Parenting

Good Parenting #

Psychologist and parenting expert and author Steve Biddulph says; *“ **Some parents don’t really raise their children, they just manage them”.   (*from Kerrie O’Brien The Age, 18/07/20)

If you’re born into a poor family, the stress on parents makes life very difficult, he says, but the children of the very wealthy face a different kind of stress.

“These are rich kids but they are neglected. It’s an odd combination of high expectation but low emotional connection. Expensive private schools I consult to tell me this all the time — the job of parenthood has been abrogated to others."

What he sees is many students in after-school care until late, up to 9pm, while others are sent away to boarding school and come home only on weekends, even though their parents live five blocks away. It’s far from ideal.

“If we can just help young parents to feel secure and relaxed, it’s the foundation of mental health for kids,” he says. “Little children need to get this memory, in their bones, of feeling absolutely safe and secure, of Mum and Dad delighting in them and being there for them."

Back to the socio-economic idea: if you can be born in the middle, income wise, life tends to be more nurturing and normal. “The parents are much more likely to come home in time to kick a ball and they really want to be with their children. That’s a much happier childhood.”

That’s not to say things are rosy for families in the middle tier. Financial pressure on them is changing and not for the better. Now, he says, it’s very difficult to live on one wage. “In a world that’s vastly more prosperous than the 1950s, it’s bizarre that we can’t give people the time for parenting.”

In 1970, as an exchange student living in a village in Papua New Guinea, Biddulph had a revelation. He saw mothers and fathers in a neolithic culture being warm, tender and close to children — and to each other. “People would often hold your hand for half an hour while having a chat.”

“Anglo-Saxon parents traditionally have been among the coldest in the world. We loved our kids just as much but the culture frowned on shows of affection. We are still thawing out from that."

In 1994, when he wrote Raising Boys, fathers spent an average of eight minutes a day with their kids. “When I revised the book for the 21st century - by 2010 … that figure had trebled. Many, many dads are spending hours a day with their kids. So the whole profile of fatherhood has shifted. You see dads pushing prams, taking kids to the shops; that was an absolute anathema back then.”

It’s a revolution and it will pay off, says Biddulph, who was born in Yorkshire in the 1950s. He jokes that his hometown was the world capital of bad parenting. “It’s not like that now but back then, discipline just meant calling kids names. And, of course, hitting them. The problem was it just didn’t work, the kids developed terrible self-esteem or they rebelled and it just got worse."