Empowerment Parenting

6 July, 2013

I’ve been thinking a lot about differing parenting styles, apparent in children in the playground and at parties.  Sometimes it feels like we’re inundated with the selfy-helpy world of how-to-bring-up-your-kids. Having spent thousands of hours on facebook, er, researching child rearing, one day it struck me, I finally realised where I had been going wrong.  It was one of those “aha” moments, that changes your life forever.   Having tried my new approach out on more than two children, I can honestly say it’s totally amazing and it will change your life too.  I call it the GeddityerselfTM method.

There are only two rules in GeddityerselfTM parenting.  But they must be followed at all times.  They are:

  1. Say no to “no”.  Yes, that’s right we say no to saying no and we say yes to saying yes.  We never ever say yes to saying no.  No, we’d never do that.  So if your child asks for something, you always say “Yes”.  You can choose to that with an endearing term such as  “darling”, “sweet child of mine,” or for a teenager, “mummy’s lickle lamb” (always goes down a treat).
  1. The second rule is that you always follow that “yes” with our second foundation mantra; Geddityerself TM.

This works with children of all ages.  Here are a few examples;

Child:  “Mum, can I have a drink?”
Mum:  “Yes darling.  Geddityerself TM

Teenager:  “Mum, can I have a car?”
Mum:  “Yes, Geddityerself TM.”

Child:  Can I have lunch?
Mum:  “Yes, my love.  Geddityerself TM.”

Child:   “Can I have an allowance?”
Mum:  “Yes, my lickle lamb. Gedditoffyourdad.”

The sceptics amongst you might be thinking, but does this really work in real life?  Here are just a few of the many thousands of letters I receive everyday, from ordinary people, just like you.  The one thing they have in common is they have changed their lives, and the lives of their children, for the better using the Geddityerself TM  method.

“We were on our way to leave our seven children with social services one weekend, when we heard about your Geddityerself TM parenting method. Your blog was a turning point in our lives. These days, we all live as one big happy family.  Honestly, we can’t thank you enough.”
John & Olivia Walton, West Virginia, USA

“GeddityerselfTM parenting is a work of great emotional depth.  It challenges the holes in the fabric of redundant ideals of the western parental system.  I am in no doubt that I have been a better parent to little Sergey, Tatyana, Ilya, Leo, Marya, Petya, Nicholas, Varvara, Andrey, Michael, Sascha and Alexis since studying it.  Oh, and my wife, Sacha is getting on much better Timmy, my illegitimate child now.  (Although, she’s still a bit frosty with his mother).
Leo Tolstoy, Russia

“Fantastic!  You deserve a prize.”
A. Nobel, Stockholm

“Your gas bill is now overdue and requires immediate payment.”
British Gas, FTSE 100 Company, UK

Buy the Geddityerself TM Approach today for £199.99

While stocks last!

“The pressures of parenting and money meant my husband and I were both working second jobs, to make ends meet. We couldn’t cope. With the help of Gettidyerself parenting, I gave up my evening job as a prostitute and my husband stopped dealing crack on weekends. Instead, we spend our free time running happily through flower meadows, like other families. Thank you so much.”

Disclaimer:  Due to unprecedented demand, the Gettidyerself TM method has, er, completely sold out in all leading bookstores and on Amazon.

Copies are still available at the Wednesday market in Witney.  (Cash only)

Advertisements

Stranger Danger

28 June, 2013

The kids got “Stranger Danger” education at school this week.  Making sure no one gets into a car with a stranger, or worse still, accepts any sweets.   We discuss this type of thing quite frequently at home.  This is in part, probably due to my job.  I encounter, on a far too frequent basis, the results of childhood sexual abuse.  And also the fact that they spend a lot of time away from me at weekends, often in situations which I’m not terribly happy about – at pubs and parties with people I don’t even know.

There are only estimates for the number of children sexually abused in the UK.  It’s largely unreported, in fact, I can’t even remember ever having a client who has reported it to any authorities – other than maybe telling a parent, who ignored them.   Estimates put the figure for girls at 1 in 4, and for boys 1 in 6.  Sad-to-say, but it sounds about right to me.  The incidence of abuse rise with added risks of alcohol, drugs and multiple partners.

I have a friend who worked with a group of pedophiles.  (I should probably point out she was a social worker).  They told her an  interesting thing.  That when they’re hanging-out around the schools, it’s not the kids they’re looking at.  They’re looking for the vulnerable parent who is going to give them access to a child.  Feel vulnerable?  To be honest I used to, especially as a single parent, but this made me feel a whole lot better about it.  Not being the vulnerable parent, with the vulnerable kids – yeah, that one I could manage.  So my children’s education began at a fairly early age.  We have frank discussions about all sorts of things.  We talk about situations, strangers, so-called “friends”; we discuss tactics and have a good laugh about it too.  But, I always teach them how to deal with each situation.  So they’ve been armed with responses, rather than trapped in the headlights of blind panic.

But, I also put perspective in there.  I don’t let them listen to the news, with it’s terrifying stories about children being abducted or killed.  I’ve always thought it’s scaremongering.  There were 72 child abductions by strangers, in the UK last year (er, that’s about 64 more than I thought, actually).  But, more frighteningly, there were 375 attempted abductions by strangers.  A lot more than I thought.     However, let’s compare this total number, 447, to the overall rate of abuse of our young people.  Let’s say, (purely) for numerical sake, abuse happens between the ages of 6 and 15.  That would be an estimated 750,000 girls and 500,000 boys being sexually abused right now, in the UK.  The  447 child abductions are clearly the extreme, visible end of the problem; but not the predominating perpetrators.

A client once said, “When are we going to face up to the fact that our children are at most risk from someone we know and trust, not strangers.”  Her words stayed with me, because she was right.  Collectively, we’re still in denial about who abuses our children.  And in that respect, we continue to fail them.  When are we going to really educate our children how to speak up if a grandfather, step dad or brother enter their room at night, when mum is asleep?  Are we going to teach them how to cope with threats of everyone knowing “the dirty things you’ve done”?  Will our children get an assembly on that?  There is very little on the internet when it comes to talking about family abuse, but massive resources to protect from them from strangers.  Are we teaching practical measures for children with this problem, other than, “tell someone”.   Surely,  we can find more ways to help rid these children of their nightmares?

Back to “Stranger Danger”;
Me:  “So what did they say?  Don’t take sweets from strangers?”
Sami: “Yeah.  Showed us a video.  But, of course we’d all take the sweets, we just wouldn’t get in the car.”
Amba: “Yeah, grab ’em and run, really fast.”
Me: “Er, I think when you put your arm out for the sweets, that’s when they grab you.”
Sami: “Really!  They didn’t tell us that.  Everyone in my class is gonna take the sweets.”
Amba; “Yep, my class too.”

 

Image

The elderly man in red was suspected of giving children expensive gifts  to gain access to their bedrooms.
(This blog does not support vigilantism)

I live in a rural community, a small village with no street lights.  It’s surrounded by fields which are sowed and ploughed each year, by one of the three farmers who own all the land as far as the eye can see.  We watch the fields change throughout the seasons; the tractors ploughing, watching new plants appear in spring wondering what’s coming this year.  It changes see, each year the fields are a different colour, I think it’s called crop rotation (but stop me if I’m getting too technical, ok). Some years, we have masses of bright red poppies in golden corn fields, or vivid yellow oil seed rape, another year it’s green stuff that’s a magnet for swans.  Then in the late summer the combine harvesters drone all night, bringing in both the harvest and a bout angry monster nightmares for the children.

We go out and watch the combines sometimes, it’s a messy old business, but it’s efficient.  Not like the weeks of back breaking labour it must have taken in the good-ole-days.  This mechanisation has caused a redundancy amongst in the relationship between farmer and village.  We don’t help him with his harvest, he doesn’t sell produce locally, I barely know the three who farm around my village.  There is no Cider With Rosie round here.  Gone are the days of kids with (hopefully blunt) scythes, gathering the hay into bales, snogging under the horse-drawn cart.    And this naturally begs the question; if they’re not off school for the whole summer to bring in the harvest/snogging under the cart; then why exactly are they off school for so long?  The only reasons I can think of are;

  1. Keeping Thomas Cook in business with ridiculously inflated prices during the holidays.
  1. Stopping women getting decent paid jobs because no-one on a normal wage can afford 70 days of childcare a year.

School’s-out-for-summer once meant that work experience began and the children contributed to the economy.  Ok, I’m not really saying you should put your children to work in the fields, or up a chimney, (although if they really want to do it and they’re seem naturally good at it, who am I to tell you to hold them back in life?).

combine

Not all children are ready to drive combine harvesters.

The issue of trying to fit in work around school holidays is one that has failed to be addressed by any political party.  The women I’ve spoken to about this, (in my research to find a way to work more than my sporadic self-employment) all seem to rely on a bit of childcare and a lot of family support.  But, this is not an option for all of us.  I, like many, don’t have family to ask and although I can ask friends, there are only so many times you can expect someone to happily have your three children all day.  I’ve been self employed for about 4 years now and with the recession my work has reduced considerably.  With my youngest now in school (phew), I could get a part time job, except covering the school holidays.  Childcare is a problem, the problem being that the cheapest childcare starts at £3.50 per kid, per hour.  I’ve got three of them, so I’m looking at spending £10.50 an hour to go to work.  Ok, there are tax credit incentives to help with this, but many single parents really do find that the more hours they work, the worse off they are.

The big issue here is that as an economical entity, can Britain afford to support the massive amount of single parents on benefits?  It doesn’t make sense to structure our country’s economy around school holidays for the sake of, well what?  Teaching unions?  The UK currently has 2 million single parent families, really, shouldn’t we be trying to address their return to work in a more practical way?  We often hear talk about part time work for mothers, but the issue is not part time, many of us can manage that on a daily basis.  The issue is finding a job with 70 days holiday a year.

School holidays are determined by the Local Education Authority (LEA) for Community and Community Funded schools and set by the school governors for Aided and Foundation schools.  Schools are required to teach a minimum 190 days per year, offering 2 sessions a day.  There are guidelines on the number of hours of teaching per week (21 to 24) depending on the age of the children.  But, interestingly, there is no maximum number of days they are allowed to teach, this is determined by the contracts between the schools and teachers.  Overseen by the big daddy, teaching unions.

The new kid on the block of hope with all this is Free Schools.  These school are a government initiative to support the setting up of independently managed state schools  They are run by charitable organisations and do not have to follow the National Curriculem, there are currently 79 of them open in the UK.  Many are faith based schools, such as the Avanti (hindu) school in Harrow, the largest of the free schools in the UK.  Many of them are also under-subscribed.  Currently, all of the free schools operate conventional holiday term dates.  But do these schools spell out some hope for a re-organisation of holidays for the struggling millions of parents trying to make a living?  Will they be the forerunners in a re-organisation of school holidays that will enable many single parents to return to workable hours on even a part time basis?  Possibly, but there are other things the Free Schools bring to UK education.  One of the more worrying aspects is The Department of Education (DoE) allowing them to employ unqualified teachers without an open application procedure. Their website says:

 

“Free schools do not have to employ teachers with Qualified Teacher Status (although certain specialist posts will still require QTS).  Instead, Free Schools have the freedom to appoint the people they believe are best equipped to deliver their unique educational vision, for example an experienced instructor or lecturer from a further education institution.  Ensuring the highest quality of teaching is paramount to the success of each school.”

Interesting, isn’t it?  Free Schools’ teachers operate on the self-belief of their capability in teaching, rather than specific qualifications.  I wonder if this system that will in time be a precedent to the other struggling government departments (other than MPs, where it already openly operates).  Will we have Free Hospitals, where people who believe  they can operate perform surgery on brain tumours?  Or, perhaps we’ll have self appointed Free RAF pilots who, having done karaoke to R. Kelly a few too many times, believe they can fly.  Sort of like an employment based X-factor, but without tedious auditions.

Another aspect of education they’re allowed to take less literally, is with staff contracts, again the D.o.E website explains:

“One of the additional freedoms enjoyed by Academies and Free Schools is the ability to set their own terms and conditions for staff. The Free School’s Academy Trust will be responsible for employer and employee pension contributions, and for administrative matters relating to pension provision for all staff employed by the Free School.”

If that isn’t a direct hit in the eye against Teaching Unions, then I don’t know what is.

Despite the many short comings of the Free School system, the fact remains that we have arranged our economy around un-workable term dates and this means we perpetuate the benefit-dependent, single parent population.  It’s not true that single parents don’t want to work; people who say this have probably never raised children alone – so they have no idea how appealing it sounds to spend all day with adults.  Probably, in the same way, staying home with children, sounds really homey and loving (instead of shouty and tantrumy).  Few people prefer to raise their children on the poverty line, when additional earned income might offer them so much more.

There are no immediate or easy solutions to this, but it’s interesting that those expensively equipped educational buildings, our state funded schools, sit idle and empty for 175 days per annum, almost half a year.  Surely, there must be something we can do with them?

Phone call from school

8 December, 2009

The school rang me at 3.30pm today. School finishes at 3.15pm and it’s generally not a great thing for me to get an out of hours call. Basically it means they’ve missed the school bus, or worse. One time last year Sam’s teacher rang at about 4.30pm. She was “very concerned”.

There had been some mix up at breakfast club and my six year old son, Sam, hadn’t wanted to pay for the food he’d taken. His teacher said he’d got confused with his free school dinners and thought he didn’t have to pay. Fair enough. But the reason she was ringing, was that when she talked to him about it later in the day, he got very, very anxious. Apparently he said that sometimes his sister steals money from his money box but then she lies about it, and he gets into trouble. His teacher was concerned that he was so visibly distressed and wanted to know if he was okay now. I looked over at him stuffing chocolate chip cookies, “Well he seems alright, but of course I’ll talk to him”, I replied, a bit confused myself. I have a feeling that it is me on his teacher’s “concerned” list, not Sam. Just something about the way she talks (down) to me says, “families I’m keeping an eye on”. Having her check up on my domestic bliss, out of hours, adds to my paranoia. Very casually, I broach the breakfast club subject and ask if he got something nice. “Yeah”, comes the reply. Chewing cookies and watching TV, has left only one brain cell available for sharing his life with me. I pause, then try again. “So, no problems then at breakfast club?”. He looks at me sideways, then his eyes sparkle.  He knows I know. He smiles and tries to avoid further discussion, to avoid being busted.

Me: “So, what happened? Mrs M’s been on the phone saying you were really anxious?”

He begins a long winded explanation about breakfast club and repeats himself again and again. I can’t really follow his stream of consciousness, but eventually I tease out the line, “I never pay for breakfast club”.

Me: “Whaddayamean you never pay for breakfast club?”

S: “I don’t pay”

Me: “Yes you do, I give you a £2 a week for it”

S: “Er, well,” He’s shifting his feet and definately looking a bit anxious now. This is how he looks when he’s making up a lie story to placate me. This means I’m getting to the point. I have to act fast and interrupt his thoughts before he has a scenario in place of reality.

Me: “Why don’t you pay?”

S: “Er, well”. I’m on him now, but he’s stalling for time.

Me: “So, c’mon, how come you don’t think you have to pay?”

S: “Mrs J never charges me, so I don’t pay”.

Me: “What?”

S: “She just never charges me, so I never pay. But today they wanted me to pay. So I told them I don’t pay, but they kept saying I had to”.

This is a difficult one. I don’t really know what’s said about me at school. I don’t go in that often. We are blessed to live in out of town in a village.  The real blessing is the free school bus.   Consequently, I only collect them one day a week on a Tuesday, and that means I don’t hear the playground gossip. But what I suspect is, that everyone knows that my husband has left me. Everyone certainly knows that I’m pregnant. And lets face it they probably all know I’m flat broke, skint too – these things have a tendency to show in one’s face and in one’s demeanor. The fact that Sam hasn’t paid for breakfast club in over a year may possibly be someone’s generous oversight. I’ll never know. But, what I do know is that I’m not finished with him yet.

S: “Then Mrs M. kept asking me loads of questions”.

Me: “So, if you don’t ever pay, then what happens to the two quid I’ve been giving you every week?”

S: No answer, shifting his feet again.

Me: “What do you do with it? Tell me.”

S: “I bring it home and put it in my money box”.

I am incredulous.

It explains a lot. It was Mrs M’s concerned questions that were making him anxious, and rightly so. His terrible worry was that he was going to get busted for nicking both his breakfast club money and his breakfast, for over a year. I smile as I remember how diligently, (and now I think of it, how quickly), he saved up for his Playstation 2 and his Nintendo DS. I’d refused to buy them for him (or so I thought).

What can I do? I can’t tell his teacher what he’s been up to. I would be wrong to grass him up for saving his breakfast club money. It’s a christian school and technically, he’s been stealing from them and from me. I’m going to have to take this on the chin and continue to be on her “concerned” list. The poor, single mum who’s not quite coping with it all.

But we’ve all moved on a long way from that time.  Today the phone call is not about stolen bagels. It’s 3.30pm and they should be walking through the door – unless they’ve missed the bus.  These days they can never remember whether they’re on the darned thing or not. They ask me to write it on their hands so they remember. But I totally refuse to do that. They can remember to get on the bus four days a week, for god’s sake. It’s just enabling their infancy and disabling their brains.

I listen to the school secretary on the end of the line, “Mrs. V.?”

“Yes,” I reply, trying to be nice, although I’ll kill them if they’ve missed the bus again.

“Your children are in the office”.  The secretary is also trying-to-be-nice, I can hear it in her strained voice.   “They say you normally pick them up on a Tuesday.”