The norm of ideal childhood in common sense could be a child with two loving parents and a sibling or two, a roof over their head, their needs are met; parents would spend time with the child-playing and reading and believe in the child’s ability; child would receive a good level of education and have many friends and others beyond. However, those parents who love children only through meeting child’s needs and plan for children completely would not construct real ideal childhood. They may be unable to use their imagination and entertain themselves; they may be unable to solve problems by themselves; they may be ‘burdensome’ in their family instead of a ‘help’. Constructing an ideal childhood is more complex than people thought and the ideas shifted century by century according to economy, technology and nation state.
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There are three key characteristics of ideal childhood: well-being of children, innocence of children and childhood play. Children’s well being is based on a holistic understanding of their needs and recognition of the importance of both their physical needs and their psychological needs (Montgomery et.al, 2003). The physical needs are commonly about food, shelter and psychological needs is linked to feel loved, cared and protected. It is concern some adversities are origins of imperfect childhood, such as natural disasters, ill health, poverty, family problems, exploitation, abuse discrimination, violence and living in a dangerous environment. Obviously, all above adversities have adverse impact on either physical or psychological well-being or even both in childhood. For example, poverty means an inferior level of living standard, which could lead to early touch with society if children go outsider door to find jobs. Therefore, the children’s well-being indicates a healthy, secure environment for children to grow up is significantly important for ideal childhood. However, living in slums towns is related to poverty, someone think that living in a modern apartment is harmful for children’s well-being as the children lose space for playing. The understanding of children’s well-being, especially in the area of psychology, is varied and different for different people. On the other hand, the different views of children’s well-being cannot deny one thing: the child has a need to be protected from adversities.
Children’s well being is evidently a key characteristic of ideal childhood. Moreover, well-being of children is also a premise of innocence of children as poverty, family problems, violence and some other factors indirectly influence child’s innocence. However, relatively, the innocence of childhood is not necessarily linked to well-being of children. First of all, the concept of innocence of children is associated with nature of children. Mrs. Colman (http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=pwsYAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=innocence+of+childhood&hl=zh-CN&cd=1#v=onepage&q&f=false) described children in 1849:” Little children are innocent, because they do not know good from evil; they do not yet know what is false, or what is true; they are only recipients of innocence from the lord, through the angels.” and Shipman (1972) also announced that:” The child is the best copy of Adam before he tasted of Eve or the appleâ€¦he is Nature’s fresh pictureâ€¦his soul is yet a white paperâ€¦” These announcements indicated a quality of purity and newness of children’s nature. However, the contemporary era has shaped the lifestyle of children from the past years. There is a concern for the so-called end of innocence, important feature of which shown in a commercial, fashion-conscious age that boys and girls are preoccupied with how they look and dress that they can no longer enjoy mucking about and having fun – that they are missing (James, 1997). Furthermore, it is claimed that childhood is ‘disappearing’, mainly through the influence of television and internet as the child gains access to the world of adult information that may includes commercial, violent or erotic elements. The version of the ideal childhood is not one of freedom and happiness; rather it is a good behaviour, different from adults.
Play is one of children’s natures, it is an expression of the child’s innocence, and it is also the highest expression of human development in childhood (http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=WLZxya_jB0sC&printsec=frontcover&dq=childhood+play&lr=&hl=zh-CN&cd=1#v=onepage&q&f=false). Children are not only innocent, but are also innovative, investigative and imaginative. Play offers children opportunities for physical, intellectual and emotional development. It encourages their creativity and imagination and interaction with other children, as well as some adults, provides opportunities for friendships, social interactions, conflicts and resolutions, which contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children. In this case, the meaning of play is more likely to be learning and developing in having fun. There is no one has authority to deprive children’s right to play. However, those parents who plan a full schedule for their children, aiming to increase the children’s skills with their own perspectives, are taking happiness and real talent away from their children, particularly in developing countries, such as China. The time of children for playing is comparatively less than the past years.
Child Labour against Ideal Childhood
As mentioned above, the ideal childhood lies in a satisfaction of the child’s needs, a protection from adversities and evil and a sufficient time of playing in the childhood. According to these conditions, the working children have less opportunity to experience ideal childhood as they suffer significant growth deficits compared with children in school and they may be exposed to chemical and biological hazard, which are more likely to cause cancers or other diseases. Moreover, children who work in some certain occupations are especially vulnerable to particular types of abuse. It is of course almost inevitable that children growing up in such an environment will be permanently damaged both psychologically and emotionally. It is verified that child labour is simply the single most important source of child exploitation and child abuse in the world today (http://books.google.com/books?id=cYqig0fCYEMC&printsec=frontcover&dq=child+labour&hl=zh-CN&cd=1#v=onepage&q&f=false). The poverty is the most important reason why children work. Poor households need the money which their children can earn. In developing countries, child labour not only increase family income, but also save large amount of education fee. For example, an article stated in China Labour Bulletin (2005) (http://www.china-labour.org.hk/en/node/15889) that juvenile labourers were at the heart of China’s economic boom; parents of juvenile workers would prefer sending their children off to work rather than education as school fees exceeded their capability, particular for rural family; however, those parents rarely know the hazardous condition in industrial work places; in addition, the child labour is strong demanded as children have smaller hands and eyesight undamaged by years of labour, making them more desirable than adults for the work like toy production, construction, food production, and light mechanical work. The Juvenile workers phenomenon in China indicated that the child labour is more potentially from the poor family which may just meet a basic need of living but cannot afford for education without doubt. The working condition for children is more likely to have adverse impact on their health. Furthermore,