Parents in Education.
David Cameron has recently commented on the need for Parenting Classes. You don’t send people out on the roads to drive a car without driving lessons, he said, so why do the same with the important job of parenting?
There appears to be cross-party support for such an initiative, with Stephen Twigg, Shadow Secretary of State for Education, saying that such a programme has to be directed according to need and be part of an effort to reduce inequalities.
Whilst 3Di Associates welcome any initiative that helps people to nurture young people, supporting them in their early years, we would hope these parenting classes go beyond knowledge based on “teething and dealing with tantrums” as reported in the extracts above.
Any new parent who chooses to buy or borrow child development books will tell you they are sometimes quite alarming. If your child has not walked or talked by the median age reported in these books, panic can set in and unnecessary worries take over. Every child is an individual and develops differently. Occasionally a child of two who has not said a word can suddenly utter her first comments in a complete sentence. Others start talking at the age of fifteen months with almost perfect intonation. They are all different. We are all different.
What we would certainly not like to see is a National Curriculum of Child Development that consists of a strict process of potty training or criteria for putting your child to sleep at night that makes the individual preferences of both child and parent seem somehow wrong.
Whatever form parenting classes takes, one would hope that it includes considerable time for looking at the emotional, social, personal and spiritual development of the child as well as the physical and intellectual. One would hope that any parenting classes would emphasise the need for children to develop and use their instincts and their personal preferences and not lose that essence of childhood through a ritualised learning that suppresses all natural modes of behaviour.(Obviously this needs to be tempered with the development of intellect, empathy and other intelligences).
Parenting classes should encourage parents to talk to their children, to find the essence of creativity that every child possesses, and should concentrate on the incredible value of play. One would also hope that every parent attending these classes would be encouraged to read with and to their children at an early age. The Book Start initiative, which has been replicated in many countries, is an excellent programme, providing free books for parents to read to their child, encouraging them to share these books with other parents, or even finding a local library (as long as they haven’t been closed down) to join and find new books.
Parenting classes should also encourage parents and carers to take children out of their immediate home environment to visit places of interest – libraries, parks, museums, river walks, seaside. These things don’t need to be costly but are so essential to broadening a child’s mind and developing that sense of creativity that is within each and every one of us.
(More of this in a future blog).
The role of a parent is the most important one in life but it also has to be said that not everyone will be parents, either through choice or misfortune. When the government is considering parenting classes in the National Curriculum perhaps there ought to be a shift of emphasis to a more inclusive programme of “Being a positive human being” where all the significant skills and values of parenthood are incorporated into a programme of support on how to be a good person, a decent citizen, and an empathetic human being who understands their own potential. Is this perhaps a hope too far?
It will be interesting to see how the pilot programmes develop, whether prospective parents feel their needs are being fully met, and whether they feel prepared and able to nurture and develop all of their child’s intelligences.