I feel like this is a weird place to start a blog post – I was originally going to name it, should children be punished? Now, I don’t mean the controversial arguments for slapping your child, I don’t mean the pros and cons of the time our step or the naughty corner – I don’t mean really the actual act of punishing, I mean should all children learn how it feels to be in the wrong at some point? Should all children learn how to make mistakes?
Let me start at the beginning.
I was a good child. No really, I was a pristine goody two shoes, so much so that the two times I tried to lie to my parents are now well told stories, and also, I absolutely suck at lying. I had one detention at school in my entire time there, and if I was given a rule, I would follow it. I didn’t know how to act badly. I thrived on praise, respect and being told that I was ‘mature.’ I thrived on getting things right first time. I was never really punished because I never had to be.
Where has this left me?
Absolutely incapable of making a mistake or breaking a rule. If I do something wrong, or think that I will get in trouble, I panic. I have an anxiety attack most of the time, and find I can’t breathe. I will then obsess over it for a long time until it’s resolved, and probably even after its resolved. If I am criticised in any way shape or form, my body and mind physically don’t know how to deal with it. And I don’t feel I am adequately prepared for life as an adult because of this. What kind of (almost) 25 year old woman can’t be told she’s made a mistake without internally breaking down? What kind of adult can’t even consider the risk of getting a car parking ticket, or the risk of being told you’re in the wrong?
This literally affects me on a day to day basis. Lying is a big deal to me, because I never did it. Being told off is a big deal, because I never was. And I feel like an idiot as I try to stop myself sobbing in public when someone tells me I forgot to send an important email, because I’m not a child. Also, it’s left me very vulnerable to big changes. Where I used to follow the rules to the absolute letter, I always followed a path that I knew exactly where it would go. As an adult, I feel ill-equipped as, lets face it, things very rarely go to plan, and things are much less black and white *right or wrong* than they are when you are a child. I remember breaking down at the end of the school day once because there was a mix up with the buses, and someone looking at me like I was crazy – it wasn’t exactly end of the world level, and I’m pretty sure it was resolved very quickly. Also, no teacher is going to just leave a child at school with no way of getting home, but to me it seemed absolutely cataclysmic. I didn’t know what was happening and I was terrified.
I was (I hope) not a spoiled child, but I was well looked after, and due to the choices I made by myself, I was very sheltered. I didn’t go out every evening to see friends, I didn’t start drinking young or start pushing boundaries or really learn much by myself, I stuck to the rules and the structure of everything I knew. I would say, that gives me a slight disadvantage now, just as certain situations – sometimes social – I just don’t know how to deal with. I never had any scary experiences as a child or a teenager, I was never grounded because I never did anything worth grounding (that’s a lie actually, once when I was 9 I called the police as a prank because my friend told me to). In all honesty, as an adult, I’m a bloody wimp. I’m terrified of new things, of changes, or of doing anything that is slightly dangerous (including standing on a skateboard or going on the really big roller coasters). Now I accept that part of this is just who I am, because my half sister at 10 is already much more of a brave daredevil than I can ever hope to be, but I wonder if I stunted some part of my emotional growth by sheltering myself so much.
So, should children be punished, almost encouraged to make mistakes and learn the consequences, so they know what that means? It seems cruel, encouraging your children to maybe not always walk the straight and narrow, but would it help them in later life if they understood why they were told off and put it behind them? It’s a hard line to toe, because you don’t want to normalise bad behaviour, but I wonder if I’d be slightly more balanced if I was just more accustomed to the feeling of making a mistake, or being corrected. It’s human nature to make mistakes, to fuck up, and it’s easy for me to say those words – less easy for me to know that they’re true, so sometimes I do wish I’d just made more mistakes when I was younger and they were easier to bounce back from.
What do you think?
What I’m wearing:
Top: New Look (similar)
Bag: Peacocks (similar here)
Shoes: Asda (similar here – real Converse instead of fake)