A Prescription For Modern Parenting — Encourage More, Control Less!
The other day my eye was caught by the following headline in the UK Press, ‘Nurseries Expel Toddlers To Sin Bin’.
Children as young as two were being caught up in a rising tide of school exclusions as figures from the Department for Education showed that 4 two year olds had been sent to a Pupil Referal Unit (PRU).
Perhaps in the grand scheme of things that’s not a big enough number to worry about — but I’m worried because I think it’s 4 too many!
A PRU is the end of the line when it comes to exclusions, so what does that say about how we’re being as parents and the sort of society we want to live in?
According to Des Reynolds, Chief Executive of the Engage Trust, once a child is permanently excluded from school there is, “Nowhere else to go but a Pupil Referal Unit”.
Which means that children as young as two are not only at risk of being separated from mainstream education for good, but we could be handing them a ‘Life Sentence’, because the majority of children sent to these units end up in prison with no qualifications and precious few life skills.
I’ve recently written for Thrive Global on the challenges that both parents and their children face trying to safely navigate the modern pressures of the digital world, and whether as parents we want our children to be mindful so that they are best prepared to develop and thrive in today’s world.
With 5 children, currently six grandchildren, and nearly 40 years of being a parent under my belt, you might say I’m invested!
So, what can be done?
Maybe we can take a lesson from Germany
Well two lessons in fact.
Did you know that according to a 2016 survey by Persil, 74% of children in the UK spend less time outdoors than prison inmates.
Say Hello to Waldkindergarten!
This is a nationwide programme for young children based around outdoor activities in forests and woodlands. It was also originally a Scandinavian idea.
We already know what positive and restorative effects Forest Bathing, or what the Japanese call Shinrin-Yoku can have on the adult mind and wellbeing.
Inreasingly the cognitive and behavioural advantages of putting pre-school children into outdoor surroundings are being recognised too.
These underpin the Waldkindergarten philosophy which is to cure what has been labelled, “Nature deficit disorder”, and the scheme is being credited with helping to tackle childhood obestiy, as well as breaking down barriers to bad behaviour through encouraging team skills and building the confidence and self-reliance of the young participants.
But then maybe there’s something to be said for the whole German approach to parenting?
As recently described in the book ‘Achtung Baby: The German Art of Raising Self-Reliant Children’, key to their approach is to treat children as capable beings worthy of trust, and huge cultural value is placed on the quality of Selbstandigkeit, or self-reliance.
The German parent believes this will produce a more confident, balanced and successful child and future adult, because they understand that self-confidence is engendered not only from providing security, but also by encouraging independence.
And self-reliance and resilience are, of course, also regarded as the beating heart of good adult mental health and wellbeing in Finland, where SISU is very much the order of the day.
This is the embodiment of resilience, as well as bravery, hardiness, determination and perseverance, &, is regarded as a key psychological competence that enables extraordinary action to overcome a physically or mentally challenging situation.
SISU is also seen as representing the very essence of one’s character.
Right from the earliest age the German trend in parenting is for preparation — towards independence, self-reliance and resilience.
It’s not just about providing security and thinking job done!
So, perhaps in the UK, the US and in other places too, we should be getting our children outside more and be supervising and controlling less.
It could just be what the Doctor ordered!
Paul Mudd is the author of ‘Uncovering Mindfulness: In Search Of A Life More Meaningful’ available on Amazon and www.bookboon.com; the ‘Coffee & A Cup of Mindfulness’ and the ‘Mindful Hacks For Mindful Living & Mindful Working’ series. He is also a Contributing Author to The Huffington Post and a Contributing Writer to Thrive Global. Through The Mudd Partnership he works with business leaders, organisations and individuals in support of change, leadership excellence, business growth, organistional and individual wellbeing and well doing, and introducing Mindfulness. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can follow the continuing journey Uncovering Mindfulness on Twitter @TheMindfulBook and at @Paul_Mudd