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For an obligatory parenting education scheme

Comment 13th July 2010

How much do you have to know about road safety before you are allowed onto the roads? A fair amount.

How much do you have to know about law before you can become a lawyer? A huge amount.

How much do you have to know about children before you can have kids? Nothing.

I think people should have to complete a government-funded course on raising children within five years of having them and ideally before having them. The within-five-year rule would be to take unplanned pregnancies into account.

What happens if you don't complete the course within five years? Your child is repossessed by an adoption agency. To claim it back, you must simply complete the course.

Why does this matter?

A few days ago, I heard an all-too-common story from a close friend of mine. She went to stay with her Aunt and Uncle, who have two daughters. She told me that she was appauled with the way in which her Aunt and Uncle have raised their children. Since the birth of their second child, the first has been totally ignored, and as a result, has retreated into herself mentally and rarely talks or tries to do anything anymore. She is now seven years old and has undoubtedly suffered lasting psychological damage from her parents' ineptitude. We came to the conclusion that her Aunt and Uncle had not thought about having children. They had simply had them like you might decide to have a pet – and dealt with the consequences later. I believe that too many lives have been messed up by poor parenting. So it's time to act.

For such an important decision – a decision that will change peoples' lives completely – I believe that people should be educated about the reality of what they are entering into and how they should go about it. How many parents read one book on child psychology before having a child? And yet, parenting must be one of the most important jobs that we ever do. I think that the fundamentals of society stem from our upbringing, our education, and our experiences as children and as we grow up. 

Children need some stability and they need parents who feel well prepared for the task. Just think about the job that you do every day. Ask yourself how good would a stranger be at your job if they received no prior training? Imagine the difference that training would make. We must ensure that future parents know what they are doing when they raise their children in order to avoid catastrophes such as the above example. We all know that these children will grow up one day. We need to give them the best possible chance of receiving a good upbringing.

So what is a good upbringing? I admit that this is subjective. But I think that there are certain elementary things that some parents fail to follow, such as not putting your child down, not blaming your child for bad things that have happened to you. I would certainly favour the idea of a reading list for future parents, including highly acclaimed parenting guides and books on child psychology. Just think of the things that teachers are required to learn before they teach children. Why shouldn't the same guidance be given to parents?

If you believe that parenting is an important skill and that people should be forced to exercise at least one brain cell before they embark on the journey that is bringing up their children, I urge the government to take positive action and implement a compulsory parenting education scheme.

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