I often used to see parents at my private therapy practice in Fairford leys and we often discussed the values of a ‘good parent’. I get the pair to brainstorm ideas about what key things a parent should do or provide in order to be classed as a ‘good parent’. Typically, there is a few things that always show up like love and education and those sorts of things. We end up with all of these post-it notes with their ideas written down – one idea per post-it note – and we get rid of all the duplicates. Then we put them into some kind of an order and sequence – agreeing as a pair as to what that order and sequence they should be. What we end up with is the top ten things that a ‘good parent’ does. And it makes for an interesting conversation.
You start to notice how people’s values around parenting differ, which is very interesting when you have two parents who came together to make a baby. Are their values the same? Maybe, maybe not. It also starts to highlight what it is we think we need versus what we really need.
Why am I sharing this exercise with you? Well today I’ve been thinking about how it is that we educate children – particularly in schools. And particularly as we are now having to do it ourselves at home. I think that here in the Uk, we quite rightly, do have a really strong emphasis on education and definitely having a good education offers you more potential, more possibilities than you would get without it. However, I do sometimes wonder if some of the more important stuff gets missed out.
This is how it ties in with the exercise I explained above. Very often everyone’s top number one thing that a ‘good parent’ provides is love, but when you start to weigh that up against other things sometimes love does not even make it to the top 10! For example, being a good listener is, in my opinion, something that’s really useful in the context of parenting. If I was weighing up whether I had a parent who would listen to me and show an interest in my life versus they love me and so it’s okay if they don’t listen, I would rather go with the listening. Maybe that’s just me.
The thing with love is it is quite a selfish emotion. There is a difference between feeling love for someone but potentially doing nothing about that, and showing someone that you love them, and showing someone that you love them in the way that they need to experience it. Those are three vastly different sorts of things and love is a little bit too all-encompassing to differentiate between them. There are parents who put their children in danger who love their children, but are they giving them what they need?
So, it got me thinking about education: in that we provide on the most part a very high standard of education, particularly in the UK and certainly compared to some other countries. But is it all of what they really need? Is there other important stuff that should be in there too? If we could back off the education pressures a little bit and find that they still develop because they are getting this other stuff instead, like good manners, showing kindness and caring for others, empathy and compassion. Does that get taught and does it get taught enough?
Now if you are a parent of children then I would hope that this is stuff that you make a point of focusing on and developing those values in your children. But not every parent does, not every parent knows how to even if they wanted to. It is something that I personally believe should be part of how we educate; we should educate in ways that help children to develop things like respect and caring and forgiveness, but I’m not sure that that’s something that’s ever going to make it onto the curriculum.
We have a responsibility to make sure that this happens. Those young people that we work with now are going to be our carers when we are old and we’re in nursing homes – so I just want to know they’ve got the basics down! They are going to in charge of our wheelchair! I want to know that they are going to be good people as well as intelligent ones.
So just take a moment to consider what it is that is important. Especially currently when you have more opportunity to work with your child than ever before.
The original version of this article was written by Gemma Bailey, director of www.NLP4Kids.org.
It was republished and rebuilt with additional content by NLP4KIDS PRACTITIONER Ian Davies