Time for Parenting...
...because raising children is a full-time job
October 2002 Newsletter
FTM, Parliament and Positive Parenting
Jill Kirby and I attended a Joint Meeting of the Associate Parliamentary Group for Parents and Families on 8th May. It was my first visit to the Houses of Parliament; I was fascinated by the atmosphere, the bustle and imposing architecture. We met in the Moses room, panelled in dark wood with a huge mural of Moses holding the Commandments on tablets of stone.
The meeting was entitled Positive Parenting: What gains can children, parents and society expect? The room was allotted just one hour, so the two speakers spoke very fast and packed in their facts.
Dr Sarah Stewart-Brown, who is the director of Health Services Research at Oxford University, spoke of 'positive parenting', which is warm, affectionate, caring and supportive - but also includes positive discipline and agreed sanctions. She distinguished this from 'unhelpful parenting', which has many costly consequences for society, - crime, poor health, teenage pregnancy, poor educational and work outcomes.
Dr Brown confirmed the principle that we (FTM) have known for some time, that attachment between mother and child, especially in the first year, is vital for healthy emotional development. Particularly, scientific research over the last 10 years shows that early emotional development plays a key part in building the brain. The parent-child bond has significant consequences for the ability of the child to relate to peers. Both child health and long term adult health can be predicted from the quality of early parenting.
Dr Brown's view is that with help, parents whose are failing to provide positive parenting can change, but the process is a very gradual one. Only when parents are ready to recognise their approach is not working will they be willing to listen to alternatives.
What are the solutions? In Dr Brown's view, these are two-fold. First, the general approach - such as making known the evidence about good parenting in TV reports, parenting programmes and through political leadership. Secondly, targeted solutions for families who are having problems, such as home visits and specific parenting education.
An example of targeted solutions was provided by the second speaker Dr Stephen Scott from the Department of Child Psychiatry, King's College London. Dr Scott asked "How can we make Positive Parenting happen in the UK?" Illustrating his talk with a video clip from a parenting class, he described his 5-step action plan for parenting and support:
1. Programme must be based on solid theory
Dr Scott showed us a startling chart demonstrating that the cost to society of a child with a conduct disorder is £70,000 by the age of 28.
Dr Scott also made the point that parenting programmes are very varied in quality and effectiveness, therefore care was needed in choosing the right programme. An example of a good programme is SPOKES (Supporting Parents on Kids Education), which gets parents in when they drop their children off at school. The programmes provided by Sure Start are a mixed bag - Sure Start is good at identifying those who need help, less consistent in the quality of delivery.
The room was full with at least 50 representatives of different family organisations as well as MPs and peers. As one MP who was present commented to Jill afterwards - the talks were full of good ideas but how is effective parenting to take place if both parents are expected to be out at work all day? (The MP is Andrew Selous, a Conservative backbencher whose wife is a full-time mother and supporter of FTM).