Why Amanda Owen is wrong about kids today - Christa Ackroyd

Oh, Amanda. I was so looking forward to the return of Our Yorkshire Farm this Tuesday and now you’ve gone and spoilt it for me. Well, almost.

Amanda Owen has become hugely popular through her books and the family's TV show. (Simon Hulme).

Anything set in the Yorkshire countryside is the perfect antidote to a pandemic that has seen many of us locked down, looking out on the same view, week in, week out, longing for the sense of freedom our rolling hills and countryside provide. That’s what Our Yorkshire Farm gives us. Escapism.

So yes, Amanda, tell us how to keep sheep in a remote part of the Dales. Impress us with your resilience in tending your flock in all weathers while still looking glamorous and wearing bangles. Show us all the beautiful scenery. Let us enjoy watching the enchanting exploits of your brood of children. They are such characters (especially Sidney).

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But please don’t criticise others who don’t do it your way. Life is pretty tough for all youngsters at present and to label them “the snowflake generation” who “can’t do anything” is a little harsh.

Amanda Owen goes further in an interview in this week’s Radio Times, saying kids of today “don’t know how to look after themselves”. Apparently they don’t have a work ethic either. “All that has gone out of the window,” she says.

And guess what? It’s our fault. “If you put your child on a pedestal with no sense of independence and think you have to entertain them all the time what can you expect?” she asks.

Well, Amanda, I expect you to live your life and let others live theirs. You hailed from Huddersfield and an ordinary three-bed house and your husband from Doncaster so you should well be able to imagine how hard this past year has been for many people. Not for the vast majority the sanctity of a “garden” that stretches as far as the eye can see and beyond.

There are many things in this interview that annoyed me. Amanda seems rather proud of the fact she logged into home schooling for just a week and then she “threw it back at them.”

She says she has never attended a parents’ evening for any of her nine children and by her own admission did pretty poorly in her own exams “but look what I have achieved since”.

That may be so, Amanda, but we are not all blessed with such confidence or sense of adventure. And we don’t all live in surroundings that allow us to bring our children up “free range”, as she describes hers. Much as we might love to.

I often think back to my own childhood. I suppose that, too, was pretty “free range” and we lived in the middle of a city. We played out until after dark, walked miles and miles at this time of year in search of tadpoles without an adult on hand to stop us falling in the ponds and rivers we found along the way. We walked to school and back or caught the bus alone.

During the summer holidays, we left the house armed with a picnic and some orange squash without even an idea where we were heading. We played in the park unsupervised and came home filthy, happy and exhausted.

But life is not like that now. And we all know it. Would you honestly let your children do the same? I didn’t and I suspect you don’t either.

Our children need protection unless they are lucky enough to live in the safety of an environment where strangers are a rarity and the playgrounds are not littered with empty bottles or discarded needles but with sheep and farmyard playthings.

Amanda Owen is a whirlwind of a woman. I have met her and she is extremely switched on. She lives an isolated life. But Hannah Hauxwell she is not.

She is a businesswoman and the high-profile star of a reality TV programme. She has a huge following on instagram, writes books, does talks, sells pottery and calendars and has made a perfect niche for herself in showing us a way of life far removed from ours. And that is the joy of her programme.

However, it is too easy to slap down the rest of the younger generation as being spoiled and privileged. It is too easy to suggest they should be left to their own devices to gain such spirit as Amanda is certainly blessed with.

Life is very different for the majority. I know of the stresses of families trying to keep their kids entertained within four small walls while being told to stay home, when home might be a high-rise flat or a gardenless back to back. And what of the stresses heaped upon our children to achieve?

Not all country living is an Enid Blyton idyll. Life for many youngsters living in a rural environment is tough. House prices are often out of reach and jobs are hard to come by. And if they want to spread their wings they need a job to do so.

There are only so many sheep farms in the Dales to be worked on and even then most have been forced to diversify to stay afloat, just as the Owens have done big time, offering shepherd huts, afternoon teas, the rental of a six-bed farm they own down the valley and, of course, other lucrative spin-offs from being television celebrities.

I like Amanda Owen. She fascinates me. I like her TV programme. I enjoy watching her huge, run-free family as they live both in the spotlight yet far removed from most people’s daily lives.

But to all parents, keep doing the best you can. To all children, I hope you, too, will be blessed with a sense of adventure and freedom wherever you are brought up.

Because, from where I am sitting, you are not shirkers and you have lost a lot this year, including perhaps your confidence to fly. But fly you will.

And remember: growing up and spreading your wings is never easy, wherever you live.