"An increasing number of British parents have moved from the tried and tested 'tough love' approach to parenting to more informal and casual arrangements," said Mr Field. "The losers from this move have been children, and particularly poorer children.
"A number of research reports show that children are more likely to thrive if they come from homes where parents lay down clear boundaries for behaviour but who, within these boundaries, nurture their children with love, affection and interest. What might seem to some people little-valued activities, such as reading with their child and talking with them to improve their vocabulary, pays huge dividends when their children start school."
Mr Field said it was "distressing, not to say horrifying" that it was possible by the age of five to predict accurately how much children will have achieved by the time they are in their 20s. Inequality in cognitive, social, emotional and physical skills at five "determines life's outcomes", and action to tackle poverty must be targeted at improving acquisition of these abilities in the crucial early years, he said.
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So many people have different views of being a parent. We all do the best we can, but their are so many approaches - from birth you can do Gina Ford routines or baby led schedules and just about everything in between, whether you breastfeed or not becomes a political statement and things get more complicated from there.
A recent holiday brought this into sharp focus by the reaction of two friends. they are the most lovely couple, I have known N since school and she is a powerhouse of enthusiasm for life and P her -ologist husband. They have recently become the doting parents to a lovely little girl and are still at the stage of reading books and checking everything with their clinic and friends to reinforce their actions are best.
They are lovely parents, but they are not the Pickle's - and do not know her so well. Their individual responses to me as a Mum were amazing in their difference. P seemed furious/angry/annoyed/dismissive (I must get to know him better so I can understand his comments better) and told me that I should be taking packed lunches for the Pickle with me where ever I went as I was wasting money on her. Why? On one occasion she did not eat a full portion of a veggy sausage roll (when there were no child sizes) and the next day she did the double crime of turning her nose up at a sandwich when it was incorrectly labelled (we bought what we thought was her favourite but turned out to be a spicy version) then later she poured out too much cereal into her bowl. I did not force her to eat up as I do not want to make meals a battlefield. I see his rationale for repeating things that she liked, but then he saw her eat fish fingers once and when shopping the next day he took the initiative to buy her fish fingers for a second consecutive supper. I do see his logic and maybe he was trying to help me, but my grand plan has to promote an inclusive approach to eating, getting her to try as as many foods as possible and to see meal times as a great chance to share food, thoughts and conversation. It does not always work, the first time I took her for a Lebanese meal was a messy nightmare but since falafel have been renamed chickpea balls and they are a firm favourite. Food has been a journey we have enjoyed together - from baked beans to sushi!
P's approach (helpful/disdainful/angry - I am not sure) is by marked contrast to N's - who so often says what a good Mummy I am. Obviously I take it as a compliment, feel smug etc but part of me does not know how to respond. I do have a fabulous relationship with the Pickle, I rarely need to so much as to raise my voice and she knows what is acceptable and what is not - and more importantly I love her and she makes me smile just thinking of her. But, in the same way as I am a complex human, with strengths and quirks: the way that I parent will be a mix of how I translate a lifetime's actions into every day interactions. I am not perfect, but I know myself and am secure in who I am - likewise as a parent I do my best and I am happy with my efforts. I will always listen to advice - I can always learn but in my grand scheme I refuse to feed fish fingers to the Pickle every night as I am still ready for adventures and both the highs and lows that they bring.
Let's be careful about judging other people's parenting. I used N&P's responses to highlight differing responses. SavyMum4 wrote the most heart wrenching piece on her experience. I'd be interested in whether you have had a similar experience. Let me know. xx