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Michael Hickey

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If raising children is one of the most important things we do in society, shouldn't the subject be directly taught in schools?

Notwithstanding that there are many different approaches which can be taken – and despite the risk of being accused of trying to run a “nanny state” - surely there are some key principles which our young would benefit from being taught at an early age, so that they have the knowledge and skills necessary for when they eventually become parents.

If I wanted to do some paid work in your house on your electrical system, to drive a car, to handle food in a restaurant or even be a nursery school teacher, I would be required to study and pass a test in order to demonstrate an acceptable level of competency in the work to be done. And yet, to breed and play the most important role in the critical formative years of societies next generation, I need no qualifications nor be required to receive any formal teaching on what is involved. Neither am I required to receive guidance in how to cope with the stress of parenthood and how children learn.

Looking at many of the problems, and successes, in society, they so often have factors in the child’s upbringing which play a major part in how children turn out. It is no small coincidence that children of lower income families have a higher propensity to lead a life of crime, or fail to fully engage in the education process which has the potential to help them escape some of the challenges of their youth.

Of course, family life is just one aspect of the many influences on our young. There are many debates about how best to ensure more children have a less disadvantaged start in life and increase their life chances, whether through increased investment in poor communities, or social security payments to the less well off groups in society.

What is missing, in my point of view, is a fully engaged discussion about what capabilities people need to do a great job of raising the next generation, and the legitimate role that state education systems can play.

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    Apr 25 2011: The experience and information is out there already, but it's a case of you can lead a horse to water...

    Expecting schools to do what a parent should do just because some parents don't know what they are doing won't work.

    Who will design the family-licence exam? Will it be subject to the same derived standardisation as other exams? Will people even care or hold it in any kind of regard in the heat of the moment?

    Does the resultant pregnancy get terminated or does the mother go full term and the child then removed from her because she lacks the appropriate qualifications? Will people be required to sit refresher courses with the arrival of each new child? Who pays for this qualification?

    Aside from those interesting talking points, school does not occupy the same "authentic life space" as the family environment. There's education and there's lifestyle - both influence each other but, I believe, one is far more enduring than the other and it comes from home.
    • Apr 25 2011: You make excellent points, Scott, but aren't they negatively focussed?

      I agree that the information is already out there and that the lessons learnt at home can be more powerful and enduring. However, that does not seem to be enough – we have many problems in society caused by poor parenting.

      I suggest that even if there are challenges, we should explore what role formal education can play. Whilst I reference qualifications, I am not (yet) advocating that people must pass exams before being authorised to breed.

      What I am suggesting is that there is so much more we can, and should, do for the benefit of all members in society. Taking the long view, I believe we need to start early. After all, might we not potentially have fewer child victims if children were able to benefit from parents that had greater awareness and capabilities relating to the work involved in parenting?
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      Apr 25 2011: I think one of the most important things you said refers to this "who pays?"

      On Democracies, people will pay. The question is, do they want to pay for something that will cut their options? Why would they pay for something that will be a pain in their asses on the future? (i'm not saying everyone will think like this, but probably most of them, at least here on Brasil)

      On Oligarchies or, worse, dictatorships the State will pay. But the State, in this case, have interests, political interests. This actually exists and it's called leadership ideological domination.

      What we (the government) do here at Brasil (where public schools stinks) is to promote family planning on television, popular newspapers, radio, etc...

      Also, there are some campaigns (these are more related to the subject of this conversation) suggesting how teachers should manage their relations with the kid's home education.

      Today's suggestions was related to Islam, about how the Coran teaches some basic manners to kids, like knocking on the door before entering the parent's room.
      • Apr 25 2011: Mario - I would suggest that a comparable question is who pays if we don't do this?

        I believe that the child pays through a less beneficial upbringin, and society pays if / when that child grows up beiing less able to function well and become a good parent when it is their turn to breed.
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          Apr 26 2011: I agree with you, for sure the society pays the price when the time comes. But we are here discussing this on TED. I would pay for that, because i know it would be better. But common knowledge ain't like this, some challenges will arise:

          - That's a lie, it won't work, they just want my money; (on my country this is, actually, true);

          - I won't spend my money on this, cause i can do without it.
      • Apr 27 2011: So you can do without it. That's nice. However, isn't there likely to be some innocent kid yet to be born whose parents are going through school right now, that deserves to have them behave differently than they might?

        Surely we can't just look out for ourselves..
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          Apr 27 2011: I didn't say i can do without it, you got me wrong (perhaps because of my poor english). What i meant is that the majority of the population will ask these questions, and that's why i think it wouldn't work.
      • Apr 27 2011: Mario - Sorry, yes, I misunderstood. My apologies.
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      Apr 26 2011: No Mick, I side with Scott on this one. Why?

      Education has foolishly taken on far too many social roles and responsibilities over the past twenty-five years. As a result the commitment to literacy has been diminished.

      It had to happen. The number of teaching minutes has not increased to cover these new socializing and nurturing expectations. Education has become our great and default social dumping ground, meaning schools simply cannot feasibly maintain the level of literacy they once could. So, there is a choice to make.

      Knock on some other door or provide education with the supports it desperately needs to carry out this ever-growing list of social, moral and nurturing responsibilities. For example, the length of the school year will need to be addressed. Should a student have perfect attendance, s/he still only attends classes for six months of a year (185 days is the norm, while 197 is legislated - minus ProD et al). Not nearly enough time to master reading, writing and arithmetic, much less learning to be a parent (forgot, are we promoting abstinence here?)

      Now, taking into account Western, Eastern, cultural, religious and other specifics involved in parenting this could become quite an involved course(s). Well, add something new to the curriculum load and we have to subtract something. How about subtracting some mathematics?

      Add to this, teacher colleges do not and have not provided training for teachers to be social workers, health workers, criminal justice workers, counselors, and the numerous other specialized areas of support and development. There is this focus on instruction, planning and assessment of and for learning. Funny thing, huh?

      Pass this one on to the Navy. I'm sure they will do a bang up job of it. If they don't want it, then how about, ask parents to...*shudder* raise and parent their own kids. Outrageous and dodgy proposition, yes, but it just might be crazy enough to work.
    • Apr 27 2011: Scott, just because the idea/information is out there already doesn't mean it's no longer the responsibility of society to actively teach this information (whether through the education system or another system) I mean, there is tonnes of information out there about mathematics. Do we expect kids to pick it up without any help from society?
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        May 2 2011: Aren't immediate and extended family and friends society?

        I guess it's a bit like how people still drink and drive despite dozens of 'drink-driving' ads on TV raising awareness of the dangers involved.

        Society can provide the space to educate but knowing is not the same as doing.
  • May 7 2011: I am hesitant to say we should have state "training" for parenting. However, I have many friends whose first real experience with a newborn was when they gave birth to one. As families get smaller and society gets more age-fragmented, many adults have had literally *no* experience with children before becoming parents. This is a recipe for trouble. Among primates, parenting is learned, not instinctive.

    Unfortunately, many of those giving "professional" advice are similarly ignorant. They are sociologists who have observed lots of parents but have none of their own. Or doctors who see a hundred kids a day....for ten minutes each. Or an upwardly mobile couple who have one perfect child and a nanny. These folks are simply not qualified to give parenting advice.

    It has been repeatedly demonstrated that it takes 10,000 hours to achieve expertise in any area. This is 2-3 years of 12 hour days, every day. Many parents simply don't spend enough time with children, any children, to achieve any level of proficiency with kids. Additionally, most of our education and training is for linear systems. In linear systems, cause and effect are controllable and predictable. But kids are the ultimate non-linear system: complex, chaotic, and ultimately unpredictable.

    So, how do we train great parents?
    First, train everyone in how to deal with non-linear systems. This would require a major overhaul of the school system.

    Second, make sure pre-parents have chances to interact with young children under the guidance of kid-experienced people. This would required that we re-create mixed age-settings, instead of segregating everyone by age and type.

    Third, learn how to be forgiving and non-judgemental of each other. A constant refrain among parents is "I never thought I'd be one of those parents who....." Parenting is indescribably complex. Those who have simple answers probably don't know what they're talking about, and often do more harm than good.
    • May 7 2011: Karen - thank you, a very valuable contribution for my thinking.

      The first few points you cover are very well made.

      I also love the way that you follow on, and propose ideas for how we might handle such a challenge. Not easy, for sure. I tend to think that even if even we can only help people understand the complexities and get some discussions going at an early age, it will help awareness and foster some further work on enabling some experiential opportunities as the ones you highlite.

      Thank you!
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      May 7 2011: Karen, I believe you hit the nail on the head!!!
      I´m a mom, have been a teacher and am a therapist. To think in a non linear way, I find group debates , T groups and therapy to be really supportive. When a group of people who are really involved in something and who have many different experiences and ages and cultural experiences and backgrounds get together to talk about something with respect, a creative experience happens. If we can add technical aid, courage to experiment and enough time, it really takes us places. This is one of them. I´m starting a support group for parents in Madrid, Spain. I hope this will be it´s spirit. I´d love to know if your support groups out there are working!
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    Apr 30 2011: Without making it seem simple (because life is not!) I subscribe to the point of view that "it takes a village". Raising children is in many ways all of our concern. We should all be contributing to the effort.

    It should be reflected in many, many ways: in how we treat our employees, in the way we fund our schools (in my humble opinion all education should be free), in what we teach them at school, in what kinds of things a town/city (aka village) does to socialize children and instill a sense of responsibility to others, in how we use the cultural arts to give children a sense of what is beautiful and meaningful. and so on and so forth.

    So I think the "big picture" solution to raising children is "it takes a village".
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    Apr 26 2011: I agree that raising our children is one of the most important things that we do.

    Agreeing on how to raise our children is a different matter. Obtaining some form of global consensus on a set of guidelines is likely the challenge. Where to begin? Establishing a Parental Body of Knowledge in a Wikipedia-like platform might be a good place to start. One small step down the road ...

    I do not agree that government/schools should be in charge of this - they can contribute and support in my view, but not control. Perhaps some non-denominational, diverse custodial not-for-profit organization to be the caretaker of the knowledge base.

    I think there are some basic ideas that we can use for a starting point - like:

    Children require adult supervision to keep them safe.
    Children need a reasonably diverse diet to stay healthy.

    I'm sure others will have ideas to contribute as well.

    Thank you for starting an interesting conversation.
  • Apr 26 2011: Absolutely!
    There has been much research in psychology on parenting styles and there is a wealth of knowledge about good and bad parenting.
    (It has been established that there are primarily four parenting styles - authoritative, authoritarian, permissive and uninvolved. There have been conclusive studies about the profiles of the later lives of the children raised in each of these settings, how it effects their attachment patterns and how that in turn, effects their relationships and careers.)
    But sadly, very few people know about it and are unaware of the extent of the change this knowledge can bring to the lives of their children.
  • Apr 26 2011: Part of the issue is that people still view parenting as a 'natural' skill, something everyone just knows how to do. In the case of a community where people at all stages of life are exposed to and engaged in raising children then it is something they 'naturally' acquire- that is, they learn the skills without being explicitly taught. However, in societies where people are increasingly segregated, potential parents are often not engaged in or exposed to child raising in any depth until they actually have children of their own at which point they learn a great deal by trial and error and by engaging with others in similar situations. Until we recognise that parenting is a learnt skill, and that the old ways in which this skill was learnt are either limited or gone we can't meaningfully engage in discussions about parenting.

    One of the key ways parenting is learnt is by modelling- young people take part in caring for the young and in doing so see and practise the skills of parenting (we see this in apes as well). I agree that theory of parenting can probably be taught in schools and sorting out issues of appropriate ages and whatnot simply needs discussion, but I'm concerned about the practical aspects. Being told about the realities such as nappy changing and four hour feeding cycles, and the actual experience are wildly different things. Most practical skills require practical mentored/apprenticeship training, and if we're going to treat parenting as on parr with this kind of thing, I'm not sure how we'd manage that aspect of the training in schools.
    • Apr 27 2011: Elwin, your response seems to be in the minority, like my views.....

      We agree that there is benefit, but not so sure about how best to deliver a meaningful impact. Many things to consider, for sure, and no doubt there are experts who can help society develop the optimum course of action - no matter how little. If we don't try, we will never change.

      Thank you for your positive consideration of this point
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        Apr 30 2011: I fairly agree with Elwin's consideration but I don't think that skills are only most beneficial until we acquire children of our own. Looking back to the title of this discussion; "If raising children is one of the most important things we do in society, shouldn't the subject be directly taught in schools?", it looks like the practical aspects are projected. For me, the question of how should the subject be implemented (indirectly or directly) in schools is more appropriate. Based on psychological and sociological aspects in learning, we could think of the following scratchy outlines as some kind of teaching ideas:
        1. Age 4-6 : Injecting ideas of love and caring through direct treatment and media.
        2. Age 7-10: Teaching children why they need to love their father and mother and understand how hard to take care of them or their brothers and sisters (if they have ones).
        3. Age 11-13: Teaching how they could improve their relationship with their parents by certain helping activities at home e.g. Help father wash their car, helping mother to bake cakes or changing diapers of their small baby sister, etc.
        4. Age 14-17: Social Skills and Sex Education. Help understand the common gender differences in terms of physical capabilities, socializing, and emotions. The importance and responsibility in marriage. Sex education in terms of biological and social aspects.
        5. Age 18++: Social and Family models by civilizations, religions, and cultures from historical developments to the globalization era. Parenting skills.

        We could not predict the exact results for our effort but how we deliver the positive ideology tho the minds or the people and give them enough knowledge to prepare are all that matters.
        • Apr 30 2011: Mohd - I think your points are very helpful. It is about the right learning experience at the right time.

          You also show how such an idea ned not be controversial in terms of content / delivery.

          Thank you
  • May 14 2011: Rudo;ph Dreikurs, a famous Adlerian Psycholgist, who wrote the book "Children the Cahallenge", believed that the only way to change to world was to help teachers and parents create saner children. Adlerian psychology talks about cooperation being the iron clad logic of social living. It teaches that a misbehaving child is a discouraged child.
    I think the idea of teaching these concepts in schools is amazing. It would have the potential to change the world.
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    May 12 2011: Teach the teacher!

    I can’t speak for schools outside the United States, but for those who went to school in America, I think you’ll agree that the American education system is in sore need of an upgrade. The world is changing at such a rapid pace and it’s my strong opinion that there should be more classes dedicated to helping students prepare to be great parents. As well as the ability to cope with the real world once they graduate.

    If you look at this generation of students, you’ll find that most are “shell shocked” once they graduate because they had little or no preparation for what was to come, including child development.

    High school mostly teaches you to memorize information and to regurgitate it back to your teacher, only to completely erase the information from your mind the moment you walk out after taking the test. This is the first thing that needs to change. Then we can work on what we need to learn.
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    May 12 2011: I feel you can't teach the human experience. To teach parenting in schools means there is a "right way." There isn't a case study that is good enough or a text book that is detailed enough to teach people how to do life right.
    • May 15 2011: I think that although there may not be a text book detailed enough to teach the human experience that certain behaviors can be taught and learned. I would think that even if parenting isn't taught in school that students could internship at a day care center in order to get more close time with small children.
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    May 7 2011: Who decides the best way to do so? We may be able to agree on outcomes but the path to get there is so individual for each child and adult involved- seems dicey to propose 'teaching parenting'.
    • May 7 2011: .

      Society needs to figure this out, just as it has with the existing content of schooling and the rules (laws) that we use to govern society.

      For sure, it is personal and there will be many who would want the state to stay away from this area. However, I content that children are not our property, and so it is not acceptable for parents to o a poor job and think it is OK. Society already accepts that broad principle, which is why it is illegal to abuse or neglect children (in some countries even smacking is outlawed). The question is where we draw the line, and why. I maintain that the role of parenting is so important, that we absolutely should consider how schooling can best play a role for all - although it is probably more important for those children who are victims of poor parenting, whatever the reason
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    Apr 30 2011: How about a mandatory basic childhood development for seniors in highschool? Doesn't matter if one is going to be a parent or not, there will always be children in one's life in one fashion or another.
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      Apr 30 2011: So, I would attend grand-parenting classes with my children as they attend parenting classes for their children?

      Have I got this right?
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        May 1 2011: Muddy statements get precise answers . . . let me try again . . . Highschool seniors could be required to take a course in basic childhood development before graduation.
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    Apr 29 2011: I've spent some additional time thinking about this question - In my view, the way it was framed implies an answer which is somewhat narrow. (I still think it's an excellent question).

    I suggest we re-frame the question to be: "How do we raise our children more effectively?"

    Having said that, Mick is the proposer of the question, and it's really up to him.
    • Apr 30 2011: Gerry - You hit on the biggest question of all, which encompases how our future adults impact society at large, only one aspect of which I have focussed on.

      I chose to focus on one aspect, but completetly agree that it is, therefore, limited.

      I'd love to read your bigger question one day....
  • Apr 28 2011: Hi Mick. The Ontario high school curriculum offers several courses in "Family Studies" for students in Grades 11 and 12 (17-18 years olds, approx). It is intended not only for personal family skills, but for students who go on for further studies in child care and child development. A short excerpt from the curriculum guide follows:

    "Family studies is an interdisciplinary subject area integrating social and physical sciences in the study of topics arising from daily life. It includes the study of individual and family development,relationships, parenting, decision making, resource management, food and nutrition, clothing and textiles, housing, and health sciences. Courses in family studies allow students to develop critical and creative thinking skills, and to gain the hands-on experience they need to develop practical skills and understanding. In certain courses (Living and Working With Children, Parenting, Issues in Human Growth and Development, and Parenting and Human Development), many of the expectations will be achieved through practical experiences, including those gained in work placements arranged through cooperative education or work experience programs."

    I believe the parenting course requires that, with parent's permission, students take home a "simulated baby" doll for one night. I have heard that the students' responses to having to wake up every hour to rock a crying baby to sleep, and then function at school the next day, are not very positive. :-) Cheers.
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      Apr 29 2011: Julie Ann, (I always enjoy your posts!)
      In my day we took Home Economics and that was a great help with cooking, sewing, etc. but not so much with children. The new courses in the Ontario cirriculum appear to be much more helpful.
      • Apr 30 2011: Thanks Debra. I enjoy your posts as well. Yes, it seems they have come a long way with the family studies courses. It might be useful for them to take some basic elements from these and develop a core course or modify the current career studies course to incorporate some of these elements. The career studies course is long, boring, repetitive with a tremendous amount of redundancy. They could restructure it as Family and Career Studies so all the kids get a handle on the basics. Cheers :-)
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    Apr 28 2011: I would be more concerned with the education system. Parenting is care, love, and guidance for children, with the latter being the skill which needs wisdom. It is true that environment plays a major role, as does the mental programming, but that doesn't mean those can't be changed to a degree.

    The moment that teaching becomes a job other than a passion, the benefits begin to diminish. If there was enough emphasis on individual creativity and a focus on essential life principles and techniques, there would be less need to fix adults and the world in general. There may have been some paradigm shifts in education, as far as teaching kids investing money and health innovations, but it is far from what is crucial and impacting.

    When something like The Secret or the Law of Attraction comes out, the adult world gets phenomenally engrossed in the concepts. Life is no secret and most principles and techniques have been around since as far back as we can record. They are the most important to health and an abundant and respectful life, but they are not covered. We will probably still teach the food group importance from an old perspective, but there won't be any education about a proper diet from today's discoveries. Maybe children should be sent home with some material for homework that helps educate the entire family together and allows for the children to teach.

    The fact children spend a great deal of time in school at an influential age means a large responsibility falls on the educational system to parent. If you are a role model and respected figure, your actions, beliefs and messages become an essential foundation. Children should be inspired and encouraged to pay it forward, they should be taught to lead and to evaluate.

    With all due respect, I don't need a formal university education to teach grade school children. I don't need to have a standard curriculum given to me to be followed. I need to love, care and guide those children as if they were my own.
    • Apr 30 2011: I wish all educators had the same attitude as the one you describe. However, as with all professionals, there's a whole spectrum of capability and comitent.

      I say that we should have a very good structure which is then ade better by the approach of the teachers concerned.
  • Apr 27 2011: Mike, I totally agree that there are many life skills we should be taught beyond the three R's. For instance, instead of math class, how about sessions on how to balance a cheque book or do taxes or pick the best cell phone plan or decipher all the polling data or other statistical information?

    I totally agree that society would improve if all people were taught the fundamentals on raising children. I also think it would help if they were made aware of all the services available to help families.

    (In addition, I think society would benefit if all people were taught the fundamentals of successful husband-wife relationships! THERE is a cornerstone of society!)

    Can we teach this in school? Certainly! Heck, we've got sex-ed. Might as well continue the conversation and cover what to do when the baby is conceived and born!

    Of course, this would require a complete re-visioning of the purpose of the publicly-funded education system. Personally, I think a lot of stuff being taught today is useless and can be tossed from the syllabus.
    • Apr 27 2011: Esther - I like your thinking...

      I believe we shoudl re-think the OUTCOMES we want from schooling, then engineer backwards.
  • Apr 26 2011: While I think this sounds like a great theory, I think it falls far outside the role of the government and schools systems to dictate this type of curriculum. Most schools are alreay faced with being underfunded and challenged to keep the best and brightest teachers on board and motivated. I see this falling outside the role of government and schools...best left in the homes where parents need to put their responsibilities for having, raising, and teaching their children as the highest priority.
    • Apr 27 2011: Stacy - ideally the state would not interfer. However, whilst it is BEST done within the family, the reality is that ,for many kids, the guidance they get is very poor.

      I know that the European approach is somewhat more socialist than the US - where the general view is for less state involvement in the lives of the citizen - but surely we are talking about a critical factor here. The shape of society in the future is majorly influenced through the quality of upbringing. Whilst there are many factors at play, parenting skills are not always well taught.

      The cycle seems never ending for some and, in the US, the incarceration level is huge (and disproportionately skewed towards lower income / blacks).To provide some indication of scale, I believe the US prison population is roughly 2.1 million at present, from a total population of c.300 million. That's about 0.66%. the figure for the UIK is about 80,000 for a population of about 65 million. That's about 0.12%, or ONE FIFTH the proportion of the US incarceration rate. By the way, FYI, the UK figure is HIGH compared to the European average. I don't know. There are SO MANY factors at play, who knows how much of a difference this could make. However, doing something must be better than doing nothing - right?
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        Apr 27 2011: Are you hinting at the creation of a collective state/group mindset? Something along the lines of the kibbutz?
        • Apr 28 2011: I am not familiar with kibbutz, so cannot say.

          I AM saying that I feel this matter has not been properly addressed yet by society and that it should be.

          Where we come out on the matter is to be seen. At the end of the day, I believe it is a critical area and as legitimate for society to want to have guidelines on as any other area.
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        Apr 28 2011: The Israeli kibbutz concept grew out of the Russian pogrom experience. The state, not the family, raises the child in a communal atmosphere.
        • Apr 30 2011: In that case, no. Not advocating the practicalities of that. Maybe the mentality, in so far as we should take a collective interest and seek to make things better for the children
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        Apr 28 2011: As an educator of college level inner city youth I can pretty safely say that the higher incarceration rate of that population correlates with the lack of parents to influence the school systems.

        And doing something is not always better than doing nothing. It only feels better.
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        Apr 28 2011: ''The shape of society in the future is majorly influenced through the quality of upbringing.''

        No, Mick. It's majorly influenced by the opportunities kids have today. This lack of ''upbringing'' you are talking about is the lack of education, food, a home, a supportive family etc. that most impoverished kids do not have. Another problem is the number of single mother families is too high and the single parent has to work two jobs leaving the kids unattended, that combined with the fact that they live in bad neighborhoods, the lack of social support and opportunities will result in more poverty, violence and crime. In the U.S., 45% of the African American families has a female single parent, 47% has both parents and 9% male single parents. What would have changed if those single mothers were taught ''how to parent''? Nothing. Because they have to work 2 jobs and they do not have time to parent. Also, getting paid minimum wage, they do not make enough money to provide for their kids.
        • Apr 30 2011: But Jafia - what you refer to IS what I am saying - it is about the quality of upbringing.

          Social factors need addressing, for sure. It's a big problem. In the UK and a lot of Europe, I think it is probably a little easier for low income groups due to the slightly more socialist nature of our societies
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    Apr 26 2011: Hi Mick , parental care is natural instinct of species. Higher the species is in the hierarchy of animal kingdom better the parental care. As for example birds show much higher parental care than the reptiles.

    So I am not sure how teaching in school will help future parents to take better care of the next generation, even if it helps at what age people / kids should get that training ?Yes due to modern life style some of us are richer in money and poorer in time and most are poorer in money and time , both groups actually have less time for our next generation. Most important thing needed by our next generation for their sound growth is a stable family environment and lot of time from parents. Not sure how schools can teach these things.

    The other point as you said , I can not be convinced is " children of lower income families have a higher propensity to lead a life of crime" . Look I am from one of the poorest economies of the world. In my country any one can find the kids from poor family are more successful (in positive terms) in life compared to the rich families (in terms of percentage). So money doesn't matter here I guess. What matters I feel is a healthy family atmosphere for the kids to grow up right way , better way.
    • Apr 27 2011: Salim - I agree with you about the most important factor for growth being a stable family environment. However, is it not the case that for many people this just doesn't exist or, at least, not to a sufficient degree?

      I would slao say that my point about crime etc is about propensity, not that it is an absolute. The data is clear. The social profile of the prison population is definately skewed disproportionately toward lower income groups. I think it is just not fair on kids that are growing up in families that should but don't, or can't, provide good guidance, should be left to suffer the consequence. The kids are innocent.

      If we can intervene early enough then we can save a lot later on (financial and social costs) and help to reduce the cycle. As far as poor countries go, as with more affluent ones, there are many exceptions to the rule.
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        Apr 28 2011: Dear Mick I agree early enough intervention definitely will have better outcome. But while our present education system seems to have lots of flaw even killing the creativity and curiosity of kids , I am not confident it can help us much. But if it can that will be really great !
        • May 2 2011: |Salim - Fair point. I have not looked at such data, and sp can only guess. For sure, there is a highly skewed spread of wealth within a country (as there is in the world - the US is 5% of the worlds population and yet has 1/3rd of the total; current wealth). By the way, that's not a dig at the US.

          I guess that even if the stats matched, it still begs the question as to whether or not we are missing an opportunity by not providing guidance in schools. Bad parenting is bad parenting, whether from an affluent or poor family. It has been said by others that there are many external factors at play and I agree. Certainly, a parent’s ability to provide a child with interesting conversation and structure questions that enable the child to think through their reasoning is going to be harder when the parents themselves have a very low level of critical thinking and eloquence.
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        Apr 30 2011: Mick said, "the social profile of the prison population is definitely skewed disproportionately toward lower income groups." And why is that? Have you read anything on the prison industrial complex? Let's look at the social system that creates poverty before we start attacking the people or parents. It's sad when the wealthy people point fingers at the poor (as though the poor have a choice) when the reality is that there is no wealthy without a poor people!! And it's sad when people equate "good parenting" with having a flat screen tv, all the latest gadgets, or whatever else rich people have... "good parenting" comes from the soul! All I wanted from my parents was the truth and love. And fortunately my revolutionary dad taught me the truth and he was loving and had a sense of humor about it too!
        • Apr 30 2011: Ahyoka - You make an excellent point, there are indeed many factors at play.

          Poverty, lower education attainment, crime rates etc are all very important factors. I FULLY AGREE that material wealth does not equate to good parenting. I believe that a less socially challenging upbringing positively advantages a persons life chances (choices?) and many take advantage of that (many also squander the advantages / opportunities they have), at the most basic level is the ability of parents to do their job well. It is THAT point that I am trying to have discussed.

          It seems you were more fortunate than many - whether or not you were wealthy in a material sense, you certainly appear to have been in terms of god parenting.

          By the way, I am not suggesting that parenting skills only be taught to poorer kids. All future parents can potentially gain.
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          May 1 2011: Agreed Ahyoka great point really.

          Hi Mick , thought a bit about skewness of statistics of prison population. How it will look if we make two pies , one with distribution of wealth and another with prison population economic background then super impose both pies. That will give a bit better picture to understand how mutually exclusive or inclusive poverty and crime is, leaving aside other factors as discussed above by Ahyoka and yourself.
    • Apr 30 2011: Parental care is natural instinct to species. Yes I agree, but this is only true for the physical care. Any normal parent will make sure the children are fed, sheltered, protected from any harm. But there's much more to rasing children than just parental care.

      To me, to learn parenting, you need empathy, wisdom, humility, patience etc... It's not just a set of rules you can learn from a textbook or some code that's somehow encrypted in our DNA.

      Each parent and each kid are unique, and parenting is about how much you're willing to give. I don't think you can learn that in a classroom. But the classrooms can come useful though! In sensibilisation about the importance of a well parented generation, give hints for improved communication and relationship with your kids. They can help you be better prepared, but the real learning process starts when you hold your new born child in your arms and you think to yourself "Omg what the hell am I gonna do now...."

      Our kids need to realize that our generation with our individualism was a bad idea, a failure! No matter what great things we do in our lives, if we don't pass it on to the next generation correctly, it's all lost.
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    May 8 2011: There is a radical idea to consider: Separate the parents from the parenting - like it was in ancient Sparta.

    Take children away from parent when they are young, educate them and when they grow up give them access to resources based on their achievements and aptitudes and not on the basis who their daddy is.
    So, you may be a child of a millionaire but if you can only deliver mail that is what you are going to do and somebody else that knows how to manage money will inherit and multiply daddy's millions.

    That would be a better society based on merit, not on what family one is born into?
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    May 8 2011: .

    Yes, It should be taught in schools.
    However schools are made to weed out the less talented from the rest. The government and the society needs mathematicians, engineers, biologists, chemists, accountant, teachers, solders, workers, etc. Schools by design teach mostly that, not how to be a good parent. There is no apparent value for the society in being a good parent. That is generally considered as something private. Is that correct... I do not know but that is the way it seems to be now. Perhaps if one day being a good parent is something society will begin to value more, then the schools will include it in their curriculum.
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    May 7 2011: The issue is not in teaching parenting but in not teaching values and principles. Teach those and being a parent is half over.
    'Notwithstanding that there are many different approaches which can be taken' I would say an infinite number which is why it would be nearly impossible. We have two girls at the moment one is 15 the other 4 and the parenting of them is entirely different. I don't just mean the age gap but the way in which both are or were at 4 so how is it possible to teach this at school. The thing is if we are not prepared for life ourselves how can we prepare another?
  • May 7 2011: It depends on what philosophy of the family lies behind the teaching. Whose (or what agencies') values would be taught? Redefiners of the family? Special interest lobbyists (like Planned Parenthood)? Whenever the state tries to teach values, it inevitably teaches its own. Extremely dangerous!
  • May 3 2011: I think the sceptics here say basically:
    - you cannot define what a good parenting is
    - parenting is not teachable (because schools are bad, because it is too individual, etc.)
    - society has no right to do teach parenting skills

    Yet I have seen examples where an advice to parents helped their kids a lot. For example, a psychology student told her aunt about the negative effects of beating children and she realised the harm that may cause her children and stopped using corporal punishment. It was a simple piece of knowledge and it helped greatly.

    Intelectuals often think everybody is reasonable and emotionally balanced and they oversee the simple things that can be done to help others.

    Did you witness a change in parenting in anyone? What contributed to the change?
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    May 1 2011: So Mick myself and many of your respondents agree that something needs to be done, but what? Those of us who live in somewhat democratic societies can continue to vote for those candidates who seem hopreful, we can petition school boards, we could write books or blogs as you are doing. Perhaps eventually a voting majority will miraculously agree on a coherent workable solution and then implement it. Do you really think we or society are likely to survive long enough to see that day? Here in the U.S. unfortunately polls reveal that a plurality of those who care enough to vote (60% max) don't want any interference in how they raise their kids, no sex education or Darwinism especially. If the cycle of ignorance continues as it has in my life time I would rate the chances of a political solution as near to nil as makes no difference. What then? The only plausible solution I can see is to build a better mouse trap. I believe I can create a school that can give every student the opportunity for a better education than any other system now existing, using principles of free enterprise and personal responsibility that will offend no one . I believe that it can be done with less money and less resources than western societies currently expend. And in less time with more joy for all involved. How? First sacrifice the sacred cow of curriculum content. One year after H.S. graduation the average U.S. student retains only 20% anyway! Instead focus on learning skills and basic functions. Give each student 100% choice and responsibility for content after they have learned how to learn. It is a myth that you can force anyone to learn any useful content without their cooperation and intrinsic motivation. Other than North Korea, Cuba and Albania everyone has realized that planned economies don't work. Giving humans quotas and little or no choice about what+ how they will produce results in poor productivity. Even more so when it comes to learning.
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    May 1 2011: Again I basically agree with Mr. Hickey. Parenting is usually the most challenging job anyone will ever have and yet can be the most rewarding. It is also likely to be one that lasts longer and demands more of our time and resources than any other. Yet as Mick points out we get no formal training or preparation other than what little our parents have time for. We observe our parents of course and other people occasionally. When witnessing a two year olds' tantrum in Walmart most of us pray that that will never be us. I highly recommend the "Parenting with Love and Logic" series of books. They may not be perfect but still they give a foundation of practical attitudes and strategies that will work eventually for most kids. I am preparing to open a charter school in which high level personal and social skills, including those useful to parents, will be the foundation of the curriculum. Even if we succeeded in making every child competent in rocket science, or inorganic chemistry etc, and they did not know how to problem solve conflicts with others I would still rate our schools a failure. Practical self awareness and understanding of others has to be fundamental. William Cowper stated long ago that "Learning lies in heads replete with thoughts of other men, Knowledge in those attentive to their own". Literally the unexamined life is a problem to everyone eventually. Since the principle source of wealth, after the Sun, is human intelligence and empowerment, then any child's unfulfilled potential is a net loss to our collective G.N.P.
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    May 1 2011: I am not so sure that parenting is any sort of natural instinct. I am aware of many mothers who never bond with their child or only bond with one of their children ( and it is clear that many fathers never even identify or own up to their own children). Trying to undersatnd the phenomenon that I observed I checked out the ape literature. Many apes who are not raised in a functioning troop or who are raised in zoos actually kill their first few offspring until in a subsquest pregancy the hormone levels rise to a point where they then seem to develop what we might consider normal nurturing behaviours. As a mom myself, I was grateful for the overwhelming fascination and bonding that I felt for each of my children. That did not provide any real skills with it though. Even though I sought out knowledge in the form of child development courses- I have admitted before to feeling as though I was 'winging it' a lot of the time. Parenting takes more than just love. It takes wisdom, courage, knowing when to back off or step up. It is one complicated business even in the best of circumstances and most people are not in the best of circumstances. Between arranging child care in socieites that are not filled with extended family relationships and all of the other stressors that face young families- it is a challenge that keeps (or kept) many of us awake at night praying and hoping that we were making the right choices for the little lives that depend on us.
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    Apr 30 2011: One of the best studies into what factors affect balanced success in life found that open discussion at the dinner table was perhaps the most telling factor, above socioeconomic or educational levels. Since few American families have, on average, even one meal a day together the opportunities seem very limited to develop thinking and social skills even assuming that mutual respect and other needed factors are present. Is this possibly a partial explanation for the apparent decline of much of our society? I strongly agree that parenting is the most important job in society and needs lots of support to improve its current status from the lowest common denominator of sperm or egg donor. I think the whole spectrum of skills that a parent needs are basic to life ie.. logical thinking, problem solving, emotional intelligence, networking, communication etc all these would be beneficial even to those who never have children of their own. Specific information that pertains only to infant-childcare is upon consideration hard to identify. Biological and other developmental information about the maturation process is helpful to anyone in learning what it means to be a human being and thus, I believe, essential to understanding ourselves and others.
    • Apr 30 2011: Chad - makes sense to me. If we can have future parents understand these key points, might that not help?
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    Apr 28 2011: Academics don't actually make the end product - lawyesr, doctors and policeman all participate in classroom but still aren't ready to practice the craft. Much like the family secret meatloaf recipe the practice needs to be handed down from your family and then put into practice in a live environment. If you really want to teach parenting put the focus back on family.
  • Apr 28 2011: Hey Mick,

    I think you do have a good idea here, but i think you're missing a key point.

    The fact of the matter is that most of the people in our society who responsibly have children already know how to take care of their own and raise them in a fairly responsible way.

    The real problem, unfortunately, are low income families, who will literally have children to attain extra money through federal programs such as welfare.

    I currently work at an elementary school which has a rather high level of low income children coming from families just like what i described above. These are the children that need to be taught, but unfortunately by the time most of these kids get into school they are already horribly maladjusted by their general home life.

    I would have to say that I don't think its the responsibility of the school to try and teach parenting to children, rather, we should try and change something in the system so that the parents teach their kids this.
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      Apr 28 2011: Education is an institution. There has been several attempts to face-lift and transform education into a softer, kinder image but it remains what it is with all its lumps, pimples and blemishes on display.

      I understand the challenge children from low-income families face in an institutional setting but I feel these children are being unfairly singled out.

      Every single educator is and has to be university-trained. Clearly not every low-income family has or will or will even want to have access to this opportunity. Consequently we often find these two parties at odds with one another.

      The righteousness of the higher educated can at times be over-bearing.
    • Apr 30 2011: So we do nothing?

      Attitudes of people who think they are superior is always unpleasant - whether because they are higher educated, of a "superior" religion, country, social class, profession etc etc.

      For me, it is not about singling out poorer kids. It is simply asking how we can improve parenting skills. No doubt there are other things that can be done in terms of social engineering (we do it anyway) but as we have a captured audience at school maybe this is one place to intervene...
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        Apr 30 2011: OK good, it seems we are moving this discussion away from pointing at bad parenting today being only a low-income bracket issue.

        I have become alarmed at the poor parenting practices of the upwardly mobile, post-secondary trained, dual-income, technologically-savvy middle class (the absenteeism of 'hands-on" parenting in the upper class is also problematic).

        These parents have an enormous ambition for successful consumerism, not only for themselves but also attempt to transfer this drive on to their children. From the earliest age the child is enrolled in advanced placement programs and re-programmed from being inherently play-driven to be artificially implanted to become similarly success-driven.

        With all good intentions, I am sure, they focus quickly on getting what is often called a "head start" for their child. A leg-up in the rat race, so to speak. As though a child needs to enter a race, let alone a spirit-crushing rat race, at this point in their lives.

        I like to call this type of thinking the "Ready, Fire, Aim" method.

        The child is over-stimulated, over-stressed, burdened and essentially burned-out before their age reaches the double-digits. Youth is truly wasted on the young.

        Whether all this is done for the child or for the parents latte-sipping, power luncheon bragging rights, is yet to be seen.

        Yet no one seems the slightest bit concerned over these parenting skills. What's worse, schools too have now bought into this maladjusted concept. Early learning programs, which are supposed to be play-based, suddenly are speaking about pushing curriculum downward.

        C'mon, we're talking about 'capturing' children as young as age three! Are you OK with this?

        Here's the thing. Parents today overall aren't a very good lot. They aren't even an overall very bad lot. Know what I'm saying? (just had to use this phrase even though I detest it)
        • Apr 30 2011: Indeed. I work for a large multinational and it seems as though every couple now with children have "dual careers" whereby the children are effectively raised in institutions and parenting is seen as a chore and career as the primary purpose in life. There are many (not all) that rationalise this with the POV that they need to provide a decent standard of living and so have no option. Seems to me that life is about choices and unfortunately, as a society, we are altering the economic structure of life throuigh the double income approach (both parents working means more income, so prices for property increases, expectations rise in terms of material possessions etc etc). As a result, people feel obliged to sustain their standard of living rather than take a step back and go without the nice car, fancy holiday, flat screen tv etc etc.I think that this persists because we don't challenge the assumptions - and government has done little to help. In fact, whilst trying to "help", in the UK, the government has pretty much guaranteed childcare places for children 3+, and has funding available to support childcare costs to help parents return to work.

          As a society, we don't seem to value full time parenting, with parents often talking about THEIR need for intellectual stimulation as the reason for not being prepared to be a full time parent.Net, there is a lot to be said for a thorough debate and re-examination of what's important. I think that it all centres around what good parenting looks like, which includes the necessity to consider what is good for the child. Actually, there was a very good response put forward by Gerry Mann recently, who suggested that a better question would be "How do we raise our children more effectively?"
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        Apr 30 2011: Saw Gerry's post, thanks.

        A well-thought, fair and critical view of present middle class parenting. You are very brave to do this as this group is not inclined to accept criticism. In their quest, they are more apt to point out failures in others, mostly institutions, than to accept any responsibility on their own part.

        We taught them this, and they learned well.