Researchers from UCLouvain have studied the evolution of educational practices that put the child at the center of everything. Lived to the extreme, they would even constitute a threat to our democratic societies. Isabelle Roksam, professor of psychology at Louvain-la-Neuve was on the set of “It’s not every day on Sunday” to discuss it in the presence of Antoine Stévenne, teacher.
“After being neglected for centuries, the interests of the child are placed above all others“, report the UCLouvain researchers in a report published in June 2021. Indeed, in 1965, mothers spent 54 minutes a day with their children compared to 104 minutes in 2012.
The fruits of a more permissive upbringing over time which, if it has made it possible to reduce violence against children, would cause many other harmful effects such as anxiety, narcissism or even physical problems such as obesity.
According to Isabelle Roksam, professor of psychology at Louvain-la-Neuve, three-quarters of parents would face the almost impossibility of imposing constraints on their children. “The idea of going against constraints, punishments, frustration, but also of always being on the lookout for the slightest need, of avoiding incurring the slightest risk or the slightest difficulty creating children unable to cope with stress and the unexpected“, explains the psychologist.
“These are children who are called ‘cotton children’. Beyond being very ego-focused, they are ill-prepared to live in a challenging society. This has a lot of repercussions on themselves“, she continues.
“We don’t do them any good, and we don’t do any good for those who care for them like parents and teachers.“, specifies Isabelle Roksam.
Antoine Stévenne, teacher, testifies to the harmful effects of an overly permissive education currently in vogue. “Before, there were 3 or 4 disruptive students in a class, today it is 6 or 7“, explains the teacher. “We spend our time policing, responding to emails from parents who complain about anything and everything because we have to defend their offspring.“, he explains.
According to him, children suffer from a strong individualism. “Todaye am obliged to have the group work done in class, because there is no question of them meeting with friends, because the parents think above all of the individual work of their children“, adds the teacher.
A threat to democracy?
Last year, the RTBF showed in a survey that 47% of young people aged 25 to 34 believed that society would be better managed if power were in the hands of a single leader. Would this cult of children make them less united and more sensitive to anti-democratic ideas?
For Isabelle Roksam, there should be no shortcuts. “What is obvious is that this way of educating children today makes them very narcissistic. They give themselves importance above all else, because this is how they are elevated, above all“, explains the psychologist.
“The common good comes after their own needs. This individualism, which is rising, has a lot of repercussions and is clearly a danger for our democracy whose principle is to be able to think of the common good before putting its own narcissists forward.“, she adds.
Find the middle ground
So what to do? For Isabelle Roksam, it is important to find a happy medium. “The happy medium is what must be fair for the child, but also for the person who takes care of the child as well as the collective.“, concludes the psychologist.