We’re three weeks into the new school year and once more, dear friends, I wonder what parents actually think being a parent is all about. Let me share with you the letter I’d like to send to many of them…
I am using that term loosely, perhaps essentially biologically because the rest of the parent-child deal you seem to have entirely ignored. Perhaps accidentally because you don’t really know any better, or perhaps because you don’t really care, and like the rest of the country believe it’s up to teachers to, well, teach your child about everything.
I must inform you that already your child is miles behind. They’re so far behind, they’ll probably never catch up. And you know what, it’s nothing to do with me. By the time they get to me in secondary school so much damage has been done that it is virtually impossible to correct. Yet, we are expected to. We’re expected to do your job as well as ours. We’re expected to devote our lives to your children. I wonder why you aren’t expected to do that?
And, luckily for your child, I will do my best to be their mother, their teacher, their confessor, their therapist, their social worker and anything else Ofsted, or senior management think I need to be to do my job. Fortunately for you, it’s not just me but a plethora of equally devoted, hard working teachers, whom you simply take for granted or complain about.
Do you want to help your child? Do you really want them to learn at school and become decent, thoughtful, functioning citizens, instead of the ignorant young lumps they are now?
Listen well, then, because here are some practical, straight forward and useful things you can do for your child, regardless of your income or social status.
1.Buy a map of the world and stick it on your walls. If you manage to have dinner together then look at it and discuss it. Your children need to know where places are, what oceans are, how far away New Zealand is.
2.Buy a dictionary and a thesaurus – don’t just rely on computers for everything. Reading a dictionary helps your word power, your ability to spell. A thesaurus will also help word power.
3.Read to your children when they are young. They will love it and it will do wonders for your relationship with them. Read fairy stories, myths, legends, classic children’s stories. Don’t let them know the world only through movies and screens. Reading helps them in everything – spelling, grammar, expression, empathy, understanding the world and people in it. Oh, and reading helps you learn to concentrate and concentration spans still matter. And those who run the world are readers.
4.Get an atlas too – look through it, read it together, talk about the world – it’s an interesting place.
5.Take your children out – not just to Thorpe Park. Living in the UK, especially around London means history and Art and Culture are but a train/bus ride away. It’s scandalous that children living in London do not know there is a river running through it, or haven’t been to the Globe theatre or a gallery. Lots of things are cheap or free. Take your children out and let them learn about their city, their world.
6.Eat together. Have meals at the table, eat with knives and forks from plates. Eat healthy food – meat, fish and vegetables. Talk to each other. Leave all electronic equipment turned off.
7.Teach your child manners and respect for others. This means tolerance too.
8.Teach your child to take responsibility for themselves – give them chores and expect them to do more than sit on their increasingly fat arses doing nothing, being waited on by all and sundry. Expecting others to give them a bloody pen!
9.Check that they’re doing homework. Challenge them, help them, expect more from them. This lets you know what they know, if they’re coping or not, when you should get more involved.
10.Talk to your child, and, very importantly, listen to them.
11.Finally, be prepared to say NO to them. Give them limits, give them rules. Don’t let them be brats. No-body likes a brat, or a bitch.
Is that too hard? Is it too much to expect that you take some responsibility for your child becoming a decent adult, someone people like, admire, want to employ and spend time with?
But you need to start at the start. When they’re young and pliable, and love you no matter what. If you leave proper parenting until they meet me it’s too late for you too. They’ll be rude, argumentative, horrible, sulky, aggressive chunks of uncoordinated hormone driven, pimple infested teen monsters.
Perhaps you need to think harder about what being a parent really means? Perhaps you need to take your job as seriously as I take mine?
Ms Pink (Images from Private Collection)