Letting the little dears express themselves

These days, many children are allowed to do just about anything they like. Years ago, Dr Spock (the one without pointy ears) advocated that children should be allowed to run riot expressing themselves. He later recanted his theories but no one clocked that one. Schools allowed children to spell as they liked just as long as they expressed themselves, which resulted in an entire generation of illiterates. The art of parenting became lost among the detritus of 'modern children self help books' and political correctness. So bad has the situation become that we even have 'Nanny 911' programmes to help try to redress the balance.

The more cynical among us, such as myself, might just say that parents have simply relinquished their responsibilities as parents to the Nanny State. That way, they can always blame someone else should it all go tits up.

When I was little, I was kept in reins to prevent me running off and creating mayhem. My father took me to several model railway exhibitions in London and if I even went too near a layout, retribution was swift and firm. Nowadays, one sees a parent with a gaggle of free range children who are only mildly admonished after mayhem has been created!

It is never so obvious than at a model railway show. The parents stand staring at the layout, faces with the expression of stunned mullets while their children dive straight in to grab and destroy your model railway. It takes hours to build and seconds to destroy and given the chance, children will destroy it totally and absolutely. If one shouts at the child, the annoyed parent replies "He's only four". If one grabs the arm of the child just before it tears off several trees, the parent thinks you are the reincarnation Jimmy Saville and a Yew Tree investigation is likely to be instigated. Despite this, some shows still do not provide effective barriers for exhibitors. So what can an exhibitor do?

Telling parents that your model is extremely delicate has no effect whatsoever and 'do not touch' signs are treated with disdain. The reality is that many parents do not give a toss if their horrid rug rats destroy your layout or not. Encasing the front of your layout with glass or Perspex will ruin the vibrancy of your work and photographers hate it. 

A very long time ago, Southend MRC had signs in front of their layout saying 'Parents beware. The rails are charged with 12,000.00 millivolts.' It worked. Recently I found that it was effective to tell parents that the snow on Bratton Fleming was made out of ground glass and it was dangerous to the touch. Only then were the children gathered up and restrained.

Other possibilities might be:

'Danger. Static grass has been applied to this layout at 15,000 volts'

'Danger, touching the scenic products applied to this layout can cause severe and lasting allergies'

Perhaps show organisers should have signs saying 'Please restrain your children. Parents will be liable for any damage'.

People who absolve themselves of the responsibility of controlling their children are not parents; they are just breeders!