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Grown-ups say things like−
Don’t talk with your mouth full
Don’t pick your nose
Shut the door behind you
Don’t drag your feet
Haven’t you got a hankie?
Take your hands out of your pockets
Pull your socks
Stand up straight
Say thank you
No one thinks you’re funny
Take your elbows off the table
Can’t you make your own
mind up about anything
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Michael Wayne Rosen was born in the United Kingdom on May 7, 1946. He is a poet and writer for children. He has written around 140 books. Between the years 2007 and 2009, he held the position of children's laureate and also wrote a political column. He made a number of contributions to children's literature and poetry.
The poem "chivvy" shows the paradoxical attitude of parents and elders, who criticise wrongdoings, but at the same time, they indulge in the same behaviours. They use the word "don't" very often and want children to have a cheerful and hopeful attitude.
The first part of the poem consists of a very detailed set of guidelines. It is quite often that the grownups give these commands to the younger children of the family. A few instances of these expressions are "speak up”, " less noise", “don't stare”, “don’t talk with your mouth full" and so on. The poem focuses on the manner in which children are instructed to behave in line with the directions provided by the elders.
The second and third stanzas of the poem continue with another set of instructions following the first stanza. Every action of children is often supervised by adults. The poem concludes with a couplet that now the child at the beginning of the poem is grown-up and matured. He is still being scolded but not for the same reason. The child now lacks the ability and confidence to make any decisions for himself at this point in his life.
Ironically the parents scold and ask their children throughout his childhood to do exactly what he was told. The child after growing up is unable to make decisions and is again being scolded by their parents.
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Persistently pushing another person to carry out a certain action is meant by the term "chivvy". In order to teach children appropriate manners, adults often make it a practice to urge children to follow some etiquette or stop them from doing certain things. It is always expected of children to handle themselves in an exemplary manner. Parents advice children to speak up, not to talk while eating, not to pick or wipe their nose in public, not to stare or point their fingers, and so on. The majority of kids dislike being given instructions in this manner. Adults often try to instill in children the manners of saying "please", shutting doors behind them, making less noise, carrying hankies, not dragging their feet, and taking hands from their pockets. They yell at them to pull their socks up, stand straight, say thank you, not cut in, and not rest their elbows on the table.
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Though parents are making an effort to impart proper manners and the standards of a sophisticated way of life through control. They also want their kids to act appropriately and think for themselves. When kids don't respond to questions, adults tell them to speak up, but if they talk with their mouths full, they will be told to stop doing so. Children are told not to stare or point fingers at other people, and not to pick their noses in public. They are advised to sit up straight and to say please, to make less noise, and to close the door behind them when they leave a room. They are constantly reminded to walk without dragging their feet, always have a handkerchief with them, and avoid putting their hands in their pockets.
The adults ask the kids to pull their socks up to their knees and to stand with their backs straight. They teach the kids to appreciate the person who helped them and to be polite and wait for their turn to speak while others are talking. Children are cautioned against resting their elbows on the table. A paradoxical situation is created where parents or other elders want the children to do as they instruct, but also want them to be able to make their own choices. Parents in order to develop their children into a civilised member of society, the natural instincts of children are sometimes suppressed by the standards of society. The poet does not want to give a sermon but rather wants to bring attention to the impolite attitude of adults.
The poet addresses the disparity between the expectation of parents and what in reality occurs. The persistent nagging that occurs between parents and other adults about everything a kid does is exhausting. They prioritise their requirements above the needs of the children. They carry themselves in a dictatorial manner. They want the child to make pleasant actions and engage in sophisticated behaviours. Now when the child has grown up and is unable to make the choice on his or her own, the poem concludes with the ironic question of the parents to their children, ‘why can't you make decisions for yourself as an adult?’.
The poem gives the message that parenting is a responsible job and should be done with utmost care or else it can negatively impact the child’s psychological development. The poem concludes on the note that adults shouldn’t get too involved in the lives of children.
Children are to be given the opportunity to explore themselves and find what is right and wrong, and eventually, they will develop confidence and learn to take up responsibilities, or else they might begin to hate their elders because of this constant nagging.
Qns 1. What happens when the adults give too many instructions to their children?
Ans. When parents provide their children with an endless number of commands, they suppress their children's capacity for spontaneity as well as their willingness to make use of their minds in order to truly understand life. These instructions rob kids of their innocence and force them to rely on their parents and teachers.
Qns 2. What message does the poem convey?
The poet addresses the disparity between the expectation of the parents and what in reality occurs. The poem gives the message that parenting is a responsible job and should be done with utmost care or else it can damage the child’s mental growth. The poem concludes on the note that adults shouldn’t get too involved in the lives of children.
Qns 3. Why do you think grown-ups say the kind of things mentioned in the poem?
Ans. Adults repeatedly instruct their children for various reasons. Through control, they are making an effort to impart proper manners and the standards of a sophisticated way of life. But in the whole process, the natural instincts of children are sometimes suppressed and this takes away the innocence of the child.
Qns 4. Why do the grown-ups tell the children not to speak with their mouths full?
Ans. To speak while one is eating food is considered bad manners. It is for this reason that parent or elders often teach their children not to speak with their mouths full of food.
Qns 5. What does the word “chivvy” mean?
Ans. Persistently pushing another person to carry out a certain action is meant by the term "chivvy". In order to teach children appropriate manners, adults often make it a practice to urge children to follow some etiquette or stop them from doing certain things. It is always expected of children to handle themselves in an exemplary manner.