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When it comes to society and childhood, there are many different views and perspectives on what exactly childhood is. For example, from Phillipe Aries perspective he believed that children didn’t have a childhood. That from the minute they could walk and talk is when they became a mini version of an adult and should be put to work. “It wasn’t until the mid-twentieth century that parents began to engage with children on their own terms and adopting what he called a “helping child-rearing mode”. That being said, over the year’s childhood began to exist and we started to see the child separate from the adult. Over the years many different studies were formed and theories were tested. Everything about childhood needed to be carefully watched and examined, from what children were eating, the way they were cared for, how they were interacting, whether or not if they were meeting developmental milestones, etc.
One of the many reasons why I decided to interview my dad, was to not only gain insight on how he viewed children and young people but how he understood and viewed them within my family but as well as his thoughts on the change in childhood. My dad and I have a very open relationship and before this assignment was brought up, we were looking at pictures from back when he was a child. The pictures were very old, delicate and taken in black and white, the houses were different, clothing and styles were different as well as the cars. Seeing how we in my family often talk about my dad’s childhood I figured what better person to ask other than my dad. Although on the outside the pictures of his childhood seemed different, I as the interviewer wanted to hear all about his personal experiences growing up and hear the differences in labor, care, personal relationships, education, and health.
For starters, When it came to the first question, how are children treated in our family/culture?. My father said “ growing up you were always treated as an equal to your mom and I. You were a part of this family so you were treated with love and respect, raised as Catholic, made sure you had the right foods and raised to be polite to your elders and neighbors. And as you got older you still had that but were given more leniency to go out on your own with friends and make your own decisions”. Being a single child in my family, I felt like there was no high expectations or certain goals that needed to be met. In our family children were expected to be kind and respectful to others, help your neighbors, do well in school and to be obedient to your parents. As my dad would say, as I’m sure most parents have said before “ I am the parent and you are the child, so do as your told”. “As a kid, you had the right to speak their mind, respectfully. The right to be emotional and talk to us about whatever, you know you can call us at whatever time of day or night and we will be there” my dad stated. Throughout my whole childhood, my parents always held on me to always be the best I can be, to do what makes me happy, to always try my hardest in school and if I tried my best it was seen as enough.
Throughout this interview, I was able to see my dad’s view on how he personally understands childhood and young people. So when we spoke about how childhood has changed over the last 50 years, my dad gave a personal example. He said “ when I was younger I started working at the age of five, on my dad’s farm. My brother, sister and I were all gardeners and would wake up bright and early at 6 am and pick all kinds of vegetables to sell at the market. This was a seven day a week job, on top of that I was going to school. If we didn’t do good in school we would often get the strap. Whereas today you can’t do that, and the way we express our love and care for each other is nothing compared to the way we did when I was younger. We knew, we just didn’t say and show it”. This alone showed that childhood and the way we cared for children changed. In the nineteenth century, as DeMause stated: “ the further back history goes, the lower level of childcare and the more likely children are to be killed, abandoned, beaten, terrorized and sexually abused”.
Children were put in harsh working conditions and often did jobs adults would do, in this generation parents lacked empathy and rarely showed any kind of passion or emotion towards children since they didn’t know how to properly care for them. Today, with the knowledge and research we have today we are able to care for children and meet their needs properly. “Childhood has changed in many ways over the years because now you don’t see many young children especially at the age I was working, doing hard jobs such as farm work. Holly, I can remember at the age of six driving a tractor in the fields. Now kids are too occupied with electronics, games on iPads, and are a lot more sheltered and watched over” my dad said. This relates back to Sue Palmer ‘s statement on how “children nowadays associate happiness with “stuff” of consumer culture, which damages a child’s social, emotional and cognitive development”.
“Children’s labor and leisure is nothing to what it used to be and thank god for that,” my dad said.“In today’s world legally young person becomes an adult at the age of 18, yet I know plenty of adults who are in their 30’s and 40’s who I would not call close to an adult. When I was younger, kids were considered adults at the earliest of ages 12 to 14. I really think it depends on the person and how you were raised. This could refer back to the in-class activity we did when we had to guess at which age was appropriate for the following examples. Everyone having a different answer meant that it really depended on the individual, the family, the parenting style and environment. In the second section, I focused on child labor and leisure. My dad as a young child was working in all kind of different working conditions, bright and early in the morning. But back then there was no fear in the possible harm like there would be today. When I was younger or even to this day you don’t see children at the age of five or six having to get up early and work on a farm or for the matter even close to a running vehicle, let alone driving a tractor. As mentioned in the textbook, Frank Furedi believed that parents often cared for their children with fear and paranoia.
This could also relate back to the term moral panic Moreover, As you get older you start to become more independent and start doing more things for yourself, you may even have more responsibilities around the house. Perhaps this could be doing your own laundry, doing the dishes, cutting the grass, etc. The only difference is from back then to present day children were a lot younger working in much harsher conditions and now children are at an age where they are able to understand, retain and acknowledge information regarding making decisions for themselves. I would hardly call these small everyday chores “labor”. In today’s society, it is considered the everyday norm to have daily responsibilities.
In conclusion, Childhood, as we know, has changed incredibly over the years and it continues to grow every day. As the definition of a child, there is no one way to be a child, just like there is no single way of defining childhood, as it differs worldwide. In addition to the growth in childhood, it truly depends on the parent, parenting style, relationship and environment. When I think about the interview and my dad’s perspective, I can say that it definitely shaped the way I look at childhood because I can truly say I had a great one growing up. Every day my views on childhood and what it means to be a child continue to grow and change. Whether I’m learning new things inside the classroom or outside or just by talking to others. By doing this assignment, my dad’s perspectives made me reflect on my own and in some ways made me think of things in ways I didn’t before. Overall, I believe that my values and beliefs align similarly to the western constructions of childhood because it’s how we shape childhood over the years. We become more and more knowledgeable in how to care for children and learn about things as easy as play and how it can help develop so many small and big ways in the cognitive, emotional, physical and mental domains. With more theories and research, childhood is an ongoing social construct that will only improve with more years to come.
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