Why must parents bang on about their rights?

11th July 2008 at 01:00
Teach Mum and Dad respect and responsibility and little Tommy or Tamara will be no trouble

Teach Mum and Dad respect and responsibility and little Tommy or Tamara will be no trouble

If there's one group of people that gets my hackles up, it is those who shout about their rights, or worse, their children's rights.

I've yet to meet the person who can shout about their rights - and know their responsibilities and respect other people's rights.

I recall a conversation with a pupil who banged his fist on the table and said: "No one has any right to hit me. If anyone lays a finger on me, my parents will sue them."

"That's right," I replied, "and you have no right to hit anyone else."

"If anyone annoys me, I hit them," he countered. "Fine, we'll do it your way. If you annoy others, they can hit you if you can hit them when they annoy you."

"No. My mum says no one has any right to hit me."

Needless to say I am referring to the most violent child I have met, and several years later, I easily resisted the temptation to pity him on being told that he had spent some time at Her Majesty's Pleasure.

Adults can be just as irritating. Last time I heard someone shouting about their rights, I replied: "You know your rights. Do you know your responsibilities?" The silence was deafening.

If parents pontificate about their children's rights, just say to them: "You've taught them their rights. Have you taught them their responsibilities?" Don't let them put you down by saying that children can't take responsibilities.

Pitch in with: "Of course they can. It is a child's responsibility to be kind to other children because they want others to treat them kindly.

"They must treat adults with respect, because they won't want children to be cheeky to them when they are grown-up. They have a responsibility to work hard at school because they are lucky to have a good education. If you get all that into your child's head by the age of five, they will give you no trouble."

It might not change their minds, but it will make you feel better.

Hazel Bennett is a primary teacher in Middlesex.

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