The high cost of a friction free childhood

Like the yolk in an egg, completely protected from all evil. This is the childhood that contemporary parents wish to give to their children, according to the Danish psychologist Bent Hougaard. Curling parents is what he calls us, (over) engaged grown-ups trying to make life perfect for our off-spring – we drop off, pick-up, deliver and sort out any problem, we purchase toys like there is no tomorrow – and at the same time our consciences suffer as we feel insufficient as providers. Too little resistance is, however, not healthy.

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MAGNUS HJALMARSON NEIDEMAN
Foto: MAGNUS HJALMARSON NEIDEMAN
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It started with a kick in the behind. When the Danish psychologist Bent Hougaard stepped into a nursery playground on one particular morning, all the children were out playing. Behind a shed was a five year old boy who threw sand at some girls younger than him. He asked the boy to stop, whereby the boy replied that he [BH/en] was not in charge at the nursery. Bent then took the bucket and spade, put them on the roof of the shed and left. Bent Hougaard was at the nursery to act as “educational inspector”.

His task was to observe whether the educational objectives and the daily routine were in congruence. On this occasion he was about to meet the staff. To his enormous surprise the little boy ran up to him and shouted “you old asshole – you don’t rule over me”. ‘In that situation I had to force myself to think “Bent, remember you are a child psychologist. Don’t hit or kick, he is a child”. Before I knew it, the little master was asking for his bucket back. He got it when he promised not to throw sand at anybody again.’ The promise was short lived. Before he knew it Bent had his behind kicked and a couple of spadefulls of sand thrown right to his face, with the reinforcing words: You don’t rule over me.

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