Parents are “buying off” their children with TVs and computers instead of teaching them basic social skills and it is causing a crisis in classroom discipline, a teachers’ leader has warned.
Many children are failing to respect authority because they are used to being spoilt at home, said Dr Mary Bousted, General Secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL).
She also said children are failing to consider the needs of other pupils because of the isolated lives they lead at home.
Dr Bousted made her remarks ahead of the ATL annual conference next week. Members will debate a motion arguing for more power to be given to schools to deal with disruptive pupils.
It calls for parents of disruptive children to attend parenting classes and face losing child benefits if their children misbehave at school.
Research last year by the union found that one in four teachers had been a victim of violent pupils.
Some of the 160,000 staff members across the UK represented by the union confessed to having been assaulted or intimidated by children as young as five in the last 12 months, it was claimed.
Dr Bousted said parents had a “duty to bring their child up so that they understand how they should behave in school, respecting authority and the right of other pupils in the class to learn”.
She added: “It’s often the well-off middle-class who buy off their children through the computers and televisions and everything which isolates them within the home.
“And then they are surprised when their child doesn’t come to school ready to learn.”
She warned that children were leading “increasingly isolated lives” at home, “never having a family meal, having television or computer in their bedrooms, stuck for hours in the bedroom in front of the computer screen, and not learning about give and take within the family”.
Dr Bousted said: “If you don’t learn about give and take within the family you can’t learn about it in school, you can’t practise proper behaviour in school, where you’re not going to get exactly what you want, when you want, and how you want it.”
In February a survey by the Cadet Forces revealed that one in four parents avoid disciplining their children because they want an “easy life” and fear upsetting them.
The report revealed that parents were often reluctant to discipline their children because they fear being seen as too strict or unfair, and that 30 per cent of parents described themselves as being a “pushover”.
A spokesman for the Cadet Forces said: “Our survey suggests that parents tend to avoid ticking off their children because its easier than having to deal with them kicking up more of a fuss.”
Last November a major study concluded that children who receive ‘tough love’, a combination of warmth and discipline, from their parents have the best chance of doing well in life.
The study found that parenting style, not economic background, is the most important factor determining a child’s development of positive qualities such as self-control, empathy and determination.
And top psychologist Dr Aric Sigman has said that parents who fail to exert authority have bred a “spoilt generation” of children who believe adults must earn their respect.
Dr Aric Sigman’s book The Spoilt Generation, published last October, shows that many social problems, including teenage pregnancy and anti-social behaviour, are due to a lack of discipline.
He said: “Children of the spoilt generation are used to having their demands met by their parents and others in authority, and that in turn makes them unprepared for the realities of adult life.
Dr Sigman added: “This has consequences in every area of society, from the classroom to the workplace, the streets to the criminal courts and rehabilitation clinics. Being spoilt is now classless – from aristocracy to underclass, children are now spoilt in ways that go far beyond materialism.