It took place near King’s Cross and I had to walk past the front of the station to get there. Among the busy crowds I saw a mother and father with two small children. The children each had a scooter and a safety helmet.
I took it as a perfect picture of modern parenting.
On the one hand, the parents do not feel confident enough to say no to their children. It is obviously a very bad idea for a child to try to ride a scooter among such a throng, but the parents did not feel they could say so.
Similarly, I am amazed by the number of mothers I see carrying scooters away from the local primary school in the morning. Whatever happened to mothers who said things like “I’m not carrying that all the way home, just so you can ride it to school”?
On the other hand, the parents feel a sense that their children are at dreadful risk. Yet on any objective view the idea that children on scooters need helmets, particularly when they can hardly move for the crowds, is simply ridiculous.
I thought of this vignette when Centre Forum published its call for a “five-a-day” parenting campaign – prophetically, if you see a parenting deficit as playing some parts in the genesis of last week’s riots. (There is a short news report about it on Children & Young People Now and you can download the full report from the Centre Forum website.)
You may recall that the five elements were for parents, every day, to:
- read to their child for 15 minutes
- play with their child on the floor for 10 minutes
- talk with their child for 20 minutes with the TV off
- praise them frequently
- give them a nutritious diet.
There is nothing any sensible person could object to there, but the challenge we face goes deeper than this. It is how we encourage good parenting without leaving parents feeling even more disempowered than they do today.