Poverty of parenting

I watched the beginning of ‘how the other half lives’ last night. After an energetic day in the garden my eyelids were as heavy as my arms from digging so I didn’t get to see all of it, but I was interested in the take on poverty, bearing in mind it is television after all!

When we think of poverty we tend to think of peoples in poorer countries with no shelter, no food, let alone the luxuries we have in this country and think we cannot do without. And it’s hard to imagine, being so cushioned as we are in England, the amount of children they say that live in poverty. But the poverty I see isn’t to do with food or shelter or indeed money. The poverty that is really the most damaging to our children is a poverty of parenting.

While the kids are off school many families have collected in places like the coastal town near where I live. And sometimes that’s where I see real poverty in the way some of the children are parented.

They may not have much money in their pockets, but parents sometimes don’t seem to understand the quality of life they can give their kids through the way they parent them; through their conversation and attention, through the way they engage their children with the world around them, through being mindful of their responsibility to raise good people thus needing to be good people themselves, simply by the way they behave.

But in so many cases that is not what I see.

What I often see is kids being made all the poorer, not because they can’t have the latest Playstation, but because they are not attended to with respect and quality of care. They are poor because they are sworn at, ignored, bullied and sometimes even told to ‘F off and stop whinging’ as I heard one mother scream at her four year old.

This is where the real poverty lies. It is a poverty of care that has nothing to do with having. A poverty of understanding of the need to parent differently from this.

A bag of chips on a cheap picnic at the seaside or park with a mum and dad who talk to you with respect and love provides you with a richness of spirit that money can’t buy or expensive holidays can’t provide. It’s sometimes not what you have but the love you receive that makes you wealthy.

Times are hard. Many of us struggling with our bills and the thought of the future is a bit daunting! But the quality of parenting each of us can provide is free to give and has nothing to do with the financial climate.

Money makes life easier, no doubt. But we are all responsible for the way in which we parent and lack of funds is not an excuse for our failure to provide love and respect for all our children. It’s not only about the cliché ‘money can’t buy love’. It’s also to do with the fact that money won’t always free children from poverty either.

Encouraging parents to understand the importance of what they do with their parenting might just be a start!

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