Giving Lip

by Tina Holmboe 15th of July 2010 (archive)

From time to time I make the horrendous mistake of actually reading people’s comments in newspapers.

It gives me nightmares.

It shows me, with all possible clarity, why people should never, ever be put in a position of power over anyone — or anything. Impossible, you say? Quite likely; we are pack animals and a certain level of social control is required by instinct.

And then it gets worse, and the actual, supposedly professional and intelligent, authors of pieces people comment ’pon, go off the deep end.

Today I found the following in The Telegraph: Why shouldn't you tell off people's children?. Here the author, Tom Sykes, get serious about explaining why one should tell off other people’s children when on joint vacations.


«We all accept « some of us more reluctantly than others – that the days of being able to give someone else’s child a clip round the ear for giving you lip are no longer with us.» »

Fascinating. First, the supposed adult fall back on the concept of «give lip»; the idea that, for some mysterious reason, children shouldn’t argue, or contradict, an adult. Why ever not? Do you believe yourself infallible because you’ve turned eighteen? Worse, do you believe it a sign of respect for a child to agree, mutely, with everything you say or do? With everything any adult say or do?

Think about that one for a moment.

My favourite story to tell friends in the UK is the one about the English teacher I had the horror of being assigned in sixth form. Not only was her accent deplorable — then again, none of the teachers spoke the language well — but she managed the feat of telling us that Nelson was shot at Waterloo.

I expect you think I «gave her lip» when, in a somewhat confused voice, I asked if that wasn’t actually wrong? After she looked it up she admitted to being wrong, and proceeded to lower my grades for the next six months.

Give lip my arse. Grow up. Being wrong, and being called on it, is not a sign of weakness; calling someone on it is not a sign of disrespect.

«THAT is not what we’re talking about!» I can hear you cry in anguish. No? So there’s another definition? Or is it just «common sense» which would tell me the difference? Well, then, let’s return to the first part of the argument: the clip.

Common sense suggests that children, being not–quite–done in the growing up department, require discipline. Physical discipline, ie. whacking them a good one, is the easy way out — and, it is claimed, the best way of making an unruly child learn the lesson.

Logically, then, an even more solid whack ought be brought to bear on adults who misbehave since they are, theoretically, fully developed, grown up, and as opposed to children aware of their actions, the consequences, and the reasons why doing what they do is wrong.

So when you drink too much, when you play music too loud, when you drive too fast, cheat on your spouse, avoid your taxes, block the exit from my garage because you are «just going to the bank», or otherwise act in ways that Society and other adults find is anti–social, you also accept that I, or anyone else, can take you aside and give you a bloody good spanking.

Or are you arguing that the grown–up, that paragon of virtue, is less at fault when behaving badly than a child whom, by way of not being done developing yet, can’t be expected to understand it all?

Keep arguing for physical punishment of children, for their own good, to teach them not to misbehave, but keep very well in mind that those who have been taught already is by far the worse offenders and rate the far more severe punishment.

Common sense, innit?

PS: What I’d do with the child filling the loo, as described in the article? He’d bloody well get to stay, without recourse to playing games or having fun, until he’d cleaned the toilet to my exceedingly exact standards — and then I’d go give his idiotic excuses for parents hell for not taking their responsibility of teaching him how to behave towards others.

At the point where he went off the track it is far, far harder to teach him empathy and «proper» behaviour.

What the heck was wrong with them in the first place? Wearily I come to the conclusion that Mr. Sykes’ friends should have had to get a degree in parenting before being declared adult enough to have kids.

These are the elders children should learn respect for?

The mind boggles.