And so for our leaders……

With the series ‘My Violent Child’ on Channel 5 ending last night, my mind turns to this question: ‘Have any of our leaders been watching and if so what do they make of it?’

It has been so distressing to watch the anger unfold and hear the heartache of the parent’s inability to deal with it. These scenes are echoed in homes across the country and people are left asking, ‘what causes it and what is the best way to deal with it’? And that is where the problem lies. In the same way that parents are struggling to make sense of what is going on, those who hold political power haven’t a clue how to manage the issue of child-to-parent violence. This leaves everyone floundering with no clear direction.

Recently Boris Johnson, the Conservative Mayor of London, was interviewed on the radio. He was asked about child-to-parent violence and what he thought were the causes. It was pathetic to hear him speak. He mumbled (nothing new there) and talked about the riots a couple of years ago in London. Typically, in the style of a true politician he didn’t answer the question. However, when pushed about discipline within his own home he admitted that he ‘leaves all that sort of thing to his wife’.

What an appalling admission and role model for dads. When working for the Youth Offending Team part of my job was to work with parents who had been given parenting orders. When a young person is involved in the criminal justice system the magistrates can order parents to attend parenting groups. It was very common for the magistrate to only issue the parenting orders to mums even if the dads were present.

We need to stop this and help dads everywhere to recognise just how crucial they are to their children’s well being. Parenting is a difficult job. When Tony Blair’s son Ewan was arrested in Leicester Square for being drunk and disorderly he stated, ‘being prime minister is hard but being a parent is harder’.

So, it is simply unacceptable that parenting should be left to the mums. Yes – there are some circumstances when it isn’t possible for dads to be involved, but these are in the minority. Sadly too often dads use work as the reason for not spending time with their children, or they take themselves off to the pub. This is a common problem.

Now, back to our leaders, those who make the decisions on what is going to happen, on what works and what doesn’t work. Most of them are men. Recently we have seen some of them showing how they balance family life with work, something mums take for granted that they will have to do and don’t make a song and a dance about it. It seems that if there is a dad who is having a positive interaction with his children or is helping with the chores then its big news. It should be a given. If you have children, you must be involved in their lives, whether you are dad or mum. It needs to become the norm for dads to play and do positive activities with their children and to do the mundane routine things as well: bath time, reading a story, taking them shopping and so on. They need to step up and be balanced, with love and limits for their children. Both parents need to teach their children respect for others. Whether together or separate it starts by being respectful with each other.

Boris and other leaders out there please learn about what works in family life. Don’t separate a family into different problems, where one child is identified as having the problem, or parents are the problem. They are a family unit and the successes and problems are intrinsic to that family.

Parenting a Violent Child tackles all the difficulties within family life. It doesn’t just focus on the ‘violent child’. It looks at all the issues and who in the family may unwittingly be contributing to the status quo. Parenting is exhausting. There’s no two ways about it. You need considerable energy to keep on top of everything. Couples need to work together and single parents need support from extended family members or friends as well as the absent parent.

I would strongly recommend that Boris takes the time to read Parenting a Violent Child. It will enable him to have a better understanding of what is going on for some families. Hopefully, the next time he is asked a question on the radio he might at least have a more sensible answer. And who knows it might stop his mumbling!

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