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Discussion Club Intermediate: Childhood is not the happiest time

Childhood is certainly not the happiest time of your life

394---Jan-11---17,-2009---useless-questionParents are too permissive with their children nowadays. Few people would defend the Victorian attitude to the children. But if you were a parent in those days, at least, you knew where you stood. The child’s happiness is all important, - the psychologists say. But what about the parents’ happiness? Parents suffer constantly from fear and guilt while their children gaily romp about pulling the place apart. A good old-fashioned spanking is out of the question. No modern child rearing manual would permit such barbarity. The trouble is you are not even allowed to shout. Who knows what deep psychological wound you might inflict. The poor child may never recover from the dreadful dramatic experience. The parents try not to give their children complexes.
Certainly a child needs love and lots of it, but the excessive permissiveness is surely doing more harm than good.
Psychologists have succeeded in undermining parents’ confidence in their own authority. In addition to the great modern classics on child care there are countless articles in magazines and newspapers. With so much unsolicited advice flying about Mum and Dad just don’t know what to do any more. In the end they do nothing at all. So, from early childhood, the kids are in charge and parents’ lives are regulated according to the needs of their offspring. When the little dears develop into teenagers, they take complete control. Lax authority over the years makes adolescent rebellion against parents all the more violent. If the young people are going to have a party, for instance, parents are asked to leave the house. Their presence nearly spoils the fun. What else can the poor parents do but obey?
Children are hardy creatures and most of them survive the harmful influence of extreme permissiveness, which is the normal condition in the modern household. The spread of juvenile delinquency in our own age is largely due to parental laxity. The dividing line between permissiveness and sheer negligence is very fine indeed (little Johnny, roaming in the streets; mother doesn’t care where he is).
Perhaps, it’s truth that children who’ve had a surfeit of happiness in their childhood emerge like stodgy puddings and fail to make a success of life.

Notes on the text:
barbarity [bɑːˈbærɪtɪ] – cruelty of the worst kind
Victorian [vɪkˈtɔːrɪən] attitude – like the behavior, moral standards, etc., of middleclass society in the time of Queen Victoria, esp. being or pretending to be very respectable, religious, pure, etc.
unsolicited – uninvited, unwanted
juvenile delinquency [dɪˈlɪŋkwənsɪ] – illegal or immoral behavior by young people
laxity – negligence
a surfeit [ˈsɜːfɪt] of happiness – an amount of happiness that is too large or that is more than you need.
stodgy food – heavy, makes you feel full very quickly.

I.  Scan the text.

II. Answer the questions:
1)   What does the author call ‘barbarity’?
2)   Why are parents puzzled at choosing the methods of upbringing nowadays?
3)   Why is it not allowed even to shout at your offspring when they get on your nerves?
4)   Why do parents become so obedient when their offspring develop into teenagers?
5)   What is the main butt of the author’s irony?

III.   Give your observations as to:
1)   the subject of the article and the ideas expressed;
2)   the author’s approach to the problem of the present-day upbringing;
3)   the means by which ironic effect is achieved.
IV. Consult the text, explain the meaning and give the Russian for:
1)   you know where you stand
2)   to gayly romp about pulling the place apart
3)   to inflict deep psychological wound
4)   to give children complexes
5)   with so much unsolicited advice flying about
6)   adolescent rebellion against parents
7)   dividing line
V.  Challenge or support the following:
1)   A good old-fashioned spanking is out of the question nowadays.
2)   The excessive permissiveness is doing more harm than good.
3)   It’s the kids who are in charge.
4)   The spread of juvenile delinquency is largely due to parental laxity.

Account for the use of simile.
“like stodgy puddings”.
VII. Discuss the article:
1)   one group defends the Victorian attitude to the children;
2)   one group advocates modern ways of upbringing.
VIII.   Speak on the ways of upbringing in your family.

Recommended vocabulary list:

words: barbarity, to undermine, unsolicited, offspring, rebellion;
word combinations: to inflict psychological wound, to give children complexes, the spread of juvenile delinquency, the dividing line between permissiveness and sheer negligence is very fine, to have a surfeit of happiness.