Do children need protecting from adult carers?
Professor Heather Piper and Jennie Bristow respond to recent child protection policies
The Manchester Salon have partnered with Blackwell University Bookshop, Manchester to produce this Battle of Ideas Satellite event, with Professor Heather Piper and Jennie Bristow. These authors will introduce the themes in their new books that look at how much child protection policies actually help prevent abuse - and how much they damage adults’ ability to conduct normal, caring relationships with the children in their charge. The audience discussion will be opened with a couple of probing questions by Hilary Salt, our chair for the evening.
The relationship between adults and children is increasingly fraught, and viewed through the prism of risk. Not only teachers, neighbours and relatives, but even parents themselves are seen as potential abusers. Some childcare professionals and academics like Manchester Metropolitan University’s Professor Heather Piper have begun to challenge this climate.
Her book ‘Don't Touch: The Educational Story of a Panic’ by Heather Piper and Ian Stronach, is a critique of the ‘No Touch’ policies ubiquitous in schools and early years settings, and examines the insecurities surrounding adult-child relations. Not so long ago, those who saw something unwholesome in pictures of toddlers in the bath would be accused of having ‘dirty minds’. Nowadays, official policy and institutional practice works on the assumption that those working with children are ‘dirty-minded’ from the outset. Critics like Piper argue that when we are encouraged to view all physical contact with children as something to be avoided, in case it is perceived as inappropriate, we begin to apply a damaging check on every spontaneous interaction.
Her new book, Researching Sex and Lies in the Classroom: Allegations of Sexual Misconduct in Schools by Pat Sikes and Heather Piper is published by Routledge on 20 November 2009, and can be pre-ordered online from Blackwell Bookshop.
Meanwhile, family policy increasingly focuses on the need to protect children from the failings of parents, who could either pose a danger to their children, or simply not know what they’re doing. But some parents like Jennie Bristow have begun to express concerns about the idea that they’re hopeless and don’t try hard enough. In her book Standing up to Supernanny Jennie argues that the professionalisation of parenting undermines the authority of parents, and inhibits the spontaneous loving relationships with parents, and other adults, that children need in order to flourish.
Jennie says "In many ways, the problem is that we try too hard at being parents - we're too diligent, too conscientious, too hopeful of great outcomes and clear rewards, to the point where we lose ourselves in trying to provide some kind of professional service to our children. This doesn't help children, and for parents it's a disaster zone, increasing our insecurity and diminishing our authority over our kids."
Standing Up To Supernanny by Jennie Bristow asks: Why have we invited Supernanny into our living rooms - and how might we best kick her out? Published by Imprint Academic and can be ordered online from Blackwell Bookshop by clicking on the book title or image above.
Don't Touch! The educational story of a panic by Heather Piper and Ian Stronach was published by Routledge in 2008, and available to purchase online.
Every child matters – so don’t touch! by Heather Piper, as Battle in Print: 29 September 2006.
You can't care for kids unless you touch them - Review of Don't Touch! by Josie Appleton on spiked, May 2008.
Guide to Subversive Parenting by Jennie Bristow on spiked.
Why "What to Expect" Will Make You Crazy (The new mania of pregnancy planning) by Nora Krug available on Double X, 9 June 2009.
'I launched Childline to protect the most vulnerable - but unleashed a politically correct monster' by TV presenter Esther Rantzen in Daily Mail 9 July 2008 - talks about how her revelation of child abuse in the BBC programme Childwatch in the Eighties sparked off years of political correctness.
Dutch sailor girl put under care, BBC Online 28 August 2009.
This CRB-check paranoia won’t stop another Soham, by Chris Stevenson in Times Online 15 September 2009.
Review of babysitting ban ordered, BBC Online 28 September 2009.
Petition to change the law on reciprocal childcare, No 10 Downing Street website
The perils of modern parenting - whatever happened to muddling through?, Marianne Kavanagh in Telegraph 02 October 2009.
Moral panic undermining good relations between adults and children, Professor Heather Piper on Radio 4's Woman's Hour 07 October 2009