I do not care for Nigel Latta
Posted by BE on July 16th, 2009
When the terms ‘PC’ or ‘politically correct’ are used these days it invariably means that the speaker has no real argument to advance. Both terms convey little more than, ‘I’m against it’. So when I read that psychologist Nigel Latta was to front a programme called The Politically Incorrect Parenting Show, I assumed that Nigel would be climbing on the current populist bandwagon of opposition to the ‘nanny state’ and the oppressive ‘it’s not OK’ mentality which it allegedly represents. Nigel would be telling us that, whatever it was, it was OK. And we’d all feel much better.
Turns out I had it pretty well right. What we learnt from the first episode was that it was OK to feel angry with your kids; it was OK to tell your irritating offspring to ‘go out and play’; it was OK to let children engage in risky activities; and aggression was not merely OK but a desirable quality for any kid wanting to get on in life.
I could just about hear the nation’s parents calling out, ‘Good on you, Nige!’
There’s some truth in all of this of course. When I can’t get past the double-parked SUVs of young Herne Bay matrons dropping their little darlings off at Bayfield School at 8.30am or picking them up again six hours later, I have been known to mutter under my breath, ‘Can’t the little sods walk four blocks?’ And there does seem to be a lot of middle-class anxiety about the ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ ways of bringing up your offspring.
The trouble is that when you tell people it’s OK to feel angry with their kids, but don’t say how angry or what they should do with that anger; or when you say it’s OK to tell your children to go out and play, but don’t say for how long or how often; or when you say kids should be allowed to engage in risky activities, but don’t define an acceptable level of risk; or when you categorise aggression as a desirable quality in young people, but without giving any clear definition of what you mean – when you do any of that, you are effectively giving carte blanche to a range of attitudes and behaviours far wider and potentially far more destructive than you may have intended.
The ‘ear flick’ man was angry and punched his kid in the face. OK? ’Why don’t you go out and play?’ is a common parental mantra disguising lack of interest in the kids, their interests and ideas. OK? High-risk activities among young New Zealand men are responsible for a disproportionate number of fatal accidents in that demographic. OK? And aggression – is aggression ever really OK?
I got it of course. I’m a highly intelligent, highly educated, 71-year-old liberal. The Herne Bay matrons in their SUVs, who were probably Nigel’s target audience, would have got it as well. Relax! Chill out! Go with the flow! Stop beating yourself up! Parenting is easy. Just do it.
That, Nigel told us, was how our parents approached bringing us up. They just did it. Ah, the good old days! Well, in my good old days we had corporal punishment in schools and the strap and the wooden spoon were commonplace instruments in the discipline of children. OK?
To justify this sort of facile, once-over-lightly, crowd pleasing stuff you have to generalise from extreme examples. Nigel is good at that. So to show that New Zealand has become preposterously risk averse about child safety, you cite the case of organisers banning a lolly scramble at the Tauranga Christmas parade because kids might get hurt in the melee. I agree with Nigel. That is just bloody stupid. But then the entire country thinks that’s bloody stupid. There isn’t going to be a rash of lolly scramble bannings. The example is completely atypical and tells you nothing about New Zealand child rearing or our attitudes to child safety, except that we can recognise bloody stupidity when we see it. Nothing too worrying there.
The trouble with generalising from extreme and atypical examples is that it breeds complacency about real and serious problems. The baby gets thrown out with the bathwater. The obesity issue is a case in point. Silly rules about what kids can or can’t eat have allowed the government to dispense with sensible initiatives to limit child obesity in New Zealand. All you have to do is label a programme ‘PC’ or dismiss it as another example of the ‘nanny state’ at work and the day is yours.
Well, hey, it’s only a TV show. There were quite a few giggles and Nigel has definite talent in the stand-up comedy department. Well, in showbiz generally, I’d say.
You’ll gather that this is someone whose ideas I don’t really care for. It’s just that after watching his previous series Beyond the Darklands, in which his experience as a forensic psychologist appeared to have led him to the view that the backgrounds of violent offenders, while predisposing them to antisocial behaviour, really didn’t offer any reason to feel compassion for them as well as their victims – they were just bad people – I decided that Nigel wasn’t my cup of tea. I thought he might just be pandering.
I thought more or less the same thing watching The Politically Incorrect Parenting Show. Behind the hip psychologist I was sure I could detect the shadow of a closet social conservative.
Child Rearing, Nigel Latta, Television, The Politically Incorrect Parenting Show