“Parents should take lessons in how to control children – PM” – runs the main headline in the Observer this morning.
Expansion of parenting classes is certainly something to be welcomed. When I was first a parent, I thought it was very strange that parents were offered classes on breathing techniques during pregnancy and pelvic floor exercises, plus inspection of changing areas and bottle procedures after birth, but not a word of guidance after that, until primary school “parent/school agreements”.
I am not comfortable with the word “control” in the Observer headline. David Cameron uses the word “discipline” in his quotes about this. This should be about supporting parents and, dare I say it, encouraging “quality time” between parents and children.
Reading the Observer article, this government initiative seems to be somewhat directed at poorer families. But middle class families have no reason to be smug about this. Often busy parental professional lives can buy toys, gadgets and nannies, but children miss time with, and love from, their parents. I once came across a situation where some working affluent parents dumped their six month old baby, who was normally looked after by a nanny while the parents worked, in a nursery (admitted one of the best and most expensive in the country) while they jetted to the Caribbean on holiday for three weeks. This just seemed to me something which no parent would do. One’s instincts would just stop one leaving one’s precious little baby alone in someone else’s hands for so long.
So I think David Cameron could afford to adopt a less patronising tone in respect to less privileged families.
My complaint with this Cameron story is perhaps one of cynicism. Why is he raising this issue at this time? It feels a bit “Back to Basics” to me. This is a classic Cameron diversion tactic – rather like the somewhat diversionary Syrian air strikes nonsense.
If we look at Cameron’s quotes he says:
Children in families that break apart are more than twice as likely to experience poverty as those whose families stay together.
I have all sorts of issues with this. It suggests this is perhaps another Cameron “bash the poor” initiative. He’s basically talking about nuclear 2.2 children families. But sometimes the greatest examples of fine parenting are in poor single parent families and the worst examples of parenting are in affluent middle class dual parent families.
I also worry whether David Cameron is mixing up cause and effect. Had it not occurred to him that experiencing poverty, in the first place, might actually be a key cause of the odd marital break-up?