Boys and girls alone

February 3, 2009 at 1:30 pm 1 comment

There’s a programme on channel 4 at 9.00pm tonight called ‘Boys and girls alone’. It’s about ten boys and ten girls aged between eight and eleven who live on their own in two houses (one for boys and one for girls) for two weeks without adults.

I haven’t seen the programme yet (it’s a four part series) but I heard an interview with the commissioning editor, Dominique Walker and some of the parents and children who participated:

The programme is intended as an exploration of the issue that many parents face of achieving an appropriate balance between doing for your child, and letting them do for themselves. Do we tend to wrap up our children in cotton wool, do everything for them and then wonder why they struggle when released into the world in their own right?

As the Dominique Walker rightly pointed out children these days get very little time when their lives are not being dominated by adults. There is far less unsupervised, unstructured time than ten or twenty years ago when children played more on the streets and were free to wander farther away.

The result of this is that children take far less decisions for themselves than they used to even though they are capable of more than we allow.

By all accounts the experiences of the children in the programme were varied and at times harrowing. What was interesting to me, though, was comment of the mother of a boy of eight called Jason who took part.

Jason, it seems, did have something of a hard time during the two weeks but was also of the view that the whole experience had been worthwhile. The mother said that the lesson she had learned from the experience was that we don’t allow our children enough control, and we tend not to allow them to take responsibility for things.

As a result, since the experience, Jason has been allowed greater control and greater responsibility in many things. The result, she says, is that he takes a pride in discharging these responsibilities and feels a real sense of achievement as a result.

What this says to me is that, ironically, our attempts to protect our children actually dispossesses them and leaves them less prepared for the world.

And this extends to the world of education where our young people are given no real responsibility for their learning, this being undertaken by their elders.


Entry filed under: Childrens, Control, Education, Pupil voice, responsibility for learning, Young people.

Forget research, let’s look at the evidence Admissions balls

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Pete Burden  |  February 5, 2009 at 7:57 am

    I read this when our kids were very small: Your Competent Child –

    It’s excellent – the author, Jesper Juul, tries to dispel the myth of us having to serve our kids – even at a very early age, on the basis that it harms what psychologists call “belief in our own efficacy” or sometimes self-responsibility.


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Mick Landmann on education, digital technology, and the 21st century

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