Don’t just be good parents, be outstanding parents

By Sharon Hodgson MP

As a parent I know all too well that parents share the common aspiration that we all want to do the best for our children. I am also aware that knowing what is best for our children and achieving it is a difficult task and accepting that we may struggle from time to time is normal.

However, if this struggling goes unaddressed it can lead to neglect, harsh parenting or even abuse. This can have serious implications on a child’s development from a very early age and then affect them as they become adults.

That is why when parents face those hurdles in parenthood, that access to support and guidance is accessible so that children have the best start in life. It is the earliest of early intervention.

Due to their fear of an ever encroaching ‘nanny state, ministers have in the past been reluctant to implement policies like increased access to parenting classes, counselling and relationship support so that families don’t breakdown’. But I believe that it is increasingly important that all parents understand child development and how to handle certain situations.

If parents are aware of how a child’s brain develops and how each experience especially from birth to age two is so formative of the person they become, then they are much more likely to change their parenting style or behaviour around their children.

This will then start a cycle: if a child is well parented, loved and nurtured, then when the child becomes an adult and a parent, they will be more likely to be good parents and love and nurture their own child and so on.

But why should classes on how to be a parent start when we become parents? I believe that children from a young age should be taught in school about child development, how the connections in the brain are formed and the effect on the brain of neglect and abuse and about the nature v nurture debate; the topics could be rolled out age appropriately over a number of subjects including science and PSHE. This way, by the time parenthood reaches them, they are almost an expert on how to bring up their child.

Parenting can be a difficult task, but it doesn’t have to be. If the support and guidance is made available, I believe that parents will thrive and seek the support they need in order to give their children the very best start in life.