Rioting youths – Is it the parents fault?

Parenting is just one of the complex pieces in the puzzle of why the riots happened in the summer. This was apparent in the Westminster Debate last night. In the atmospheric House of Commons academics and parents discussed the importance of the role of a parent. The key role of parents in teaching children right from wrong, and passing on a moral code was highlighted.

The cost of some families to the taxpayers

The panel debated ‘Supporting families after the riots and the role of family law.’ Judge Nicholas Chrichton spoke about his sadness and frustration in removing the fourteenth child from the same mother due to her inability to parent. And the cost of up to a million pounds that some families cost the taxpayer. He spoke of the huge difficulties faced by children in the care system. And how they are so much more likely to turn to crime. Judge Nicholas works in the Family Drug and Alcohol Team (FDAT.) This is a hub of good practice in getting children out of the care system more quickly. However his weariness of the difficulties of breaking the cycle of poor parenting was apparent.

Negative views of parents and parenting courses

Elaine Halligan is a friend of mine and a parenting expert from the Parent Practice in London. She spoke of her sadness that parents were being blamed for the riots. She also talked about the importance of parents setting boundaries. And knowing where their children were.

Elaine was passionate about how parenting classes can help. But raised the difficulty that attending a parenting course can be viewed negatively. The courts often send the father on a parenting course. But she suggested that both men and women should be encouraged by the courts update their parenting skills. Plus, the importance of dispel the myth that parenting courses are for bad parents.

Society changes that damage children

David Allison, a partner at the Family Law in Partnership, made the point that although there was a range of reasons why children were involved in the riots, none excused their behaviour. He talked about the numerous non-confrontational ways of helping families meet the needs of their children when divorcing. and the benefit to every one of sorting out issues before they went to court. He talked about the social cost of withdrawing legal aid to the country. And about the dilemma of prioritising the finances for legal aid and preventative work for parents with our huge national deficit.

Children need quality time

Sue Atkins, a parenting expert from the BBC then talked about how many of the 4000 rioters arrested did not regret their actions. She said that parents have a key role in raising law-abiding children with strong values. Sue was infuriated by two UNICEF reports that suggested that children were un-cherished and un-nurtured. And implied we are a nation of bad parents. She also highlighted the difficulty that parenting help can be seen as taboo. And said that children need our presence, not our presents. Sue said that parents needed to teach children self-discipline and accept that they were more important role models than footballers or actors. She added that children spell love T.I.M.E.

Breaking the cycle of abuse

Questions from the floor raised the sheer difficulty of finding a simple answer to a complex question. I mentioned my two roles running parenting courses and working for the YMCA helping parents-to-be who have had abuse or neglect in the past break the cycle. When I asked the panel how they would break the cycle of abuse in raising children, they agreed that parenting courses were important. But it is hard to know how the most deprived parents could be encouraged to attend a course. It seems that the answer lies in educating our youngsters in school.

Other attendees asked about whether parents should not just innately know how to parent, and the difficulty of abuse in the care system.

Frustrations of divorced dads

However, the largest amount of time was devoted to the difficulties divorced fathers have in getting access to their children. Dads are angry and frustrated at the legal system. Which allows 24% of children in the UK to have no contact with their fathers. It was moving to witness the upset this was causing the fathers. A sad reflection that in the UK we still don’t recognise the vital role that fathers have in bringing up their children.

Difficulties parents face

For me, the debate highlighted the sheer difficulty parents are facing in bringing up their children. The care system and absent fathers deprive children of good parenting role models. Plus, the ability to witness effective relationship skills.

Parents may find it hard to pass on good moral values because they don’t know how to give their children boundaries and effective discipline. When parents realise that they do not have all the skills they need they risk the judgement of others if they seek help in improving their parenting skills.

The challenge of making parenting support ‘non-judgemental’

Teaching children life skills at home and at school will go some way towards helping them to be good parents in the future. But we need to find a way to help parents in the UK access non-judgemental effective parenting techniques based on instilling values. This is vital if we want to give the next generation the best chance of being effective parents themselves. And avoid the riots of the future waiting to happen.

The author:

Elizabeth O’Shea is a parenting specialist child behaviour expert and one of the leading parenting experts in the UK.

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