I was delighted to be asked for my opinion for Time Out Magazine on the Government’s parenting classes initiative.
David Cameron is planning to tackle what he sees as a lack of discipline in the home by giving families £100 vouchers for parenting classes. This week we ask: Will this scheme really make any long-term difference to struggling parents?
Yes – Sue Atkins, parenting author and broadcaster
‘Achieving parenting confidence is not an accident. It is created by specific ways of thinking and acting. Research has found that the quality of parenting in a child’s early life has a huge influence on their later progress at school and in life generally. ‘Where do parents turn for advice on raising a child if they have had poor role models themselves? ‘It seems to be the internet, yet chatting on social media sites may not explain why communicating with your child is important, or playing with them develops their imagination. Where do you learn to control your temper and increase your patience? ‘Asking for help raising our children is the last parenting taboo, so I really welcome the government’s initiative. ‘There are pockets of dysfunctional families who do need guidance to break the cycle of poor parenting, but they are often the families who won’t take up an offer of help. I hope this taboo will be broken by providing vouchers that can just be picked up on the high street [the vouchers are offered at Boots] and making the classes feel like an extension of antenatal classes.’ For more on the Can Parent vouchers, visit nct.org.uk
No – Liz Fraser, parenting author and broadcaster
‘The classes are unlikely to be attended by the parents who shout at their children six times a day, or feed them a packet of crisps or biscuits for breakfast. I’ve seen parents who tell me they don’t speak to their babies because their babies don’t speak to them. That sort of person will not go. ‘That means £5 million [the cost of the scheme] of taxpayer money will go towards helping the people who are doing a reasonable job already rather than addressing the parents who are unemployed, alcoholic, drug addicted or violent. How can we reach them? Schools and health visitors have a vital part to play in watching out for kids who are not treated right. ‘I sit on a panel for the Centre for the Modern Family, a think tank addressing contemporary family issues. Their research has found that those families who are the most resilient are those where the parents are in work. Work makes you feel as if you are worth something and that is the key. Although I welcome the trial of this scheme, we must not kid ourselves that classes will solve the problem of poor parenting. People said the riots in London last year were down to bad parenting. I disagree. The riots were caused by much deeper social problems.’