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Thread: Slow Parenting

  1. #1

    Default Slow Parenting

    Slow parenting: Gently does it with the parent whisperer

    Carl Honor?, champion of the Slow Movement, has a new crusade - to save children from their hyper-active, over-ambitious parents. He talks to Cassandra Jardine about his new book, serialised exclusively in the Telegraph, and the moment he vowed to stop being a pushy dad

    Carl Honor? lives on what he calls the "front line" of middle-class parenting. His part of Clapham, south London, is known as Nappy Valley because it is the place to rear a young family; Northcote Road, the commercial river that runs through the bottom of the valley, overflows with designer maternity wear, fancy toy shops and delicatessens. But there's something strange about the atmosphere. It's so quiet.

    Even after school, you see little evidence of the hundreds of children who live here. That's because they are indoors, safely doing their homework, rather than playing on the common. Or they are being ferried from one extra-curricular activity to another.

    Nine years ago, when Honor? and his wife - travel writer Miranda French - moved into the area, it wasn't as it is now. "But somewhere gets a name, then a critical mass, and becomes more that way," he says with a sad shake of his head. At 40, he now feels like the last of the old guard, surrounded by younger, richer parents who are even more steamed up than he is about their children hitting milestones earlier and faster than ever before. "Everything has to be perfect - houses, teeth, clothes. There's lots of input, lots of tutoring. Childhood is turned into a rat race."

    What better place to write a book about how we can rescue our children from what Honor? calls "the culture of hyper-parenting"? This global movement for the destruction of childhood has crept up on us so insidiously, and is now so deeply embedded, that most of us scarcely know we are part of it until we have an "Aha" moment. In my own case, it was not until several of my children - then under 10 - had wailed piteously about not wanting to go to violin/tennis/French lessons that I began to wonder whether they were learning anything other than early neuroticism from my eager attempts to expand their minds.

    The groundwork for Honor?'s own "eureka" moment was laid by his first book, In Praise of Slow. Lesson one, don't read your emails all day and all night. Lesson two, less is more. Published in 2004, the book became a worldwide bestseller, the bible of the global slow movement. "Slowing down doesn't have to mean living in a converted barn in Somerset and growing carrots. It's about a state of mind," he explains unhurriedly, over water not caffeine, in his Nappy Valley home.

    His terrace house is a neat, peaceful place, singularly free of electronic equipment, apart from one small television. Downstairs, there is no children's art to be admired, nor educational toys, violins, pianos or any of the other standard aren't-my-children-talented paraphernalia, just one big jigsaw. Seated on an uncluttered sofa, Honor? displays the bright-eyed eagerness of someone who would naturally want his children to do as well as he has done - and use every means to push them - had he not realised it was counter-productive.

    Edinburgh-born, but Canadian-reared, he is the child of "alpha types": his Mauritian father was a neurologist; his Scottish mother a teacher. But, he says, "they parented with a light touch. There was no feeling that childhood was only an apprenticeship for adulthood." Nevertheless, as the eldest of three children, he was in pole position to become an anxious over-achiever and, until six years ago, was living out that destiny playing ice?hockey, speaking umpteen languages, rushing around the world as a foreign correspondent.

    Then one day, at an airport, he saw a series of classic children's stories that had been boiled down into 60?second bedtime fixes for the busy parent. His first reaction was "great". Then his blood ran cold. What was this craziness?

    The Slow book, a general investigation of this modern madness, led on to this second book specifically about the malaise in parenting. "Whenever I give talks about Slow," he says, "even to executives, I'm always asked about what we are doing to our children." He gets the impression that people crave permission to take their feet off the accelerated-learning pedal.

    That was one reason for the investigations that led to writing his new book. "The more important reason," he says, "was personal." As with the Slow book, a single flash of insight made him realise that he was so marinated in the culture of pushiness that he needed to change. It came at a parents' evening where he was hanging on the teacher's every word, deaf to moderate praise, waiting for the six letters that he needed to pump up his parental ego. At last they came: the word "gifted" was used in reference to his son's drawings. In that moment of relief and triumph, he didn't just think, "how nice", he immediately began to think of ways in which he could fan the flames of this nascent talent to turn his child into a world?beater. As he did so, he realised how absurd it was.

    If he wanted his children - Benjamin, now nine, and Susanna, six - to do well and be happy, he knew he had to find a way to silence his inner hyper-parent. "I just wanted to feel less anxious about it all. Anxiety had become the keynote for all the conversations I was having with other parents: were they not doing enough to help their children, or too much? I found myself wanting the answers to so many questions."

    Such as?

    "How hard should you push? How busy should children be? What toys do you buy? How do you cope with the avalanche of advice? How do I avoid being a touch-line tyrant?"

    In search of answers, he visited nursery schools in Italy and Scotland, a toy research laboratory in Sweden, secondary schools in Finland and Hong Kong and colleges in Britain and the US. What stuck out the most was that ambitious parents are much the same all over the world.

    Aware that the competition for the best jobs is not just hot but international, we start by playing Mozart to our children in the womb to speed up their synapses and carry on from there, loading four-year-olds down with homework and 16 year-olds with extra-curricular activities to enhance their university applications.

    Casual pastimes, such as kicking a ball around, are transformed into tense semi-professional ordeals, and children are hedged about by so many pressures and restrictions that the specialness of childhood - a time to muck about and discover for yourself - is lost.

    The result is a generation of children who are wired, pampered and constantly monitored. Creativity is lost. Rates of depression, self?harm and chronic fatigue are soaring. University teachers report that prospective students, unused to independence, hand over their mobiles in the middle of interviews saying: "Why don't you sort this out with my mum?"

    Britain is in some ways worse than other countries, he found. "On schooling we are close to the mad end of the spectrum: we start as young as possible and believe that the supreme yardstick is a high test score. We are right up there with the exam-hell cultures of the Far East, except that they have been doing it for longer and are now trying to get away from it."

    On technology we get an average score for loading children down with electronic toys that don't give their imaginations room to breathe. "Even in enlightened Scandinavia they fall for that one," he says reassuringly, "though the Far East is the worst."

    Where Britain excels, he found, is in the New Man culture. "We are good on having warm, open families. Every father is involved, even the busy ones."

    Honor? is one such. Every day he walks his children to their primary school two streets away; once or twice a week he picks them up, too. At home he tries not to helicopter over them when they are busy. Instead, he encourages them to muck around with eggs and flour to make fresh pasta for supper. He also reads to them every night - not for 60 seconds any more but 60 minutes. It has taken them two years to get through all seven Harry Potter books; now, to give the younger child a treat, they are reading Winnie the Pooh.

    So far, so perfect. But he is also a man of our times. Each child does only one extra-curricular activity: guitar for Benjamin, flamenco dancing for Susanna. Proud as he is of their low tally, he is itching to pack their schedules with swimming, skating and everything else that the neighbours do.

    He is also as nervy as other Nappy Valley parents about his children's safety. Not many muggings and shootings occur locally but his children never trot over to neighbours a few doors down, nor does his son go unsupervised to the nearby common to play football with his friends. He feels bad about it, because his children's lives are so different from his own free-range upbringing in Canada, but what should he do?

    There's a simple answer. Tilting the cultural scales requires "a million small acts of defiance", as he says in his book. He must therefore ease off, let go, relax, trust, let his children take tiny risks and find themselves no longer transported from one ultra-safe bubble to another. Most parents with several children learn to do that eventually, out of exhaustion or necessity, but when I meet him he has not got there yet. His children don't even know their own home phone number. If he can't practise what he preaches, what hope is there?

    But, two days later, we speak again. In the meantime, he has talked to other parents and they've agreed to let the footballers play in the park unsupervised. He has also made sure that his children know their home phone number should they get lost. If others follow his example, Nappy Valley may soon become Happy Valley, a place where children are both seen and heard.

  2. #2


    Slow parenting part two: hey, parents, leave those kids alone

    Part two of Carl Honor?'s crusade to save children from hyper-parenting. Cassandra Jardine reports

    Every parent knows how easy it is to get overexcited when a child shows the first glimmer of a talent - and how quick we can be to nurture, even pounce on, that talent.

    Carl Honore
    Taking it easy: Carl Honor? rejects hyper-parenting

    Father of two Carl Honor?, author of the bestseller 'In Praise of Slow', is no different, but he is trying to change his ways. His new book, 'Under Pressure', explores the concept of hyper-parenting and seeks to find a blueprint for raising happy and successful children.

    Here, in the first of two extracts, he describes how we can be better parents by setting our children free.


    Parent-teacher evening is in full swing. My wife and I are here about our seven-year-old son, Benjamin. He seems to be thriving, so we have high hopes for the interview.
    Click to learn more...

    Once we take our seats at a low table, the teacher delivers her verdict: our son is very good at reading and writing; his maths skills are solid; his science could be better; he is well-behaved and a pleasure to teach.

    It is a good report, yet somehow not quite good enough. "She didn't mention his amazing vocabulary," says my wife, as we walk away from the classroom. "Or explain why he's not in the top group for every subject," I add.

    Our tone is jocular - we're making fun of the pushy parents you read about in the newspapers - but there is an edge to the irony. We partly mean it, too.

    After my wife goes home to take over from the babysitter, I head off to visit the art teacher. "Your son really stands out," she gushes. "He really is a gifted young artist."

    And there it is, that magic word, the six letters that are music to the ears of every parent. Gifted. I walk home from the school already mapping out my son's ascent to the top of the international art world.

    Will his first exhibition be in London or New York?

    My wife is delighted by the news, not least because the father of a classmate was present when the art teacher delivered her panegyric.

    I start sifting through parenting magazines and surfing the internet, hunting for the right course to nurture our son's gift. The ad that catches my eye promises: "Unlock your child's genius!"

    The next morning, on the walk to school with my children, I float the idea of enrolling in an art course. But my son is having none of it. "I don't want to go to a class and have a teacher tell me what to do - I just want to draw," he says, firmly.

    "Why do grown-ups have to take over everything?"

    Slow parenting part two: hey, parents, leave those kids alone

    The question stops me in my tracks. My son loves to draw. He can spend hours hunched over a piece of paper, inventing alien life forms. But somehow that is not enough.

    Part of me wants to harness that happiness, to hone and polish his talent, to turn his art into an achievement.

    One day, two years later, something happened that suggested I may be on the road to recovery. My son and I were kicking a football around in the park when he announced that his school runs a sketching club.

    My heart skipped a beat, but I resisted the urge to frogmarch him down to the office to sign up. Instead, I answered in a neutral tone.

    "That sounds interesting. Are you thinking of joining?"

    "It's mostly girls and I don't want to be the only boy," he said. "But I want a teacher who knows about art to show me how to draw better. I might learn some useful things in the club."

    "That makes sense," I said, kicking the ball back to him.

    As we gathered our things to leave, he returned to the question of the sketching club. "Daddy, I know you want me to join," he said. "But I'm the one who has to decide."

    I agreed and told him I was happy to wait for him to make up his mind. And I meant it.

    He tossed me the ball and promised to draw me a picture of him scoring for England when we got back. I smiled, put my arm round his shoulder and we headed for home. We talked about soccer the whole way.

    Of course, I am not the first parent to be eager to steer my child to the top. Two thousand years ago, a schoolteacher named Lucius Orbilius Pupillus identified pushy parents as an occupational hazard in the classrooms of ancient Rome.

    When the young Mozart helped make prodigies fashionable in the 18th century, many Europeans hothoused their own children in the hope of creating a wunderkind. Today, however, the pressure to make the most of our kids feels all-consuming.

    We want them to have the best of everything and to be the best at everything. This brand of child-rearing has different names around the world.

    Helicopter-parenting - because Mum and Dad are always hovering overhead; hyper-parenting; Scandinavians joke about "curling parents", who frantically sweep the ice in front of their child. "Education mothers" devote every waking second to steering their children through the school system in Japan.

    Yet parents are not the only ones curling, pushing and helicoptering. In Britain, a task force of parliamentarians recently warned that too many children dream of growing up to be fairy princesses or football stars. Their solution? Career advice for five-year-olds.

    On the other side of the world, ambitious parents in Shanghai are enrolling their children in an "early MBA" programme, in which pupils learn the value of team-building, problem-solving and assertiveness.

    Some are barely out of nappies.

    The yearning for an ?ber-child has always been there, buried deep within the DNA of every parent. What has changed is that many more of us now feel the social pressure, and have the time and money, to try to create one.

    Deep down, most of us know that hyper-managing children is absurd. The trouble is that it's so easy to get caught up in the frenzy.

    We live in a culture that leaves everyone pining for the fame, fortune and physical beauty of an A-list celebrity, with the burden falling most heavily on children higher up the social ladder, where the pressure to compete is more intense.

    Child depression and anxiety - and the substance abuse, self-harm and suicide that often go with it - are now most common not in urban ghettos but in the smart city-centre flats and leafy suburbs where go-getting middle class parents project-manage their children, many of whom now have the kind of schedule that would make a CEO queasy.

    The urge to upgrade our children has taken on a Frankenstein edge. Inspired by research showing that taller people tend to be more successful, some parents now pay to inject growth hormones into their normal, healthy kids, with every extra inch of height costing about ?25,000.

    Others prefer a little nip and tuck to create the perfect look. These days, plastic surgeons have to keep a watch out for teenage patients being pressured by their parents to get that nose job or ear-pinning procedure.

    Later in life, the tantrums can give way to narcissism. Take Mother's Day, for instance. Instead of buying their mum flowers or chocolates, many American twentysomethings now prefer to indulge in a bit of self-improvement, going on diets, fixing their own teeth or getting haircuts, according to a recent report in the Wall Street Journal.

    Why? Because the best way to make a 21st-century mum happy is to upgrade her children. The pressure to give our children the best of everything and make them the best at everything is strong, but it is not irresistible.

    No one is holding a gun to our heads and forcing us to rear the next generation with neurotic zeal. We have it within our power to change, to ease off.

    How do we start? The first step is to accept that children have a range of aptitudes and interests - and that there are many paths to adulthood. Life does not end if you don't gain a place at Cambridge or Oxford.

    Not everyone is cut out to work in the City, and not everyone wants to. By definition, only a handful of children will ever grow up to be truly exceptional in any field.

    If we are going to reinvent childhood in a way that is good for both children and adults, we must learn to tolerate diversity, doubt and rough edges. We must cherish children for who they are, instead of what we want them to be.

    Inspired by a growing body of evidence and scientific research, schools, coaches, communities and families everywhere are finding ways to treat children as people instead of projects - and finding that they grow up happier, healthier and more able to make their own mark on the world.

    I have a confession to make. When I started researching this subject, I hoped to come out at the other end with a step-by-step recipe for raising children in the 21st century, an antidote to the frenzy of keeping up with the Joneses.

    Now I realise that would simply mean replacing one dogma with another.

    There is no single formula for child-rearing. Sure, there are some basic principles that hold true across class and culture: children need to feel safe and loved; they need our time and attention, with no conditions attached; they need boundaries and limits; they need space to take risks and make mistakes; they need to spend time outdoors; they need to be ranked and measured less; they need healthy food; they need to aspire to something bigger than owning brand-name gizmos; they need room to be themselves.

    But every family must find the formula that works best for them. That is not as daunting as it sounds. It can be done if you shut out the background noise and listen more to your instincts.

    Instead of baking a cake with your children because it will teach them about weight, volume and arithmetic, or canoodling with your baby because it will build his prefrontal cortex, do these things for the sheer joy of it.

    Leave the developmental payoff to take care of itself. Forging a new form of childhood and adulthood will be driven by millions of small acts of defiance. Whenever anyone chooses to let a child be herself, the cultural scales tilt slightly - and it becomes easier for others to follow suit.

    My own journey is a work in progress. I still hope my kids will turn out to have a genius for something - that will probably never go away - but at least now that hope does not turn me into a drill sergeant at the first hint of potential.

    My son still loves to draw, and his best works still find their way on to the fridge door or above my desk. I am looking at a portrait of Darth Vader as I type these words. But my yen to turn him into the next Michelangelo has dimmed.

  3. #3


    Slow parenting part three: let babies learn to think for themselves

    Being force-fed classical music and foreign languages does not make a child genius. In fact, it can lead to anxiety and aggression, says author Carl Honor? in our final extract from his new book

    When researchers in the Nineties found that listening to Mozart enhanced university students' spatial reasoning, an entire industry sprang up based on the claim that flooding the nursery with piano concerti could boost a baby's brain.

    Too much, too young: any beneficial effects of listening to classical music as a baby last just 20 minutes

    Today, you can still buy albums and DVDs trumpeting the so-called "Mozart effect". The only problem is that the Mozart effect is nonsense.

    In 2007, the German research ministry finally commissioned a crack team of neuroscientists, psychologists, educationalists and philosophers to investigate all the research done on the phenomenon.

    Their conclusion: even if listening to Mozart does boost spatial-temporal reasoning (and not all studies have shown this), the effect lasts no more than 20 minutes.

    A misreading of science, coupled with soaring expectations, also fuels many doomed attempts to teach foreign languages to infants. Research in the Nineties showing that babies possess a unique ability to learn any tongue sent parents scampering off to buy Berlitz tapes in the hope of turning their newborns into mini-polyglots. It didn't work.

    Why? Because babies tune into a language only when it is spoken to them regularly by a real person. In more recent experiments, infants exposed only to foreign language DVDs or audiotapes or bilingual toys absorbed nothing at all - not one word or phrase, not one single sound.

    Nor did they arrive at school with more appetite for conjugating French verbs or identifying Mandarin symbols.

    Does that mean that foreign language classes with real teachers are the answer? My neighbour takes his two-year-old to Mandarin lessons every Saturday morning. "Chinese is the future," he says. "The sooner she starts, the better." Again, that depends.

    Research shows that in order to become bilingual, children need to be exposed to a foreign language for at least 30 per cent of their waking hours.

    That means taking proper immersion classes, or spending a big chunk of the day speaking the other language with a parent or nanny, or with other toddlers in a nursery. It does not mean stuffing an hour of Mandarin instruction between gymnastics and the Saturday morning shopping trip.

    It also transpires that not learning a second language in the early years does not mean a lifetime of monolingualism. The latest research shows that the brain goes on developing long after the early years, that there is no "critical window" that closes forever on the third birthday.

    The bottom line seems to be that infant-cramming is often pointless and may even backfire. Skills gained through forcefeeding often have to be relearnt later. One London music teacher tells of a girl driven by her parents to master the violin from the age of three.

    She surged ahead of her peers, yet by the age of six her technique was so distorted that she had to spend months relearning the basics.

    "The worst part was that the other children, who had been playing to their ability level, hit their stride and left her behind," says the teacher. "It was a classic case of the tortoise and the hare."

    Too much stimulation can interfere with sleep, which babies need in order to process and consolidate what they have learnt during their waking hours. When parents get anxious about milestones, the infant can get stressed, too.
    If a baby's brain becomes flooded with stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, the chemical change can become permanent over time, making it harder to learn, or to control aggression, in later life and increasing the chance of depression.

    So what is the right way to treat an infant? Well, the question itself is flawed. However much we may want science to provide a step-by-step guide to the early years, our patchy knowledge of brain development makes this impossible.

    Yet there are some clear guidelines. One is that all infants thrive on one-to-one interaction with plenty of eye contact. A baby scrutinising his parent's face, deciphering the emotions and expressions flickering across it, is doing the neural equivalent of the Jane Fonda workout.

    Gazing into his eyes, smiling, nuzzling, adopting exaggerated facial expressions, tickling, pronouncing words v-e-r-y slowly, kissing, and imitating sounds back and forth may not look like much compared to the showier thrills of baby sign language, but it is actually a rich and stimulating conversation - and you don't need a specialist to teach you how to do it because it comes naturally to all of us.

    This loving interplay between parent and infant helps to build the latter's pre-frontal cortex, the "social" part of the brain that governs empathy, self-control, and the capacity to read nonverbal signals from other people - the very skills that teachers identify as the most important for thriving in kindergarten and beyond. It can also immunise children against stress.

    Around the world, child-development experts are issuing the same advice to anxious, impatient parents: every baby develops at a different speed. The early years are important, but they are not a race.

    Spend less time trying to enrich your baby and more time getting to know him. Trust your instincts - instead of mimicking whatever the alpha mother in the playground is doing.

    Like world peace, "early education" sounds like a no-brainer - how can anyone quibble with getting children off to a flying start? The problem is that academic hothousing is subject to the law of diminishing returns.

    True, it can sometimes yield the sort of results that make teachers gawp and parents crow: but what about the longer term? Does all that early learning pay off later?

    No. The latest research suggests that reaching learning milestones early is no guarantee of future academic stardom.

    One study in Philadelphia found that, by the age of seven or eight, there was no discernible gap between the performance of children who spent their pre-school years in nurseries that were rigidly academic and those who came from laid-back, play-based ones. The only difference was that the hothoused kids tended to be more anxious and less creative.

    While many believe that knowing letters, numbers, shapes and colours is the best preparation for school, teachers take a very different view. They say that the child who arrives at reception socially adept, who knows how to share, empathise and follow instructions, will stand a better chance of mastering the three Rs later on.

    The argument that more testing and toil is the best way to shape them for life in the 21st century is starting to fray at the edges. A report by King's College London suggests that the cognitive development of British children is slowed by spending too little time messing around outdoors.

    "By stressing only the basics - reading and writing - and testing like crazy you reduce the level of cognitive stimulation," says Philip Adey, professor of education at King's College. "Children have the facts but they are not thinking very well."

    In the future, the biggest rewards will go not to the yes-men who know how to serve up an oven-ready answer, but to the nimble-minded innovators who can think across disciplines, delve into a problem for the sheer hell of it and relish the challenge of learning throughout their lives.
    These are the people who will come up with the next Google, invent an alternative fuel, or devise a plan to slay poverty in Africa.

    One of the central nostrums of modern parenting is that the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is winning entry to an elite university. Nothing makes a parent preen more than announcing that Junior will be starting at Oxford or Cambridge in September.

    But even if such famous universities deliver pedigree and bragging rights, are they always worth the effort? Surely a degree from a top university is the ticket to a bulging pay packet and a prestigious job?

    That may be true in more rigid cultures such as South Korea, but it seems to be increasingly less so elsewhere. At last glance only seven CEOs from the top 50 Fortune 500 companies earned their undergraduate degrees at an Ivy League college.

    What seems to count for more is the kind of person you are when you arrive on campus, rather than the campus itself. One well-known study concluded that the chief predictor of higher income in later life was whether a student had applied to a prestigious university, not whether he actually attended one.

    "Essentially, what we found was the fact that you apply to those kinds of elite places means that you are ambitious, and you'll do well in life wherever you go," says Stacy Dale, a researcher with the Andrew Mellon Foundation.

    Think about that for a moment: that means the main purpose of our education system, and our main aim as parents, should not be to manoeuvre children into a chart-topping university. It should be to raise imaginative, disciplined, dynamic children with a lust for learning and life.

    Studies in Britain and other countries also suggest that university students who come from the state system go on to earn better degrees. There are various theories for this. One is that because state schools are less prone to hothousing and micro-managing, their pupils learn the self-discipline and self-motivation that are essential in university and, later, in the workplace.

    Many of us schedule, push, polish and protect our children to the limit of our budget and ability. But then, when it comes to imposing discipline, we go a bit wobbly. Welcome to the central paradox of modern child-rearing.

    Does that mean children's behaviour is worse today than in the past? Hard to say, but there are troubling signs. One major study found that 15-year-old Britons are more than twice as likely to lie, steal or disobey figures of authority than they were in 1974. And in 2006 the charity Kidscape blamed permissive parents for creating a new playground scourge: the middle-class bully.

    How did we get here? One factor is the modern habit of putting our children on a pedestal. At nursery schools, children sing Fr?re Jacques with the lyrics switched to: "I am special. I am special. Look at me.

    Look at me." Every doodle ends up on the fridge door, every sports trophy on the mantelpiece, every academic achievement in the Christmas round robin. Many of us have absorbed the idea that high self-esteem is the springboard to success - that if a child grows up believing herself to be a star, then eventually she will be. But is that really true?

    A recent review of more than 15,000 studies concluded that high self-esteem does not boost grades or career prospects, nor does it cut alcohol use or curb violent behaviour.

    Obviously, self-confidence is an asset, but children who are over-praised can end up more worried about maintaining their image and more inclined to undermine their peers to do so, as well as more likely to look to parents and teachers for approval. Instead of making things happen, they sit around anxiously waiting for the world to fit their vision of how it should be.

    When everything you do is praised to the heavens, you may start to believe your own press. Such narcissism may help on The X-Factor - though even there it can backfire - but it doesn't wash in the real world.

    Putting a child on a pedestal makes it harder for him to take risks, to experiment, to stick with a difficult task, to make mistakes and learn from them. Anything that smacks of failure would disappoint his parents and therefore tarnish his credentials as an alpha child.

    Another downside of putting a child on a pedestal is that it makes it harder to say no. It may not be pleasant when children sulk, slam doors or hiss "I hate you", but let's face it: that's part of the parenting deal.

    Slow parenting part three: let babies learn to think for themselves - Telegraph

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Forestville NSW


    So far I've only read part 1, but I really like what I've read. I guess I'm wanting the happy middle ground myself. I want my kids out in the yard with the dogs and chickens and playing with natural things, but I also want them to be able to use the computer without fear.... know that there is a world out there which thrives on technology.

    We do half and half I suppose. We do 1 extra activity a season, be it dancing, or swimming or gym. We have chickens and dogs and play daily in the yard cleaning the chicken coops, feeding them & doing dog training. We also get paints out & get dirty, we bake together. Then every once in a while for Matilda now I'll get out letter books and start to identify the alphabet... .but only when she asks for letter time. I'm happy to do that with her because she wants to learn it & she's almost 4 and its almost time to start learning these things.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Sydney NSW


    I would like to hand this out to parents at school! Thankfully were I teach now isnt too bad but I have been in places where 5 year olds are going to pre-uni and tutoring 5 days a week.

  6. #6


    What a wonderful article! Every child is different and should be parented differently! I couldn't agree more!

    I am worried that I am a pushy parent now - teaching DS English and German, his letters and numbers (just in a pointing-them-out way, not in a strict way I hasten to add!), piano "lessons" (or how to hit the piano keys less hammer-like), table manners (or "forks can be used for food transportation") then DH teaching DS how to draw, kick balls, walk alone... are we just responding to a bright toddler or are we pushy?

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Dandenong Ranges, Melbourne.


    love it! thank you chloe

  8. #8

    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Off with the fairies


    Some very valid points being made, thanks for the info. Chloe.

  9. #9

    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    In The Land Of Wonderful...


    Thanks Chloe

    Both DH & I found this article really great - we both feel like we're 'bad' parents sometimes because we're not constantly 'keeping up with the Jones' ' enrolling Luke into everything possible.... Its nice to know that other people think about parenting like we do...

    Unfortunatley I see a lot of 'pushy' parents being a piano teacher - the ratio of kids learning because they love it and kids learning because their parents want them to is alarming
    And although they're learning, parents are constantly pushing for more - is she ready to do exams, etc etc... when the kids just want to learn how to play....

    I have people asking me constantly if Luke plays the piano - my answer is "he would if he were interested, but he's not so he doesn't...' VERY hard to explain to people that playing the piano is MY passion, and not his.....

    I popped into Dymocks today to see if this book was available - it gets released in Australia May 5th, so I ordered a copy for when it comes in - I'd really like to read more!!!

    Thanks again!

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Sydney NSW


    Quote Originally Posted by Rosehip_Fairy View Post
    What a wonderful article! Every child is different and should be parented differently! I couldn't agree more!

    I am worried that I am a pushy parent now - teaching DS English and German, his letters and numbers (just in a pointing-them-out way, not in a strict way I hasten to add!), piano "lessons" (or how to hit the piano keys less hammer-like), table manners (or "forks can be used for food transportation") then DH teaching DS how to draw, kick balls, walk alone... are we just responding to a bright toddler or are we pushy?
    I hate to say it but I think you may be heading that way Ryn! Its very easy to do with your 1st, I think many of us would be guilty of it.

  11. #11


    But how to stop? I feel I'm moving with DS's interests: he LIKES me counting how many times I throw him in the air, he grabs a book and "reads" to himself, he runs to the piano to have a play... I've said that as he attends Nursery then I'm not enrolling him in any classes, bad enough that he has to be in a National Curriculum already without adding to it! He loves drawing and playing ball with Daddy. And without pointing out letters, colours, animals, cars etc on our walks I don't know what to chat about any more. When he was little I could just chat and it was all language, now I have to take it to his level because he understands some things (such as "Oooh look, a doggie. Doggie is white.") and not others (such as "There is a dog. A dog is a quadruped, meaning four legs. That comes from the Latin: quad for four and ped for foot. The dog has a coat of fur. That coat is white, but beneath the coat the skin is a different colour.").

    The German is because I am learning (very slowly!) and his Godmother is Austrian so it is most likely we'll spend holidays in Austria in the future, so he'll need to know some of the language. Oh yes, we'll be teaching him skiing at some point in the future too, but only if he enjoys it. If not, we can still build snowmen and go for sleigh rides.

  12. #12


    Ryn, I don't think you need to panic. I think that one of the points that Honore is making is that we need to respond to our children no force our intrests on them. So if he enjoys banging on the piano go for it but let him set the pace. As for the German, children thrive on loving attention no matter what language it's delivered in.

    I read a related article a while ago (but I can't track it down) about the way that a lot of modern parenting is focussed on raising adults rather than providing a safe space in which to be a child. That we have become so focussed on the end product (adults) that we have devalued childhood and children. The author suggested that we shouldn't worry so much about what sort of adult our children will become and refocus on what sort of children they are and what sort of childhhod they are experiencing - that if we aim for healthy happy children then healthy happy adults are a natural result.

  13. #13

    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Recently treechanged to Woodend, VIC


    Yes, like with everything in life there will always be a balance. No harm in exposing your child to lots of different experiences but no point forcing your interests, or what you think they SHOULD be interested in, upon them.

    Kids often inexplicably have entirely different interests to their own parents. My sister was quite good at art - my parents couldn't hold a pencil! I was always interested in history and politics right from the time when I was given a transfer set of medieval battlefields when I was about five (not sure who gave me that as a present - but THANK YOU!). My parents neither dismissed nor encouraged those interests. A bit of encouragement would have been good but if they'd started taking me down to the library to get out Jean Plaidy books it would have seemed like their interest, not mine. As it was, I did it on my own and then did history at uni. It was MY thing, not theirs.

    My DP was always interested in trains. He had that passion from six years of age. He's now a train driver and has his own website about trains. He's a NUT. Again, his parents encouraged him a bit but didn't push it.

    Based on that, I could start showing my DD my fascinating collection of BBC documentaries about British history from a very early age. But you know what, I think I would initially be quite chuffed if she had the same passion as me but ultimately disappointed because I would rather she chose something for herself and started teaching me stuff about something I know nothing about. Who knows what that might be? I'll let her find out for herself.

    And by the way, my friends and I joke about the "gifted" thing. I throw that word into conversation, tongue in cheek all the time. DD being able to put her thumb in her mouth and simultaneously put her finger up her nose - GIFTED!!!

  14. #14


    Fiona, I think Yasin must be uber-gifted - he can pick 2 nostrils simultaneously!!!

  15. #15

    Join Date
    Jan 2006


    I have a great book alled "Einstein didn't use flash cards" - its all about helping your kid learn things without pushing. Sounds like a "slow" approach

  16. #16

    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Ontario, Canada


    Well, it's about time someone noticed this trend! Great article! I especially appreciated the part at the end about discipline. We are so concerned with telling our children how wonderful they are all the time, and never correcting/dealing with their less-than-wonderful behaviour.
    I can think of a few parents (besides myself ) I should show this to.

  17. #17

    Join Date
    May 2005
    in the national capital


    What a great article - I will have to get the book once it is available

  18. #18

    Join Date
    Apr 2008


    I hadn't heard of the concept before but I will definitely be showing this to DP as we both agree that DD needs to have "bored" time. Remember when you were a kid and you would walk around saying "I'm booooored - there's nothing to do" so you would have to find something to do? I think many kids never have bored time these days so they don't know how to deal with it.

    Having said that we do take DD to swimming lessons - more for the safety aspect as we spend a lot of time in the water as a family and we think DD should be water aware and understand how to stay safe.

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