Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Driving the point home

One of Lucy's favourite stories:

Once upon a time, there was a naughty little girl, who smoked and also liked to light fires; she was a FIRE BUG. One day, she lit a fire at the beach, and all the grasses burned and all the shrubs in the back dunes, and all the trees as well. And the animals had no where to go, they ran away from the fire which burned and burned and burned. And the poor animals had to run to the city because their homes burned, poor things, and they were very sad. And the beach was ruined and people couldn't swim there and people were sad too. But the police caught that naughty firebug and sent her in front of a judge in a COURT OF LAW. The judge said she was very naughty and sent her to jail where there was no telly and no nice food. And serve her right, that naughty firebug.

Our kids pick up all sorts of cues that we are not even aware of. But I feel it is useful to really hammer home important life lessons. Subtlety is for the weak.

This story also makes me realise that even after decades working as a sociologist, I am clearly seduced by a punishment rather than rehabilitation paradigm.


Lucy has just been introduced to Struwwelpeter and she loves it. It's falling apart and so she's not allowed to touch - which adds to its mystery and desirability - and in the morning over cornflakes we read about kids getting burned while playing with matches and starving because they won't eat the soup. I've not yet introduced her to the kid who sucks his thumbs and has them cut off by a ruthless scissor-hand creature; as an erstwhile thumbsucker I still find that a little too close to home.


Penni said...

Ha ha ha. Love it.

Rach said...

We also have that book - my husband's family are German. We haven't actually starting reading it yet as I find it a bit scary... 'Max und Moritz' is another gruesome tale for children - they get milled up and eaten by ducks! I also have a sociology background but haven't used my sociology brain in quite a while...

Carole said...

Oh my, I'm so surprised to see the Struwwelpeter is known at the other end of the world !
I live in Alsace, which is more a region on the outskirts of France (and of German culture) than France itself, and we were introduced to this book as children. I didn't like it. It terrified me, especially the Suppe Gaspar and I was always afraid I would become as thin as a line and die myself - which can account years later for the weight (10 kilos) I can't get rid of. I never wanted to show it to my children, especially the older one who sucks her thumb, thinking it would traumatize her - and well it hasn't. I still have ambivalent feelings towards that book ! Is there something wrong with me ??

Anonymous said...

It is nasty, and Lu calls it 'the scary book' but is fascinated. She's three so there's not a lot of empathy there, yet, and there's a symmetry to the punishments (e.g. play with matched, get burned up) that might be vaguely comforting. However, I can imagine legions of Nannies using the book as a tool in the fight against childhood dirtiness and insubordination.

I've always found it odd the author included a story about punishing racist kids by dumping them in ink. I always thought of the 19th C as pretty much wall to wall racism.

- Kris

Kris said...

Also, Carole, I think the book's probably only known amongst those with strong German heritage over here - it's definitely not in the book shops.