You don’t have to keep me fenced in

By Riverine Herald

IT WAS recently suggested to me the problem of family breakdown is the problem with people.

Of course, you could argue that and make a good case.

But I think you could also argue the government bears some responsibility as well.

We parents know all too well that children need boundaries.

We put up literal and metaphorical “fences” to protect them and to steer them away from harmful practices.

I recall a moment when my family and I were dining at a Pizza Hut restaurant in Queensland some time ago.

The children at the table opposite us had decided to give their parents a hard time.

They were playing under the tables and running around wildly and I heard the mother say rather loudly, “will you children go out and play on the highway”.

She truly was only joking but it did garner some laughter from everyone who heard.

But what she did say is something that no parent would dare allow to happen.

We want our children to be protected.

To be able play and operate in a safe environment.

To this end, we want to have around them a ‘fence’ of protection. We want some overarching structure that causes the children to conform to its norms.

It may be a literal fence around the yard to prevent them from venturing too far away.

It may be a psychological one whereby the parents draw a line in the sand regarding bullying or bad behaviour.

That norm is then reinforced by discipline so the child learns this correct behaviour and adheres to the norms of this good behaviour by its deliberate reinforcement through discipline.

The point is, a protective environment is needed for training and teaching so that the child will, with maturity, adopt those values as his own.

Therefore, the fence is imposed from the top down.

If that fence is not there, then the consequences could be detrimental or even fatal to the child.

Perhaps, some of the kids have the good sense to not play near a highway, but with the peer pressure of the other children and not wanting to miss out on the “fun”, even good sense gives way to the crowd pressure.

This same view of life is adopted by governments.

They put fences around us by creating laws.

There are laws against speeding, driving under the influence, shoplifting and stealing to name just a few.

Yet the government doesn’t seem to think that weakening social mores and values makes any difference to the health of a family and, hence, community.

It’s time for a rethink.

The experiment is over and it is time for government to start to erect solid fences around the likes of marriage and family so that future families will know a form of protection over them.

This will mean some necessary discrimination, for example, in favour of marriage.

The government does it in every other avenue of life.

It is time to do it with family law as well.

David McAllan

Echuca Community Church