What do you suppose is a ‘parenting expert’? I wonder whether I qualify? After all, I’ve so far raised half my kids to adulthood without them being too antisocial. We’ve avoided gangs and drugs, body piercings have been kept to a minimum and they seem to have a vague interest in earning their own living on the right side of the Law.
So I wonder what extra pzazz the Government-appointed ‘parenting experts’ announced today (see link below) will bring to their first class of panic – stricken first time parents and exhausted toddler tamers? Wow, Samantha darling, taking the register should be fun…
‘OK, Acacia Avenue? Here, Colby Close? Golly, well done, you. Oh dear, no-one from Peckham Towers again? What a shame. Its not as though we don’t make them thoroughly welcome: the box of Baby Einstein DVDs is here for anyone to enjoy, after all”
‘Now, anyone remember this week’s lesson? No-one? Oh come on, listening skills; don’t you remember? Ah, well, don’t worry, perhaps we should do a little conflict resolution this week instead!’.
Don’t get me wrong. Like many people who deal with youngsters on a regular basis, I am only too well aware that supporting parents of under fives is crucial, and I still remember the panic, fear and exhaustion of those early years chez ApeandAngel, when PND wasn’t just something on a nosy health visitor’s chart but an all-consuming and terrifyingly bleak world that very nearly won. I was lucky.
The days when parenting was a skill that developed with the support and ear-bashing of an older generation have long gone for most of us. The resulting lacuna needed to be filled by more formalised support, and eventually, it was. One of the New Labour ideas that did deserve respect was the creation of Sure Start Centres to give exactly the kind of support that all of a sudden this Government has decided needs to be ‘trialled’ again……having allowed savage cuts to Sure Start Centres across the country as part of its public sector cutbacks.
Sure Start Centres have proved a lifeline for many struggling parents, and an effective support to many children where inadequate parenting has put them ‘at risk’.
According to Children’s Minister Sarah Teather, the Government has a ‘moral and social duty’ to support all parents of under fives. Fantastic. Since the trial lessons are to be available in 2012 it is a fair bet that a large number of children who need support will be lost in the gap between proper funding of Sure Start Centres and the handing out of free vouchers for parentcraft lessons.
But the the aspect of all this that I find most disturbing is the political motivation towards ‘instruction’ in parenthood by a State that believes it has a ‘moral and social duty’ to do so. Last time I looked this wasn’t a totalitarian or authoritarian nation. Should we really support an approach that proposes ‘parenting experts’ teach parents the correct way to ensure their children’s self control and discipline? An approach that intends to shape the way they play, or manage conflict within the home? Now that smacking has been condemned, will the Government do the same for those of us who yell “if you don’t come down this minute it’s going in the bloody bin” at full volume, or who exceed the permitted Pink Plastic Quota on a regular basis?
Most importantly, how will we deal with those who receive the vouchers, but who fail to attend? Detention?
Actually, I’d quite like to apply for the job. Maybe if I do it well enough I’ll stop worrying about the children of the pupil parents who don’t come for lessons. After all, I guess we can always catch up with them later on in court if things go wrong, can’t we?