Parenting classes!

I got a shock this morning. David Cameron made a statement that was actually correct for once!

He was on the BBC news and said that we would take lessons on how to drive a car – but not on how to parent! Hence he’s setting up a system of parenting classes. (See some of the reports from here).

He might be right in the statement above, but is he right in suggesting that parent classes are the way forward or is that just a headline grabber – again?

I kind of have my suspicions, as they may be funding parent classes with one hand, yet with the other they’ve so trashed systems of parent support we’ve had over the years through the NHS, the midwifery and health visitor service, through Sure Start etc, I can’t help thinking this is just a new vote winning gimmick or downright hypocrisy.

However, I’ve often thought that helping parents parent is something we should be paying attention to. But, parenting is a sensitive issue. Makes us cringe to think that we’re bad parents and not up to the job and it’s going to be mighty tricky telling others how to do it.

We can teach people practical things; how to change nappies, feed children, even in some ways how to interact with them. But the thing that really makes a good parent is an awareness of our own behaviour and an understanding of how that impacts on those around us. It’s also influenced by the sense of care, responsibility and respect that is learnt from our closest family and community. The thought we put into our parenting. The time we spend. The love we’ve received and the way we’re able to express it.

So many intangible influences it would be hard to package that and put it in lessons in the glib way Cameron suggests – him coming from the background he does! And why should parenting lessons only last up to the age of a child being five? Seems there are as many challenges beyond that as before – as those of us who live with tweens and teens will know.

It’s a massive debatable issue. It’s also indicative of the rather sad fact that our communities are so rent apart now that this, another of the things we would have organically learned from being within them, has suddenly become something else the state thinks they have to teach us.

What’s your view?

9 thoughts on “Parenting classes!

  1. Society and the shape of families is continually evolving. Huge amounts of families are now blended, and this is rarely a smooth blend. Families are dispersed and the old support systems that gave parents and their children a sense of security is in place for the minority only. I have always tried to be a good parent and have worked hard at this. But in retrospect, I have made some huge errors that harmed my children in ways that I could not have foreseen. This was in part due to the repercussions of divorce, being a single Mum, financial and work pressures, remarriage, guilt, etc. So for this reason, I do think that having a forum to meet with other parents can only be a good thing, and certainly lessons in communication and parenting can help us all. I certainly would have taken advantage of these services had they been available to me. My experience has found parenting to become increasingly complex and difficult as my children have aged.

  2. I think most of the time parents simply need support and encouragement. There are increasingly incentives for parents to return to work early and with differing advice from Health visitors, books, tv programmes, and general nanny state announcements of what we should or shouldn’t be doing, I think it’s easy to lose confidence in our ability to parent.

    When I had my first child, in the days before Sure Start and funding of nursery places, the voluntary organisations – playgroups, mother and baby groups – run predominantly by the retired folks or stay-at-home mums of the community (and never for profit), were a huge source of support for new parents. Local people could keep a gentle eye on local families and offer non-judgmental support if they felt the families needed it. They knew the families and could see when parents weren’t coping.

    These playgroups and support networks died out once parents were tempted back to work by free childcare places in nurseries attached to schools. The state took over what the community had up until then been doing informally very well.

    But my experience indicates that the formality and rigidity of state organisations just can’t provide the local grass roots support of the community organisations it has replaced.

    I saw this very clearly when all our local playgroups (except Surestart centres) closed when my second child was a toddler. At the same time preschools attached to schools sprung up everywhere. Most, unlike the playgroups, had rigid rules, insisting that the child attend for set numbers of hours. Most of our local ones were happy to keep the parents outside the gate, so that the ‘professionals’ rather than voluntary workers could take over the role of supporting the children.

    We were lucky to find one preschool that wasn’t attached to a school and that had rather ‘old-fashioned’ ideas about child-centred free play being the best way to learn. But it was a rare gem.

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to write this here. I believe that you have identified the core of the matter in that parenting is something that you learn from the love and support of a community and that is what is sadly lacking for all the reasons you describe. As soon as the state gets involved then red tape ends up stealing away the good bits! Like with education!

  3. Being a parent is not easy and I have been known to say that we need lessons but what you say is true. There is so much to being a parent that cannot be taught.

  4. At the risk of sounding like a prig – I don’t think that the people who are truly bad parents would give a toss whether they are good parents or not and therefore would not attend the classes anyway. I think the people who question whether they are good parents must care about their parenting and are probably the ones doing a good job.

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