Children or dogs?

July 23, 2013

How often do you hear parents threatening to go without their children in an attempt to get them to come with them? I’m sure I hear it every day. “Bye then, I’m going”. Yeah, right.

So the other day, when I was walking along the street and heard someone call out “Come on. I’m going then. Come on….”, I assumed it was someone talking to a child. The next moment I saw a dog run in front of me and jump into the back of a car. I looked round to realise I’d actually overheard someone calling to their dog.

My mistake. But a mistake easily made I think in a society that still allows the smacking of children, talks about ‘training’ babies, dishes out rewards for “good behaviour” like doggy treats, and expects children to sit still and be quiet in impossible situations.

dogWe often see signs in public places saying things like, “Please keep dogs under control”. The other day I saw one saying, “Please keep children under control”. Whether or not it was necessary in this particular place for children’s activities to be restricted is not the point here. The choice of words conveys a certain attitude I think. How about, “Children must be kept on a lead” or better still, “No children allowed”?

The government’s proposed new Anti –Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill seems to go with this idea that children are merely a nuisance. Replacing the ASBO with an Injunction to Prevent Nuisance and Annoyance (IPNA), children can now be served with this injunction if they are deemed to be behaving in a way that can cause “nuisance and annoyance”. A rather wide definition of anti-social behaviour don’t you think? Can I serve my child with this injunction when he wakes me up in the night? Has a melt down? Leaves things all over the floor?

Ok, I’m being silly now, but this bill raises some real concerns. The Children’s Society and the Standing Committee for Youth Justice, along with 24 charities wrote a joint letter to the Times expressing their concern that these measures will “serve as another barrier stopping children playing outdoors with their friends in the street, the park or other public spaces, further jeopardising the physical and mental health of children”. They point out that the Association of Police Officers “has suggested that the new threshold is too subjective and could unnecessarily criminalise children for simply being children”.

Children can be noisy, they tend to want to run about a lot, they like climbing on things and, well, their agenda just isn’t the same as that of adults. Frankly, it’s time we just got over it and accepted that curtailing, and even punishing, their natural behaviour, really isn’t good for their long-term health and well-being. Children are not dogs, they are human beings, they are part of our society, they have needs, and they deserve a little more consideration and respect.