Isn’t care is better than control?

There have been several announcements this week about parenting. One suggestion is that parents attend parenting classes to help them control their children by learning how to apply discipline. I must admit I find this approach a little outdated, misguided and unhelpful.

It is outdated in the sense that, using behaviour management to control children is now seen by many as the technique of last resort. A more proactive, positive, child friendly approach is now adopted, especially by the middle class parents that this initiative wishes to include in the offer of parenting classes.

It is misguided because the emphasis nowadays rather than on control of children is on the relationship between a child and their parent. A relationship in which a parent provides a consistent, sensitive and responsive interaction with a child that usually then leads to the development of co-operative loving and trusting child. A little discipline might be needed but too much emphasis on it often results in tears and tantrums.

The suggestion is also unhelpful because it insinuates that children have a problem that requires discipline and control. The approach is now much more focussed on prevention of problems rather than on solving them once created.

Prevention means starting early, in pregnancy if possible, beginning to think about how the baby is experiencing their first environment, the tastes, sounds and importantly the cortisol. Cortisol, the stress hormone is toxic to babies in excess so pregnant women and their partners need to keep calm and relaxed from the start. Normal mild and intermittent stress is ok, severe and long lasting stress is not.

Parents then continue to build a positive relationship when the baby is born by providing a sensitive- responsive relationship with gentle but consistent boundaries. This will usually result in a happier experience of childhood for both the young one and their parent. After all don’t the parent and the child both want the same thing, a happy, secure and loving childhood? Set it up positively from the start and control and discipline can be reserved for rare occasions.