It's the parents that I worry about

Stephen Jones

Don't you sometimes worry about the next generation? What they are going to be like, I mean. I'm not referring to the ones in college. It's their children - still hardly out of their buggies - I'm talking about.

If you teach adults, you tend to come into contact with plenty of mums (a few dads too). And what they all seem to have in common is huge anxiety about their offspring.

Are any of these normal, happy, settled children at ease with their peers and successful in their schoolwork? Not a bit of it. From the tales their mothers tell, they seem to live lives of unrelenting misery.

For a start, there's clearly an epidemic of autism out there. This may or may not be linked to the fact that most modern children are allergic to almost everything.

A mother working on a project about food allergies showed me a list of what her own youngster was apparently sensitive to. It covered pretty much every item I buy on my weekly supermarket run, except perhaps the gin. Give him time, I thought.

Sadly, none of the kids' teachers seems to be up to much either. Certainly, they can't do anything to stop my students' children being harassed and bullied by others.

With all this going on, it's no surprise the mums feel they have to be in constant communication with their little ones or their carers. You explain to them at the start of their courses that all mobile phones must be switched off in the classroom. "But what if there's an emergency?" they cry as one.

I think of telling them that when my mother dropped me at the primary school gates, she went home to a house with no telephone. In the face of such neglect, how I made it through to adulthood I'll never know.

I don't actually mention any of this, of course, because it won't make any difference. They'll still pretend to turn off the phone, put it on silent, then make a run for the door pretending they need the loo as soon as it starts to vibrate.

Strangely though, on the odd occasion when I get to meet these troubled tots, they seem perfectly normal. Indeed, some of them are quite delightful. So perhaps it's the parents we should be worrying about after all.

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Stephen Jones

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