Children Learn What They Live

Dorothy Law Nolte wrote a classic poem on child-rearing ‘children learn what they live’ in the 1950s that was distributed to millions of families by a different form of social media for those days, advertising for a baby formula!

In the 1970s Nolte copyrighted her famous words and they live on today in a range of posters, cards, bookmarks  and also expanded into a wonderful little book, co-authored with Rachel Harris, that should be given to every new parent.

Nolte’s wise words came to mind when I read the newspaper front page the other day reporting that free- to- air TV stations now want to screen adults-only shows 24/7, and end the current ban on adult-only programming until children’s bedtimes at 8.30pm.

The TV industry argument was rational, but sad. They claim the ban is now irrelevant because parents have access to DVDs, parental locks, and can simply focus the kids’ eyes on the two dedicated children’s programming channels provided by the ABC.

I agree with Australian Council on Children and the Media chief executive, Barbara Biggins blasting this proposal as ‘outrageous’. As she points out, not all children grow up in families where parents are vigilantly watching over what their kids are seeing on tv.

And where is our society’s preoccupation with sex, violence and violent sex coming from, anyway?

Yesterday, on World Suicide Prevention Day, I found myself watching one of the formula forensic medicine crime programmes that was all about a doctor being forced to operate and remove people’s spleens and replace them with a bomb, so that an ex-soldier could be a suicide bomber on a plane as payback for all his countrymen who did not give a damn about his now broken life, and the sacrifice he and his fellow soldiers had made in Iraq. The doctor’s daughter was a diabetic being withheld her medication to force the doctor to comply as a subplot and the broken people behind this plot had decided to let her die, too, because after killing the first person, the second one becomes easier.

I  began to ask myself  why was I watching this stuff… was it really enjoyable entertainment? On one level it raises an awareness of the pain and suffering that leads to mental derangement, it resolves an horrific circumstance with a happy ending and presumably there is the emotional creativity of the actors to appreciate… but does life have to be that gory and graphic for this message and artistic engagement?

Contrast this with that wonderful programme Compass on the ABC, which recently featured a story about people’s resilience when bad things happen to them. The story traced the personal journeys of two quite different people… a woman who had been severely burned in a bushfire in the 1970s , and a young man who has recently broken his neck in an accident. The stories of how these two people fought the personal horror of what had happened and tapped into an inner strength were remarkable and inspiring in equal measure.

We have a lot of depressed, angry, violent and unhappy souls in our society if the tv, newspaper, and social media are any indication.

Closer to home, I was dumbfounded to see ‘twitters’ last week from a Local Government councillor in my community commenting that:

1960’s copper wires do not provide enough speed to make porn interesting. I need NBN.

And also,

 ‘Real Solutions’ can be achieved by electing a Liberal Government or masturbating. I suspect some promises are the latter.

 

This man is often mentioning the school children he counsels as part of his employment, so I question his maturity in thinking that writing on social media about downloading porn and masturbating is at all humorous, or being a good role model to young people, or reflective of his community position as an elected Local Government councillor.

Children do learn what they live, and the onus is on our adult society to set the values for the kinds of adults we want them to grow up to be.

It’s also never too late to have a happy childhood… and set some new examples for ourselves to follow.

Tomorrow is RU OK? Day — a reminder to regularly ask ‘are you ok?’ of family and friends who might be going through a tough time.

Bad things are always going to happen to good people, no one escapes, but if we instill the right values in our children they’ll have a better chance of having that confidence, courage and resilience they’ll need to weather life’s storms, without becoming angry, violent, jealous, or spiteful.

If anything, I think we should be putting more family-friendly programming on our free-to-air TV.

Jan Smith

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