutters I have ever seen. I saw one drive around the corner next to the school *on the pavement*.

    But then, I quite happily stuck son number one on a public bus to school when he was 11. If you don’t let them learn independence, they won’t. And that’s far more dangerous because at some point they’ll have it.

  20. Simon, Corvus Umbranox:

    Edinburgh are having a trial of closing school streets to traffic at the start and end of the day. This was in response to the terrible driving/parking of those on the school run: double parking, parking across crossings, doing u-turns without looking, reversing the wrong way up one-way streets.

    The trials have been underway for a month or so and so far the predicted traffic chaos hasn’t materialised. Kids are just being left to walk the last few hundred yards to school.

  21. “It’s very noticeable on my commute that when teh schools are on holiday, the morning traffic is a *lot* lighter.”

    Same here. During half term I’m half convinced I am mistakenly walking to the station on a Sunday morning.

  22. Tim,

    > until recently, the world was an adult world and kids had to learn to adapt to it. Nowadays, parents seem to want to reshape the world for children

    The world used to be an adult world in which adults recognised that they were supposed to behave differently around children, because they’re children. Too many of them no longer do. What parents try to do, in my experience, is to shape not the whole world but the way it is experienced by their children. Just as parents always have done. If you think they haven’t, I can only conclude you’ve never heard of Father Christmas.

    You can see this in action quite clearly on daytime TV. There’s always been a market for adult stuff during the day — students and the unemployed and shift workers — but broadcasters recognised that there was stuff you didn’t show at 3pm because there were kids watching. That is simply no longer a consideration. So we get endless re-runs of Friends, for instance, in which no-one has thought to remove the explicit reference to Joey’s sex life, or the cunniligus episode, or the one with Monica getting so worked up about explaining errogenous zones that she simulates an orgasm. Or we get an advert by some clueless department store that makes it pretty damn clear that Father Christmas doesn’t exist and is really just your parents, and no-one has thought that maybe they shouldn’t show that ad in the middle of kids’ programs.

    Or we get someone shoving my pram out of the way, with my baby daughter in it, because they’re in a hurry. Or we get the twenty-something arsehole sitting on a climbing frame who actully starts to pick a fight with my four-year-old daughter when she very politely asks him to excuse her, and I have to threaten him to get rid of him. Or the guy who was driving around Glasgow with an in-car DVD-player mounted on the window so that he can play hardcore porn to the public.

    Because most people now have the attitude that it’s an adult world and they will make no concessions to the presence of children because the children should bloody adapt to it. And then, when we parents try to insert a few filters between those arseholes and our children, those same arseholes publicly accuse us of being overprotective, as if we’re doing something wrong.

    I find it odd that we apparently now live in a world in which millions of childless adults demand the right both to bully other people’s children and to expose them to adult material and will even go so far as to accuse parents of being to blame for society’s ills if we try to shield our children from any of this, but apparently we do.

    Out of interest, am I supposed to have spent this weekend showing my kids pictures of the dead bodies in Paris, because it’s an adult world and kids have to learn to adapt to it?

  23. And yes, a lot of drivers on the school run are quite staggeringly awful. I don’t know what’s wrong with the stupid bastards.

    Daughter One’s last school had a car park. You drive in, go past the school entrance, and about fifty yards to the car park, where there’s always a space because the turnover’s so high in the mornings. Despite this incredible convenience, loads of the drivers would still insist on parking right outside the school entrance, on a corner, thoroughly snaring up the traffic in and out of the car park for everyone else. Utter morons.

  24. “I started school a few days before my fifth birthday and on the first day I was accompanied on the walk by my five-year-old sister. We went to school together but frequently came home on our own”

    The same for me, except that I was a bit younger and my sister was a year older.

    Three things have changed since then. First, there are a lot more cars on the road, including parents taking their children to school. Second, there are fewer children walking, reducing the herd protection. And third, parents are more protective.

    “Edinburgh are having a trial of closing school streets to traffic at the start and end of the day.”

    We could reverse the first two by doing this sort of thing. But I recall that banning stuff for the common good is often unpopular hereabouts.

  25. A lot of this is simply to do with both parents working, as well. There’s a big difference between sending your child off to school, knowing that they can turn round and come back and you’ll be there if there’s trouble, and sending your child off to school and then going to work and leaving the house empty and just assuming everything will be OK.

  26. As a child I was taught to approach an adult, preferably a woman, if I was in difficulty. Paranoia about strangers has removed that option.

  27. I can remember walking to primary school, even braving the foul-tempered swan that used to limp about the High St looking for food. Oh yes.

    My daughter’s primary school refused to allow the children to cycle to school on their own until they passed cycling proficiency test at ?7, ?8. So mites cycled to school with one parent cycling along behind.

    On thing did amuse me: once there was some fairly foul autumn weather, some families funked cycling and took to the car. There was a visible class divide: it was the proles who drove. Spoiled working class brats, eh?

  28. ” once there was some fairly foul autumn weather”

    I’m still amazed that people don’t realise children are waterproof. Do parents not buy jackets anymore? I can still remember the smell of wellies drying out outside the classroom.

  29. Because most people now have the attitude that it’s an adult world and they will make no concessions to the presence of children because the children should bloody adapt to it.

    I don’t know anyone who does that. But I recall the house I grew up in, with 4 children, had areas and periods that were for adults and areas and periods that were for children. When I go into houses with children these days, the kids have the run of the place 24/7. If kids are not taught about adult spaces at home, they will expect strangers to indulge them in the same manner their parents do at home when they step outside.

  30. The smell of wellies? I can recall half the class sitting in their underwear while clothes dried on hangers around a pot-bellied stove.

  31. I was driven to and from school until I moved from primary to secondary at which point I was pointed in the direction of the coach provided but after two terms of that I decided that cycling was more attractive whatever the weather.

    Lazy sod of a brother was driven to school right up until his GCSEs – although mum did draw the line at picking him up from the secondary one unless it was raining.

  32. You don’t have kids. If you ever do, you’ll notice.

    Okay, but if having kids is a requirement to notice this phenomenon, why do you think it is something new? Hasn’t this always been the case, but you didn’t see it in your childless days?

  33. > There were no oral sex jokes on daytime TV when I were a kid.

    Agreed about Friends – how is that possibly considered child-suitable viewing?

    When I were a kid we also had incredibly sexualised music videos during the daytime. Apparently music videos are exempt from BBFC ratings.

  34. “Edinburgh are having a trial of closing school streets to traffic at the start and end of the day.”

    We could reverse the first two by doing this sort of thing. But I recall that banning stuff for the common good is often unpopular hereabouts.

    I think the main objection is that it would be pointless – people will just park and drop off their kids at the borders of this exclusion zone instead, merely moving the problem.

  35. “k the main objection is that it would be pointless – people will just park and drop off their kids at the borders of this exclusion zone instead, merely moving the problem.”

    If they are parking round a wider circumference then the traffic isn’t as concentrated round the school. People may also choose a different way of getting their kids the mile or two to school.

    Fucking off the teachers is an added bonus.

  36. Andrew,

    > how is that possibly considered child-suitable viewing?

    It isn’t considered: that’s my point.

    > Apparently music videos are exempt from BBFC ratings.

    The music videos are worse, because they actually are considered. They’re made by people who have the market research reports showing them the age demographics of their fans, and they set out to foist porn on them. Cunts.

    But apparently that’s fine. It’s parents trying to filter the world to make it a bit more suitable for their kids that is the big problem. HOW DARE THEY?

  37. > If they are parking round a wider circumference then the traffic isn’t as concentrated round the school.

    Yup, and it’s also a matter of the type of road: a lot of schools are on narrow residential streets. Makes perfect sense to shift the busy drop-off point to a wider road with a layby or something.

  38. Question for you, SQ2. Why do you expect daytime TV to policed on your behalf? They’re your kids.
    I can understand the watershed thing when there were only, 3 or 4 channels. Kids & adults were sharing the same space. Why when there’s …how many channels? 150?
    It’d be very simple. Don’t give your kids the remote, to channel surf. Then they only get to see what you approve of.

  39. It’s not just TV of course. El Reg had a nice piece on internet filtering a few years ago:
    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/01/21/controlling_content/

    It’s not puritanical to want to control what one’s offspring see and hear – there are things on the internet with the power to scar an adult – and while no one wants to stop the exploration of natural curiosity, a six-year-old experiencing Sonic the Hedgehog rape fantasies is best avoided.

  40. I was driven to school most days – because my mother dropped us and my father off at school before going on, initially to uni and latterly to work.

    On the other hand, I got the bus back without any adult presence, but usually with plenty of other kids from school, most days from 6 and, from 8, I was in charge of my younger brother. Until he was considered old enough* to be in charge of himself.

    * About 27 in my mother’s eyes, iirc.

  41. These days I feel like I’ll be snooped on, informed on, and arrested if I lave my kids unsupervised outside (or in the car) for more than a few minutes.

    Even my wife is a helicopter parent, even though she says she’s not.

    I have to drive my kids to school because the youngest is too young to walk that far, but also there is this incredibly dangerous road to cross. When I was a schoolboy I used to cross this really dangerous double-laned dual carriagway that cars would speed along. But you did at least have a clear view for quite a distance. And there was an area in the middle you could stop on.

    But the crossing road near my kids school, the cars come over the top of a hill in one direction, blind, really close to the kids, and they’re always speeding really fast because they’re coming down a hill, or else they sweep around a blind corner in the other direction really fast, also close to the crossing. It’d be a death trap if it wasn’t for the lollipop man. (A car behind me recently got crunched in the back by the car behind it as we all came to a stop for the lollipop man.)

    So they won’t be crossing that road by themselves for a long time.

  42. BIS,

    > Why do you expect daytime TV to policed on your behalf? They’re your kids.

    Who said anything about policing it?

    What I said was that the world used to contain adults who recognised that there are things you don’t do in front of kids. I’m sure some staff working for broadcasters have been thinking for decades that they could show sex jokes and swearing to all the students and unemployed watching at midday, and then other staff in the organisations have said “No, because kids will be watching.” That latter opinion used to hold sway. These days, it doesn’t — and I personally doubt that it’s even raised. Because we now live in a world full of people who simply don’t even think of kids.

    > It’d be very simple. Don’t give your kids the remote, to channel surf.

    Genius! Then they can’t switch between Nickelodeon and The Disney Channel and Cartoonito.

    You’d already said that you don’t want children to learn how to use computers. Now it turns out you don’t even want them to learn how to use a TV remote. But I seem to remember you also frequently complain about how people are so fucking useless they deserve whatever shit an employer like you throws at them. So how does this work? You want them to grow up as useful and valuable employees, but without ever learning to do the bare basics of living in the modern world? Good plan.

    Anyway, see the bit where I said

    > You can see this in action quite clearly on daytime TV.

    ? Perhaps you had problems understanding such an insanely complicated sentence. What it meant was that daytime TV is a good place to observe the phenomenon. But it is not the only place to observe it.

    The front covers of horror DVDs, on display throughout supermarkets, next to the Disney stuff, are another good example. I have no desire to censor the films. But some of the front covers alone are enough to give small children nightmares, and they’re pretty-much unavoidable. Which remote control do I hide to stop my kids seeing that shit?

    As a friend of mine said recently, the modern world is like a bunch of fifteen-year-old boys shouting at each other.

  43. Also:

    > I can understand the watershed thing when there were only, 3 or 4 channels.

    I could understand the anti-watershed thing before there was easy recording and on-demand. But what exactly is the problem now?

  44. “Daughter One’s last school had a car park. You drive in, go past the school entrance, and about fifty yards to the car park, where there’s always a space because the turnover’s so high in the mornings. Despite this incredible convenience, loads of the drivers would still insist on parking right outside the school entrance, on a corner, thoroughly snaring up the traffic in and out of the car park for everyone else. Utter morons.”

    The same sort of thing happens at my kids’ school. People park as close to possible to the school on the road nearest to it, which is a narrow suburban cul-de-sac, blocking up the footpaths, peeing off the residents, and making things dangerous for the kids. I’ve seen quite a few kids nearly knocked over because of this, and it’s only a matter of time before it happens, but despite the pleass not to do it, they keep on doing it. (And we’re not talking disabled or inform parents, we’re talking perfectly able parents.)

    The British are all good and polite at queueing, and stuff like that. But they are lazy, selfish and immoral when it comes to school parking. (And at waiting for baggage collection at the luggage carousel at airports, but that’s another story.)

  45. “disabled or inform parents” should be “disabled or infirm parents”!

    I should also add that there are two car parks with plenty of parking (and three for after-school) nearby.

  46. “But they are lazy, selfish and immoral when it comes to school parking”

    A sizeable minority of people become absolute c***s when they get behind the wheel of a car.

    To bore on about Edinburgh yet again, the pedestrian crossings on Princes St and its side streets are so bad that people only get six seconds to cross, but can wait over five minutes to get the green man. On a weekend you can have a hundred people trying to get across in that time. I’ve seen people deliberately drive at people who haven’t made it across in those six seconds. The concept that it’s another human being they are trying to push out the way seems to have eluded them. From that point of view, I can understand why people won’t let their kids walk.

    As I said, c***s.

  47. @Sq2
    “Genius! Then they can’t switch between Nickelodeon and The Disney Channel and Cartoonito.”

    Don’t know about you, but I’ve a TV I can put a lock on any of the channels. Or all of therm.
    Sounds like you’re too bone f*****g idle to look after you’re own kids, to me.

  48. @ Squander Two
    I disagree with you about bullies: what they need is a bloody nose. 90+% didn’t come back for a second helping – largely because it is *really* bad for your street cred to lose a fight (or even fail to win one) against a smaller kid. Yes fighting back usually involves a certain amount of pain but far less than giving in and being attacked again.
    I spent a small in %age terms but significant in reality part of my pre-teen and early teen years dealing with bullies. It may be that I have defective pain nerves but that is not essential – there was a group of four of us (three a year older plus me) who got called out if thugs from the local comp were attacking our under-11s, one played the guitar and looked a lot like a scaled-down version of Hank Marvin, one was a diabetic who was brilliant at sport but slightly smaller than I, and Stewie who was captain of the 1st XI and only called out if things got desperate. [Stewie didn’t like to fight and when a lot of kids once urged me to challenge him (which I didn’t want to do because he’d never done anything to offend me), he just picked me up* and put me out the window]. Tackling bullies is a mental attitude, physique is secondary.
    *I can’t remember whether he needed both hands: I wasn’t one of the largest boys.

  49. @ Clarissa
    My big sister was cycling to school from a few months after the time she got her bike (i.e. when she competent to do so, until she left). This lazy young brother never got driven to school.

  50. @ GlenDorran
    I boringly trot out the comment that I have been knocked down twice as an adult – once on a zebra crossing and the other time on a road closed to traffic during a marathon. The same predictable make of car in each case. In the first case the driver paused to ask if I was injured, in the second he/she drove away before I could catch him/her.
    [Actually no longer true – several years later I was knocked down by an elderly cyclist who wasn’t aware that the cycle track merged with the footpath and came out of the underpass going too fast because he wanted his momentum to get him up the slope. I tried to jump out of the way which reduced impact and he was quite apologetic – I was more worried about him than me]

  51. Things must be pretty bad in the UK if this sort of thing makes the news. My Sunday morning treat since the twins turned 7 is that they get up before us and take the dog for a walk down to the bakery, coming back with a few croissants. Round trip is about 45 minutes all in all.

  52. S2 is as usual right on this stuff.

    Telly was always shit. Modern telly is shitter, and it is filthy and concerning to anyone, such as I, with two little princesses about whom to be concerned. Luckily, our new ISIS overlords will have the shit telly squared away in no time; not so sure I’ll be happy about the marriaging arrangements.

    Anyway. Parents were always a bit crap, but modern parents are crapper. Friend of mine is a nursery school teacher. She’s long moaned about kids turning up unable to read, whereas I (and I assume most of you lot) could read at two, certainly three, because my mum took the trouble to reach me.

    In recent years her moan has turned from ‘They can’t read’ to ‘They can’t fucking speak’. Kids brought up with phones and iPods etc who spend their early years playing Candy Crush with a grunting behemoth alternately slapping them or ramming sweets into their gobs depending on which stepdad is around and what mood he’s in. It’s the future, apparently. Ironman’s beloved Liverpool, writ large.

    That said, I spent the first thirteen years of my life in the countryside or the desert playing soldiers and sports and building dens and scrumping and fighting and knocking doors and running away and it was fucking brilliant. Also prepared me perfectly for my adult life. I don’t think you can do most of that stuff now without the police getting involved, so it’s not all about the parents.

  53. A small interjection: S2’s kids sound a similar age to mine, and I recognise the things he’s talking about. It’s not really about putting the effort in to protect kids: it’s about whether it is possible to reasonably limit what they see. The DVD covers is an example that rings particularly true. It’s just that you don’t realise how at odds the present standards of behaviour are until you try to navigate a day with two small inquisitive children*.

    As for TV: mine are limited to CBeebies plus stuff we’ve recorded earlier and the odd DVD. I find the adverts aimed at kids objectionable.

    * or indeed how poorly advised some of your language is: “What’s an utter cockface, daddy?”

  54. ” She’s long moaned about kids turning up unable to read, whereas I (and I assume most of you lot) could read at two, certainly three, because my mum took the trouble to reach me.”

    Yup. My mum took me to school on the first day and told the teacher I could read. Another girl’s mother did the same. The teacher politely said “that’s super” and assumed our they were just exaggerating. Took her a day before she realised we could, and the girl and I were put up to the next class to continue our reading. Even then, that class was still below our abilities.

    That’s not some boast about how smart I am; just that our parents took the time to teach us to read and didn’t wait until some government approved age (for which I’ll be forever grateful).

  55. I’m always impressed when people say they could read before starting school. I have no idea whether I could. My memories of that age are a few snapshots, of a swan, of clogs, of visiting greatgrandma. Only one shot of nursery school.

  56. @ GlenDorran
    What?!?!
    Swedish
    I once heard a road-runner (a bit better than myself, but not in competition for the elite squad) complain about “Volvo runners” who overtook and then cut in front of him and slowed down: in those days I was under 9 stone so I used to overtake people going up hills (and lose places going down) so I assured him that I never did that.

  57. @ GlenDorran
    Before my first day at school, my mother warned the infants’ class teacher that I could read, and had largely memorised, the book *upside down*. She (the teacher) didn’t believe it until I started but quickly cottoned on. Regrettably I didn’t get moved up because they didn’t do that in the early 50s [and they hadn’t moved up my little sister, who was brighter than I]. After we moved back to England I got jumped a form when little sister was.

  58. @ dearieme
    Do not worry – it’s a choice, usually that of pushy parents. My parents weren’t pushy but little sister said “this is interesting” or words to that effect. There is no reason to be impressed: I should be just as bright (or not, as many people would say) if I hadn’t learned to read before I was five.

  59. @john77

    Volvos? Really? I thought they were just slow & cautious doing 55 in the outside lane. Whereas Audi drivers get their driving license stamped with “c***” when they take delivery of the new car.

    My parents certainly weren’t pushy – I think it was that I used to sit on my dad’s knee when he read the newspaper and it went from there.

  60. My no.2 son picked up reading by just watching his older brother learn. We then took it in hand and taught him, though it was easy and he was natural (unlike 1,3 and 4). He could read quite well when he arrived at school just around his fourth birthday. School were not much impressed (though other parents were) and it meant that he missed out on learning to read with his peers.

    His parents were the main drivers of it and the main beneficiaries of it as it made us feel good that we had such a bright little boy.

    The school has no facilities to cope with ‘early readers’ and yet is a very well rated infant / junior school.

    In hindsight it didn’t do him much good and we should not have bothered.

  61. I’m not surprised infant school teachers don’t bother adjusting their classes to suit the alleged abilities of each child, as determined by the parents. Almost every parent I know is convinced their child is a genius, or at least “very good at X”.

  62. Given the standard of teaching these days and the number of kids leaving primary unable to read then I think parents are sensible to help out.

    “Almost every parent I know is convinced their child is a genius”

    I don’t have kids but my cat definitely is a genius….

  63. Given the standard of teaching these days and the number of kids leaving primary unable to read then I think parents are sensible to help out.

    Oh, for sure. The parents doing as much as they can will reap rewards far beyond hosing tens of thousands at private schools. But that still doesn’t alter the fact, at least as it appears to me, that every parent thinks their child is above average in some way or another. I’ve yet to meet the parent who says “he’s cute, but a bit on the dim side” about their kid.

  64. Tim N

    “I’ve yet to meet the parent who says “he’s cute, but a bit on the dim side” about their kid.”

    I have met many such parents: they are out there.

    It’s usually dressed up as “he’s more into sports”, or “he’s more into practical things” or the worst of all “he’s into computers” (as in, games)

  65. Interested,

    > Friend of mine is a nursery school teacher. She’s long moaned about kids turning up unable to read

    God, that must be awful for her, having to do her job.

  66. Tim,

    > I’ve yet to meet the parent who says “he’s cute, but a bit on the dim side” about their kid.

    Daughter One is pretty intelligent but can’t concentrate and won’t be much use at exams. She has an insane stubborn streak and temper which are serious obstacles to her education. She’s finally getting into reading now, a bit late, but she has trouble with maths (she was seriously set back by a couple of fucking awful teachers, bad enough that we had to move her to a different school). On the other hand, her drawing abilities are simply incredible and her vocabulary is a couple of years ahead of her peers.

    Daughter Two is probably somewhere on the autism spectrum, and is about a year behind her peers. She has to work hard at her fine motor skills, which has a knock-on effect on everything else: learning to write is harder if holding a pen is harder. She has trouble imagining and organising things, but has an incredible visual memory and an apparent natural affinity with numbers and mathematics.

    Kids are different. They have strengths and weaknesses. All you’ve run into is the astounding fact that parents tend to talk about their kids’ strengths more than their weaknesses. Which, considering that children respond better to positive than to negative reinforcement, simply shows that they’re good parents.

  67. All you’ve run into is the astounding fact that parents tend to talk about their kids’ strengths more than their weaknesses.

    No, I’ve found parents exaggerate their strengths. Case in point:

    On the other hand, her drawing abilities are simply incredible and her vocabulary is a couple of years ahead of her peers.

    I bet I could find at least five other parents from the same class who would claim their kid’s vocabulary is “ahead of their peers”. Which means, they’re just somewhere near the top of the class.

    Which, considering that children respond better to positive than to negative reinforcement, simply shows that they’re good parents.

    Heh. Yes, overestimating the brilliance of their children is good parenting. Oh boy.

  68. TimN

    “Heh. Yes, overestimating the brilliance of their children is good parenting. Oh boy”

    There’ll always be the “all his geese are swans” scenario, but talking up the good points, with child in earshot, reinforces the right types of attitude towards achieving. So yeah, good parenting.

  69. There’ll always be the “all his geese are swans” scenario, but talking up the good points, with child in earshot, reinforces the right types of attitude towards achieving.

    We seem to have gone from “bragging at the genius of their children to anyone who listens” to “encouraging children within earshot”.

    And no, telling a child he is “incredible” at something when he is, in all likelihood barring a Mozart-like prodigy, merely pretty good is unlikely to constitute good parenting.

  70. TimN

    “We seem to have gone from “bragging at the genius of their children”

    But then you see, if the child is not within earshot then there’s no actual parenting going on, just adults playing the ‘I’m better than most” game – using progeny as projection.

  71. ‘God, that must be awful for her, having to do her job.’

    I’m beginning to see how Squanderworld words. You can write an entire book about having to hang around for your lunch, but a teacher can’t bemoan the fact that more kids are turning up to her school unable to read than used to*? In fact, no-one can complain about any aspect of their jobs – except you!

    Right, got you.

    *Actually, she’s now moaning, as I said, about them being unable to speak. The idle bitch! Burn her!

  72. But then you see, if the child is not within earshot then there’s no actual parenting going on, just adults playing the ‘I’m better than most” game – using progeny as projection.

    Indeed, and that’s what I was complaining about originally. Although I do think a lot of them genuinely believe it.

  73. My kids are so obviously bright that most of the time I don’t need to boast, I just let the other parents gush about my kids for me!

  74. Tim,

    > No, I’ve found parents exaggerate their strengths. Case in point

    Wow. I actually bother to write some of details of my children’s failings and weaknesses, and apparently I’m still lying through my teeth about how amazingly brilliant they are.

    I note that the amount of experience you have of my children is precisely zero, and yet apparently you’re an expert on them. You’ve seen none of Daughter One’s drawings, but you still know how shite they are. You’ve never heard her talk, but you know how crap her vocabulary is. You’ve never met any of the parents of any of her classmates, but you know all about them too. Frankly, I have no idea why you’re working in the oil industry when you could make millions publicly outfoxing Derren Brown.

    Why don’t you just write “ALL KIDS ARE SHIT AND ALL PARENTS ARE MORONS” every time children are discussed? Would save you some time.

  75. Interested,

    > I’m beginning to see how Squanderworld words. You can write an entire book about having to hang around for your lunch, but a teacher can’t bemoan the fact that more kids are turning up to her school unable to read than used to*? In fact, no-one can complain about any aspect of their jobs – except you!

    What on Earth are you gibbering about now? Part of the job description of a primary or nursery teacher is teaching kids to read. It’s what they do. It is very much the point of their jobs. I’m sure it’s really nice for them if sometimes their job is done for them by some kids’ parents, but there’s a big difference between appreciating that and complaining when their job is not done for them.

    Anyway, you should just introduce your friend to Tim. He’d be able to explain to her that of course those kids could never actually read before they went to nursery school; it was just their stupid parents lying about their abilities.

  76. Oh, and…

    > Actually, she’s now moaning, as I said, about them being unable to speak. The idle bitch! Burn her!

    Absolutely, yes. Daughter Two can’t speak properly (oh, there I go, boasting again!). Her teachers have never complained about it, because they take their jobs seriously. They have liaised with her parents and with therapists and work at helping her. They, unlike your friend, appear to understand what their job is.

    The reason we took Daughter One out of her shite school (shite, but with a wonderful reputation, of course) was that it contained far too many teachers like your friend, who would have regarded Daughter Two’s speech problems as something to complain about rather than to help with.

  77. Wow. I actually bother to write some of details of my children’s failings and weaknesses, and apparently I’m still lying through my teeth about how amazingly brilliant they are.

    No, what you did was write about your daughter’s failings in order to imply that you were being objective and not exaggerating her strengths.

    I note that the amount of experience you have of my children is precisely zero, and yet apparently you’re an expert on them.

    No, far from it. I am just gently pointing out that you, as her parent, are probably the last person who could objectively comment on her talents.

  78. He’d be able to explain to her that of course those kids could never actually read before they went to nursery school; it was just their stupid parents lying about their abilities.

    I’ll bet you a tenner that half the parents turn up telling her that their little darling is an “incredible” reader, and the truth turns out to be very, very different.

  79. > I’ll bet you a tenner that half the parents turn up telling her that their little darling is an “incredible” reader, and the truth turns out to be very, very different.

    In which case, what is she complaining about? There’s been no change.

    I reckon she’s a better observer of the kids in her class and their abilities than you are.

  80. > I am just gently pointing out …

    No, there’s nothing gentle about it. Every single time the subject of children or parenting comes up round here, you start going on and on and on about how fucking stupid and selfish and awful all parents are and how fucking awful and stupid all their kids are. In case anyone might think you’re only talking in very general terms, if anyone mentions their own kids, you start telling them how stupid they personally are and how pathetic their own kids are. Don’t know what your problem is, but frankly it’s psychotic. You claim to have friends with children. Since you’re so fond of telling us all with utter certainty what you just know people you’ve never met are really saying and thinking, allow me: I’m pretty sure I know what those friends say about you behind your back.

    You know as much about parenting as I do about the oil industry, but are convinced you’re a leading expert.

  81. In case anyone might think you’re only talking in very general terms, if anyone mentions their own kids, you start telling them how stupid they personally are and how pathetic their own kids are.

    Heh! I mention in general terms that I find parents exaggerate the abilities of their children, and you counter this by telling us how great your own children are? What did you expect, exactly?

  82. @ GlenDorran
    I don’t say #1 son is a genius, just that he is a lot better at maths than me (which is actually true) …

  83. @ Tim Newman
    “No, far from it. I am just gently pointing out that you, as her parent, are probably the last person who could objectively comment on her talents.”
    Complete and utter hogwash. I could say that I am fully aware of my children’s weaknesses as well as their strengths, which you would probably pooh-pooh, but since my parents not only recognised my weaknesses as well as my talents and put considerable effort into trying to correct the former as well as encourage the latter, I know that you are just plain wrong. Without knowing S2 personally I casnnot comment on how objective his assessments are but he is almost certainly in an excellent position to make an objective assessment of his daughters’ talents.

  84. Definitely Volvos for dangerous driving.

    Years ago I used to walk to work in London; couple of miles twice a day, you get pretty good at predicting how other road users will behave. When I was crossing side roads there were three groups who would turn off the main road into the side road, nearly running me over, without indicating or looking:
    – black cabs;
    – cyclists;
    – women in Volvos.

    Dangerous the lot of them.

  85. Interested said:
    “I (and I assume most of you lot) could read at two, certainly three, because my mum took the trouble to teach me.”

    Seemed to depend very much on area.

    I could read before I went to school, but I was the only child in the school who could and so I spent the next three years being bored. That was Manchester.

    Wife, in comfortable out of London commuter town, couldn’t read before she went to school (her father was a statist who thought it should be left to the proper authorities to teach her), but she was the only one in her school who couldn’t (other than a few who could only drool in the corner). She spent the next three years trying to catch up.

    Same age more or less, but different parts of the country; very different experiences.

  86. I’m always impressed when people say they could read before starting school. I have no idea whether I could.

    I mostly remember it because I was suprised so many of the other kids couldn’t. I wasted at least the first couple of years of my life at school being ‘taught’ things I already knew.

    Back on the walking front, I remember being allowed to walk to school well before I was seven. Of course, our school sent us on a near twenty-mile hike with just a map and compass when we were eleven… they’d probably be reported for ‘child abuse’ for doing that today.

  87. I could say that I am fully aware of my children’s weaknesses as well as their strengths, which you would probably pooh-pooh,

    That depends. If you said your child was “incredible” at something, or was “a couple of years ahead of his/her peers” then yes, I would put it down to parental exaggeration. I’m not saying parents cannot determine their child’s strengths and weaknesses, I am saying parents tend to exaggerate their child’s abilities. Are you saying this is not the case?

  88. @ Tim Newman
    “I am saying parents tend to exaggerate their child’s abilities.”
    That was *not*what you were saying.
    if it had been, I should not have taken issue with you.
    Almost anyone who talks about “peers” does not understand the meaning of the word – if you are two years ahead, they are not your peers, because they are not equal. The correct phrase is “studying at a level of children two years older”, which is not all that uncommon – I was at school with a boy who took ‘O’ levels, passing all nine, including Greek, at 13. and several of us got ‘A’ level maths at 16.
    .

  89. Lived in an empty resort off-season when I was a kid. A very creepy place full of empty homes … if you’re a 21st century worrier.

    Admittedly I had just turned 9 (I actually know the exact date), but I took 2 dogs for a walk that lasted 2.5 hours. I was a big kid, and never a stroller or a stopper, so I figure I did about 6 miles that day.

    My parents were only mildly worried when I got home. Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be?

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