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Parenting education and 'Parenting certificate'?

(48 Posts)
JC777 Thu 22-Nov-12 19:02:24

There seems to be growing talk about a 'parenting education course, and parenting certificate' of some form;
- to help ensure children have loving care, and good parenting, and so to
- reduce child abuse
- reduce the risk of mental ill-health later in the children
- give parents more confidence in what they are doing, so they can enjoy being a parent more.

Every mother I have spoken to says something like "when I left hospital the first time, I felt terrified; no-one had given me any education on what to do". One said to me recently, ref the idea of a parenting education course for mothers-to-be; "don't you think every mother in the UK has thought that, when they were just having their first baby?"

People wanting to adopt a child have to pass all sorts of appraisals; why not people who want to become a parent naturally also?... Isn't it amazing there is nothing already for parenting?... We have driving tests...

The certificate could be particularly valuable to the most at risk children in our society, to improve their chances. Passing it could be linked to benefits, so there was some sort of financial incentive to pass it?

McLurkin Thu 22-Nov-12 19:25:39

Wholeheartedly disagree.

A parenting certificate would only be of any benefit to society if:
A. 'good parenting' could be objectively defined
b. it could be guaranteed to be taught by non-judgmental completely unbiased trainers
c. it catered to individual needs and situations properly

This doesn't happen in RL. If this was a government scheme you'd have a load of hastily trained and under-supported people trying to frantically get parents to fill in all the tick boxes on their one-size-fits-all form in order to be paid. It would suck.

And tying it into benefits?! just no.

I for one felt no need for instruction or education in parenting when my daughter was born. what I needed was:
Peer support - which I got through local groups
Accessible health provision and information - for which we have a largely excellent nhs
Support from friends and family - which I am lucky enough to have
Access to information about parenting - plenty; nhs, internet, library...
Financial and material resourcesrt - I am lucky but for those not so we thankfully have a welfare state

sure provide more groups for parents to talk, exchange knowledge, support each other. provide more health visiting services, feeding support, parenting classes, better resourced childrens services and child protection services.

but please don't make anyone pass a token certificate when they decide to have a child.

JC777 Thu 22-Nov-12 19:40:22


I think people who have your level of background, support and education are hopefully in great shape to protect, nurture and support their child well - lucky child!

My compassion is for those children who are born into situations where the parents do not have your background. Those parents may have received very poor or zero parenting themselves, and have no good parenting models to bring to the situation.

For those parents, a "hastily trained and under-supported people trying to frantically get parents to fill in all the tick boxes on their one-size-fits-all form" could bring revelatory basic messages about, for instance, the damage child abuse causes, the need to treat children equally, and so on - basic things in Parenting 101 that you received at age 0-3 months by direct experience and they did not.

The aim would not be to try to help people like you make an even better assault on the Everest peak of great parenting - it would be to get the poorest and least equipped in our society up to Base Camp.

MrsHoarder Thu 22-Nov-12 19:47:50

But how do you hastily teach someone how to treat children equally? Or that they shouldn't abuse their child?

The children's centres already offer something a bit like this, you can go in and chat and get information, and the health vistor can refer you there if they think you need support.

JC777 Thu 22-Nov-12 19:55:28

Yes but it seems that the poorest and least-socially-integrated families do not go there and get that help.

That's where incentives come in. It might be £100 cash if you pass the certificate. It might be no child allowance unless you pass. It might be no child-related benefits unless you pass.

We need to try to protect and reach out to those poor children being born innocent into those situations, so they are not condemned to repeat the pattern in their own lives. We need to try something new to break the generation-repeating-cycles that lock the least lucky among us in such suffering.

sarflondongal99 Thu 22-Nov-12 20:15:51

Honestly? In these times of austerity, I think public money is better spent elsewhere. Sorry OP.

JC777 Thu 22-Nov-12 20:32:57

That's pretty short-term thinking. The people are already in place to run such a programme, and £100 cash for each person who passes is not a big number.

And the long-term saving to us all would be huge if effective; less tax paid out on these people in benefits, physical healthcare, mental healthcare, policing and prison.

Anyway, I feel I am sounding like I'm ranting..... which I'm not..... It just seems a win-win-win... Thanks all...

MrsHoarder Thu 22-Nov-12 20:38:39

Is there any evidence that children are abused due to lack of knowledge though? Or that courses attended under compulsion would help?

On a thread this week about healthy rating someone was saying they'd been to a course on preparing family meals and that those who had been ordered to attend got nothing out of the course..

MrsHoarder Thu 22-Nov-12 20:40:12

Is there any evidence that children are abused due to lack of knowledge though? Or that courses attended under compulsion would help?

On a thread this week about healthy eating someone was saying they'd been to a course on preparing family meals and that those who had been ordered to attend got nothing out of the course.

cory Thu 22-Nov-12 20:45:48

OP, do you seriously believe that parents who abuse their children do so because they have never heard that it is wrong? And if so, why don't they openly admit to it? Why do they try to hide it? When did you last hear even the most uneducated, stupid person casually say "oh, I broke Johnnie's ribs last night because he was annoying me" or "oh, I always fiddle with Kylie's bits when I put her to bed"?

Instead even the worst parented person will go to great lengths to cover up what is actually happening. Of course they know that most people think this is damaging. Thieves don't steal because they have literally never heard that people don't like it, muggers don't mug because they have never come across a casual reference to the fact that mugging is damaging to other people.

I do believe that it is possible to train thieves not to steal, muggers not to mug, and possible even abusive parents not to abuse their children. But it's going to take an awful lot more than just a sheet of paper stating that it's damaging to them. It will almost certainly need long term intervention from specially trained people.

If you want to break generations of bad behaviour- an admirable proposition!- you can probably expect to put in years of work. For each family. Which is more or less what SWs do.

With your proposal, what is to stop the parents from attending the course, taking the £100 and then carry on abusing little Kylie?

sarflondongal99 Thu 22-Nov-12 20:55:04

I dont agree that its not a huge huge outlay - the expense of identifying a target audience, paying for the time of the people delivering the certificate, cost of hiring a venue. And the political back lash of giving parents £100 to pass a course to what most people is just common sense? Sorry OP - I disagree. I think it wouldnt work. And I really do think money spent more wisely elsewhere. I doubt I'm alone in that.

JC777 Thu 22-Nov-12 21:10:35

Hmmm. Good points you all make, thank you.

I do think people respond to incentives. I remember a Catholic nun who'd spent a lifetime with young single mothers saying that the one thing she would recommend, after all her experience, would be taking away all benefits; that the girls simply wouldn't do it, if they knew the benefits were'nt there and it would be a very, very unpleasant life.

But perhaps people can't respond to incentives if they don't know how to... so perhaps, as you say, what is needed is expensive, long-running family therapy.

sarflondongal99 Thu 22-Nov-12 21:16:57

...or rather than long running family therapy, no dount at the expense of the taxpayer, we could plough that money into first class social services to support/refer etc the minority of families that do not know how to parent/abuse children and leave the other 99 per cent of us to it?

McLurkin Thu 22-Nov-12 21:24:49

The reason I referenced my experience was because you stated that every mother you'd met said tgat they could have done with a parenting course. It seemed you were advocating a certificate for everyone wishing to be a parent, regardless of background.

Your later posts make it clearer that you are really only thinking about this for a certain sub-section of society.

I agree with you absolutely that trying to help children get the best start in life is hugely important and potentially massively beneficial for society in terms of crime, health, standards of living.

However I don't think this is the way to go about it at all. Linking it to benefits not only correlates being of limited means with poor parenting (unhelpful and insulting to all the great parents managing on benefits) but as a previous poster pointed out means that you incentivise people to go for the money, not because they want to or feel comfortable doing so - consequently they are likely to get much less out of it than support that they willingly access or that is just that - support - not a test and certificate, which I think sends all kinds of wrong messages.

I kind of get where you're coming from. You hear of or see some awful neglect or tragic mistake and think, god, people have to be tested for years to adopt and yet these people can procreate and ruin their progeny's life without anyone doing a thing about it... But I dont think this is the solution.

JC777 Thu 22-Nov-12 21:27:44

the 'sink' approach! then we take away the first child to protect it, and a second appears, and is taken away, and then a third...

... complusory contraception (3 month injections) until proven capable of parenting...!

ReallyTired Thu 22-Nov-12 21:33:08

I think it would be simpler to fund the health visiting service or prehaps better general ante natal class provision or midwifery care.

With the identifying of "target families" there is a lot of prejudice and naivety. I suspect that people who are on benefits, young single mothers or have a history of mental health problems would be sent on the course irrespective of the standard of parenting. In my area I know lots of low income families who have been insulted patronised by well meaning health professionals/ family support workers. Being poor does not mean stupid. Being poor does not make someone a bad mother.

Different families have different needs. A parenting class is a load of hot air unless you have had actual parenting experience.

JC777 Thu 22-Nov-12 21:55:16

It sounds monstrous to have compulsory contraception for teenagers until passing a parenting competence test - but it is logical, on the grounds that
(a) if we analysed it, children born to un-ready teenage mums probably suffer a completely disproportionate amount of suffering themselves, and cause a completely disproprationate cost on society (drugs, health, prison etc).
(b) many such ladies would probably be thankful later in life, when they had children at a good time and when in a stable supportive relationship, and
(c) it could soon become a perfectly normal 'rite of passage', like having teeth braces, etc, and quite exciting when she 'came off' the compulsory contraception.

Would it encourage more under-age sex? It sounds like there is already plenty of that...

sarflondongal99 Thu 22-Nov-12 22:17:09

This is an absolute non starter from a human rights perspective

sarflondongal99 Thu 22-Nov-12 22:18:11

In fact there is so much wrong with the idea of compulsory contraception I don't know where to start

stargirl1701 Thu 22-Nov-12 22:21:18

No. I think a major expansion of the HV provision would be better. It could be targeted at those who need it most. Some families may need a visit every single day for many years.

People. Tend to parent as they have been parented. The vast majority of parents in the UK are good and their children thrive. I see this in my classroom. Those who don't need far more support than is currently available.

FuckityFuckFuck Thu 22-Nov-12 22:28:16


There is just so much wrong with the OP's idea that I literally don't know where to start.....presumably with the very best intentions but...

<shakes head and walks away mumbling about forced contraception>

ReallyTired Thu 22-Nov-12 22:30:28

Sorry, those are such stupid ideas ... I don't know where to start with either.

I am not sure which is the more stupid idea - the parenting competence test for people without children or complusory contraception.

The is a world of difference between parenting in practice and reading the ideas of the most fashionable baby guru. Often there are no right or wrong answers with raising children. Invariably happy children are parented from the heart rather than any textbook.

There are plenty of shitty middle class parents who aren't on benefits or teenagers.

LadyLapsang Thu 22-Nov-12 23:06:47

OP, an observation - you talk about parenting classes and certificates but then go on to talk about mothers with no mention of fathers; why?

Do you have children and any personal experience of parenting classes?

Personally I think it would be a good investment to spend more on high quality midwifery, health visiting, ante-natal and post- natal classes (NHS, NCT etc), services open to all on a sliding fee scale e.g. post natal exercise classes with a creche, English classes for those that need them (so they can have better opportunities themselves and also help their children).

Also, teenagers and young parents (fathers and mothers) face huge challenges but some do really well - let's not stigmatise them.

JC777 Fri 23-Nov-12 06:40:16

Poor parenting does not just happen in less privileged backgrounds.

Three major parenting errors that 'middle and upper' or 'professional' parents make, which cause huge suffering, are

1. setting over-high expectations for their children, in behaviour, academic achievement, etc..

2. not treating their children equally from day to day i.e. equal time and attention. Children are very sensitive to this.

3. not trying to help a child who they chemically/biologically have attached and bonded to less than the others (this does happen); i.e. helping that child have other strong caring adult relationships (e.g. with an aunt and/or grandma) and to build interests and a life outside the home.

MrsHoarder Fri 23-Nov-12 07:53:11

Ffs. There is so much wrong with your ideas is hard to know where to start.

Hormonal contraception is not side-effect free, if I was forced to stay on it I would probably kill someone, most likely myself. So making it compulsory is a dangerous game.

The government cannot force medication on us anyway, that's very wrong from a liberty perspective. Unless you want the gov to be able to medicate uswithout the checks and balances of the mental health act.

Why assume teenage mothers are abusive? And not all the others. Whatever the tabloid press would have you believe, the birth rate to under 18s is very low.

And finally why do you think a class which will end up as a tick-box exercise could have any impact on behaviour? Especially if people are only doing it to get cash.

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