I think parents are wonderful. In a lifetime of teaching I have been fortunate to have been involved with a majority of parents who want nothing but the best that they can give their children; parents who are hands-on and dedicated; parents who will go the extra many miles to help their children realise their potential in life.
But wonderful does not mean perfect of course! There is always room for improvement!
On a more serious level, I’d like to take a look at an area where parents could be more alert. This is a very practical issue as the point I would like to make should almost certainly result in a greater level of success in realising the aspirations we have for our children.
I often say that parents either want their children to DO as they did (usually because they were successful themselves) or want their children NOT to do as they did (because they were NOT successful themselves or disliked an area of education).
One example is a father I knew who had all the benefits of an Oxford education but decided it was valueless and that university was complete waste of time. Therefore his children were going nowhere near a university, particularly not an Oxbridge establishment. At the other extreme you have a mother push, push, pushing the child to get top grades because she herself left school at sixteen and had a baby.
Both of these people would have done well to step back and examine their attitudes. Your child is not you. Your child is an individual with his or her own strengths and talents and goals. His child could have had the potential and desire to make changes in the world which would be helped immeasurably by the contacts and kudos of a top-flight university. Alternatively, her child could have wanted nothing more than to be a wife and mother.
These are perhaps extreme cases. Yet in my teaching of art I frequently hear from parents that they want their child to stop drawing in one way and/or change their subject matter. Children want to please their parents (if they are not already rebelling against excessive control) and they WILL try to change accordingly. This is as it should be. But I can have a young person who has a genius for cartooning telling me Mummy wants him to do some ‘real’ drawing when, who knows, his cartoon characters may be the next Calvin and Hobbs!
It is a very fine line that we tread with our children because, of course, it is only through correcting errors of the past that we can improve the future. However, wise parents will examine their own reasons for pushing their offspring in a certain direction.
So, maybe even in the minor matter of which KS2 Science quiz should be attempted, you might ask your child which one THEY would like to do rather than the one you think is important! Willing comes before able – the more willing they are, the more able they will surely be!
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Since retiring from full-time teaching Art and English and her post as Assistant Head and Sixth Form Tutor, Cathy Bird has concentrated on her painting and now runs art courses and sessions at her own studios in Kent. She also tutors students at all levels in Literacy, Comprehension and Essay-writing.