Should all parents be required to attend a parenting course before they can claim child benefit?
We've all heard the expression, "You need a licence to have a dog but any fool can have a baby."
Now, admittedly I am one of those fools and I have had 4 babies so I'm glad they haven't brought in that law because if they did my kids would be off to the pound probably with half the kids in the country.
The funny thing is, no one really knows how good or bad a parent is going to be until they experience the unconditional love and sense of duty to nurture, protect and provide for their helpless innocent miracle. With one fleeting glance, of bewilderment, confusion and fear, which accompanies their first breath as they arrive in this crazy world, our babies place all their trust in Mum and Dad. If they could speak they would probably say I'm scared, I chose you to me my mum and Dad so will you mind me? So deciding who should be awarded a licence to raise a child is of course a ridiculous notion and I have seen some of the most unlikely people become some of the most amazing parents in every way.
But the problem is that when an infant looks at you for the first time with those trusting eyes, the fear hits you like a bad dose of the flu. You feel sick, nauseous and scared as you realise you now have a huge responsibility towards this new precious gift and it occurs to you that you know absolutely nothing about being a parent. Many of us spend our lives doing training courses or go to college so we can become better equipped to get a job and make our mark on the world but as I reflect on my preparations and training to make it in the big bad world it strikes me that I never once attend a single training course to prepare me for the most important job I would ever have, the job of being a good parent.
Is this not totally irresponsible on my part to not get some professional advice from an experienced parent to remind me and advice me on my duties towards my children. How am I supposed to know what to do in the infinite number of instances where I have to act in a logical, calm and considered manor to ensure not only the safety but also the emotional development, confidence and happiness of my child.How do I influence them to have good character a strong moral compass and develop and build on their natural talents and not push them down a life path they are not genetically, physically and mentally wired to cope with. On my part I am lucky that my kids have an extraordinary mum who happens to be very in tune with their development needs and has an extraordinary intuition in understanding what the need and how to communicate with them. Luckily for me this leaves me in a position to be a fun dad while she keeps me and the kids in check. But of course no one is perfect and still, as parents doing our best, get it wrong lots of the time.
But what about the mums and dads who have the ability and desire to be the best parents in the world but simply have not acquired the skills or training to be a confident parent? What about the Mum's and Dad's who establish their parenting approach based on their own experience as a kid when it was common for kids to be seen and not heard, given a good hiding for being bold, never listened to and to be put in a corner for being lazy and stupid when in fact they had a learning difficulty.
So why am I writing about all this? Well as you know I want the world to be a better place and want every child to have a wonderful loving childhood that nurtures confidence and filled with adventure and happiness and laughter. With this in mind I am going to suggest something and would like your opinion on it. In Ireland we have a government payment to parents called children's allowance. It is available to every child under the age of 18 and works out at about €120 per month. My idea is that before you can avail of this payment every parent must attend a mandatory recognised parenting course when their child is born again at age 5, 8 and 13 years of age. The cost of funding such a course would come out of the first month's children's allowance payment so parents will never notice it gone as the payment starts one month later. The benefits are of course huge and God knows I could do with a few parenting courses myself. Jobs would be created as the courses would have to be delivered. All very simple and everyone is a winner especially the kids. So before I go off writing to the minister for children hopefully you can leave some comments on Facebook and this blog that will give me a bit of confidence and encouragement to try and make it happen.
I'll keep you posted of any developments.
Hugs to everyone!