Excessive mollycoddling from parents risks creating a generation of weak children who are unable to stand up to bullies, a leading headmaster has warned. This is from the Telegraph…
Many families are failing to “bully-proof” their sons and daughters by constantly allowing them to be “centre-stage” instead of promoting independence, self-confidence and resilience, it was claimed.
Peter Tait, the head of Sherborne Preparatory School in Dorset, said that parents were often guilty of exacerbating the problem of bullying by attempting to “wage war” on children’s behalf to seek immediate redress for classroom spats.
He admitted that modern pupils used “insidious methods” to taunt their peers by text message and email.
Some children have an “infinite capacity to invent new methods of cruelty”, he said.
In recent years, schools have been encouraged to develop detailed structures to log incidents, hold perpetrators to account and create pastoral systems to deal with pupils’ personal needs.
But Mr Tait warned that schools could not provide a “perfect world where everyone is kind to each other and play and work together in harmony”.
In a provocative article published in Attain, the magazine for the Independent Association of Prep Schools, he said: “Sometimes, children who see themselves as ‘victims’ – a term I use warily – often need to help themselves to learn not to be weak or pliable in social situations as their behaviour, their attitude and their demeanour does nothing to help themselves.
“Often their vulnerability can be linked to poorly developed social or language skills and low self-esteem, to comments, body language and mannerisms that can be irritating or incomprehensible to other children; or to parents who are endlessly citing imagined slights or children who want to be included in another social group that won’t welcome them.”
According to Government figures, half of children say they have been bullied at school at some point in their lives. Almost four-in-10 have been affected by cyber-bullying, it was revealed.
Mr Tait said schools had a duty to teach greater tolerance but insisted that parents had to understand that “artificial inclusion is not the answer to a problem”.
He said too many parents were quick at “aligning themselves with their children, arguing their rights and ready to wage war to correct any slight, to seek redress for any grievance regardless of where the fault may lie”, even though this may enflame the issue.
“Temporarily we can correct a problem, but what happens when the fault is at home, in the attitudes the children have inherited, in the excessive cosseting that has taken place, in how much the child has been allowed to be centre-stage?” he said.
“Not unreasonably, parents can become anxious when their child is left out of a social group… [but]… sometimes we need to be patient and let children work things out for themselves.”
Mr Tait, former chairman of the education committee of the IAPS, which represents around 600 prep schools worldwide, said schools and parents needed to be better at “bully-proofing” children.
They should make boys and girls more independent by “building their self-confidence and giving them a measure of resilience to cope on their own”.