Imagine the situation. You come across two small children in the pedestrian precinct. They’re inching forward aimlessly. Their mouths are smeared with cake. They seem lost. They don’t seem anxious, just direction-less. Should you act? What do you do?
“Is anyone with these children?” You call out worriedly. You see a man. He looks tired, dishevelled, frustrated, defeated, clueless, weary. He waves at you and smiles weakly. He can’t possibly be the parent of these poor, lost waifs. He clearly has no authority over them whatsoever. They should be skipping along beside him like a couple of happily regimented Von Traps. Instead they barely seem aware of his existence. You give this useless “parent” a long glare to teach him a lesson, then walk on, tutting and wondering what the world has come to.
Imagine the situation. You have to get your children to the far side of the pedestrian precinct. You’re late. They sense your weakness. You’ve already given them each a mini-cake to keep them moving, but they wilfully dawdle, somehow managing to move so slowly that they’re virtually immobile.
“OK, come on.” You say sternly. “Lets go.”
You continue to speak increasingly sternly to them for some more minutes. This fails. When you take their hands they drop to the floor like they’ve been tazered. You literally have to drag them through the dirt and cigarette butts. This is impractical. And feels a bit wrong.
Next you try pleading with them. They gaze at you blinking like you’re speaking in a foreign language. They are utterly deaf to your pain.
Next you try to activate their fear of abandonment. “Right. That’s it. I’m going. Bye bye. Bye. Bye, then. That’s it. I’m going. Bye bye… So you’re staying here then? You’re staying here? All right. Bye bye. Bye bye, then.”
They have no fear of abandonment.
You breath, fight back the tears, try to find your calm place and start again. “OK. Come on then, kids. Lets go. Come on.”
After ten or so cycles of this, you try the pretend leaving thing. Again. This has got to work or we’ll never get out of here. Suddenly an older lady calls out “Is anyone with these children?”
Kind thought, but she’s a bit confused about who’s lost.