Parenting UK offers wisdom you can trust

PUBLISHED: 13:11 21 December 2006 | UPDATED: 10:28 07 September 2010

Bridget Galton finds the centre’s chief to be full of sound advice WHEN TV producers feed our gleeful fascination with watching other people s badly behaved kids, they can give parenting advice a bad name. Programmes like Brat Camp, Supernanny and Driving Mum And Dad Mad may offer expert tips on tackling parenting prob

WHEN TV producers feed our gleeful fascination with watching other people's badly behaved kids, they can give parenting advice a bad name.

Programmes like Brat Camp, Supernanny and Driving Mum And Dad Mad may offer "expert" tips on tackling parenting problems - but do they help children by broadcasting their challenging behaviour on TV?

Parenting UK is the umbrella organisation responsible for the sector: informing, supporting and regulating professionals who offer parenting advice.

Based in Highgate Road, Highgate, they promote good practice by:

o Developing training materials for the likes of schools, nurseries, voluntary groups or Primary Care Trusts to run parent sessions.

o Setting up networking meetings and websites for professionals to share ideas and access information about provision in their region.

o Sending its 1,500 members regular news bulletins on national developments, latest research and new resources.

o Developing national standards for the sector and a curriculum for training parent support workers.

Chief executive Mary Crowley says: "We were set up in 1995 because work with parents was growing and there was no regulatory body. Anyone could put up a plaque saying they offered help - but there was no quality assurance. Parents wanted to know how to tell if the advice they were getting was any good."

The mum-of-five says parenting provision has mushroomed since Labour's Supporting Families policy paper in 1998 pledged access to parental help.

At the time, many were furious at Parenting Orders sentencing parents to receive help as punishment.

But Crowley says: "There's a lot of talk about stigmatising and the nanny state but people don't feel punished by an offer of help.

"A few parents feel resentment but 90 per cent say they would recommend it to other people. They come along expecting to be told they are bad parents and instead they are asked what would help? How does it feel? What are the problems?"

Crowley feels the explosion of TV programmes is problematic - not least because of the incompatible demands of coaching and counselling versus making "good TV".

She says many are "behaviourist" focusing on problems, such as controlling the child and setting boundaries, rather than on skills. "There is more to being a good parent than making your child jump through a series of hoops. And there are issues of children's privacy and respect for the child who is shown behaving appallingly.

"We always warn parents it will be cut to make it entertaining. It won't come out as they expect."

But such programmes have at least removed the stigma from parents seeking help, says Crowley. She believes parenting should be taught in schools and says the state should interfere in families because: "The world has changed dramatically. People have moved away from their normal source of support and, for most people, the first baby they hold is their own.

"We also have to improve the life chances of a child being badly brought up and have a duty to protect society from a toxic child who becomes anti-social."

Her first parenting course, taken when she was pregnant with her fifth child, was "a road to Damascus" which she wished had happened years before.

"You think it's about fixing the child - but what you are fixing is the parent. When you learn about parenting you confront yourself, not your child. It's not what the child is doing, it's about how you feel about it.

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