I have just watched ITV This Morning where two women were being interviewed about the recent report highlighting that children are starting school without certain skills.
Thousands of children are starting school in nappies or not completely toilet trained, according to a new survey. Teachers report having to spend time clearing up ‘accidents’.
Teachers also say that children are generally lacking in basic skills when they start school – finding it difficult to dress themselves when changing for P.E. or put on their coats. They believe parents believe training up children is the school’s job and not their own.
My first point on all this is that children develop in different ways hitting milestones as the individuals they are. As a mum to three children, I can assure you this is very much the case. I had a child who walked at eleven months and another who did not walk until she was nearly two. I know. Shock, horror! What a terrible parent I must be.
On the specific issue of toilet-training, I really struggled. I work hard at everything I attempt so I did try to do all the right things. I read books, I consulted mummy online networks and I asked my own Mum for advice. I bought the potties, I got the steps up to the loo, I bought the toilet training toilet seats. I applied techniques. My first child just went from no interest in toilet-training whatsoever apart from wearing the potty as a crown to deciding he would be toilet-trained and immediately was. My daughter really struggled and ended up starting the process by being bribed with a lollipop. She did have occasional accidents at school. Shock, horror! What a terrible parent I must be. My third child managed well probably as a result of wanting to be like his siblings or more experience on my part.
It is my firm belief that this society would be a much more civilized place if support was offered to parents more than it is. Parenting classes should be offered to every parent. Home-start or a similar organisation should be funded so that they can support far more parents of younger children. Buddying schemes and a listening ear can make all the difference both to parental learning and to their emotional well-being. Currently, there is a bit of an idea that upper or middle-class parents don’t need help. Well, I am probably defined by those in the know as middle-class and I confess to making mistakes as a very inadequate parent. Or perhaps one that just did not have a support network in place and felt like her world was caving in a bit. Also, the fact that you have a low income does not equate to having poor parenting skills. As I bang on about a lot, we are all individuals with different skills and experiences that impact on our practices. Sometimes life events play a part in what we are capable of too whether that is redundancy, bereavement or physical or mental health issues. No excuses, you bad parent, you should bloody well be perfect! As if most mums don’t strive to do their best by their children.
Parenting must be the only job in the world where you are expected by the parenting police to be perfect from day one and for many of us without any training. All that does is put parents under yet more pressure and lead to those who need help not seeking it for fear of condemnation or worse. Not every person finds it easy to seek support so we need to be far more proactive about offering it. In fact, if support was in place as standard, parents would seek it our naturally. We also need to look at a shift in our culture back to communities looking out for each other more. It is a sad reflection on modern life that many mums have heaps of online friends but very few or none in the real world. That is because they are all stuck indoors trying to toilet train their child in time for school when two doors away, someone could tell them just how to do it.
Before anyone starts commenting about how would we resource such a thing, just take a look at some of the things money is found for that does far less good.
I am not saying it is ideal that teachers are dealing with our children’s bottoms but if resources are not in place to support new parents, I think this is an inevitable result to some extent. Also, aren’t we supposed to be involved in school-parent partnerships or is that just a one-way street?
There needs to be respect on both sides of the school-parent partnership but that may need facilitating. Communication is key and is not always handled well on either side of the relationship.
I remember an occasion where I was forced to change my son on a nursery floor whilst being scolded that he was not toilet-trained by a teacher. I had asked before sending him whether it was OK for him to go whilst not toilet-trained and they had said yes. In fact, I had said I would prefer him to not go until he was toilet-trained but they encouraged me to send him earlier to attract funding I think. I was so tearful and tried telling her that I needed to go as my partner was going away and we had arranged to meet at the station so the children could wave him goodbye. She went on and on and, needless to say, we did not get to the station on time. That is years ago and may not sound like such a terrible experience but I was very traumatised by it.
If more money was put into some of the initiatives I suggest above than into numerous surveys telling us what an atrocious job we are doing as mums, I personally believe the world would be a much better place and teachers would be wiping less bums.
Over to you.