The psychological pressures on children today are such that many are in serious trouble by the time they get into their teens. So says Professor John Ashton, the President of the UK Faculty of Public Health – the ‘authority’ for setting standards for doctors working with lifestyle health issues. Teenagers with obesity, mental health problems, and school underachievement end up not fit for work, he warns.
So far so right.
But here ends my agreement with him.
You might expect Professor Ashton to understand that diagnosis precedes cure, especially a blanket one.
But no. This is the same public health Prof who said society had to accept that since a third of all children were having sex at 14 or 15 we should think seriously about lowering the age of consent to make contraception more available to said legally unprotected children. He’s also, while I’m about it, in favour of assisted dying, he believes that capitalism is morally bankrupt and he once tweeted that an e-cigarette advocate was an onanist.
As I might have guessed, far from investigating why modern ‘parenting’ fails children so badly –- the good professor immediately assumes that ‘information overload’ and the internet are the villains of the piece.
Then it’s full steam ahead to helping parents cope with this modern malaise.
Three guesses as to what it is. Regular readers of this site only need one.
You’ve got it – parenting classes for all, no doubt to be provided by many of the very same parents whose children have, er, in the Prof’s own terms fallen ‘off the rails’.
But never fear. By some metaphysical trick, these ciphers of the State will be reborn as a trained army of parent advisers. The State will equip them to instruct the rest of us on how to become ‘fit’ parents.
What eludes Professor Ashton is that it is less what parents say and do to their children ( or are so instructed) than their level of commitment to one another. This is what makes or breaks a child’s identity: his sense belonging, his feeling of security and his ability to cope.
I am talking, of course, about that declining social good called marriage that the Professor never mentions. Nor for that matter does he see fatherless families as a public health problem – though if he looked at the associated health stats, he well might.
He, it seems, thinks that parenting lessons are sufficient unto the day. Starting from birth and continuing through every stage of a child’s life (no escaping for uncooperative parents, I fear) covers all bases.
For a flavour of what’s to come should Ashton have his way, I urge you to read his ten top parenting tips.
The first is to find a mentor to help you – someone you trust. A bit unrealistic after the birth of your child, I would have thought, if you didn’t succeed before. Talk about closing the societal stable door after the horse has bolted. But don’t worry, Ashton’s parenting army will let you settle for ‘someone who has been there before’ – a health visitor ideally (never minding their current work loads).
Two: get to know your child – as though parents set out not to. (No mention of course of breastfeeding – the best way to encourage early attachment – but that would be proper public health and, heresy of heresies, requires mum to be at home).
Three: listen to your child (another mind-numbing platitude to be paid for by the long suffering taxpayer).
Five: no sweets, no alcohol except as a household treat (Gosh, what enlightened and original advice, that it needs parent teachers to give it).
As for the rest of Ashton’s pearls of wisdom, number six is ” no stereotyping of your child or yourself with regard to gender, social role or inclination”. If this is not part of a new State GBLT agenda to disturb and confuse young minds with, I don’t know what is.
Number ten is of the same PC ilk. This one advises on ‘looking after yourself’. Yes, that’s what parents must do and I was under the impression that’s exactly what many neglectful parents are guilty of – going out clubbing, even on holiday abroad while abandoning the kids at home to fend for themselves. Clearly I got that wrong.
Parents you see need regular dates, if they have a partner that is. No, he seems not to be talking about married parents – I can only assume he doesn’t think they need dates to look after themselves. Yet marriage and how to resurrect it plays no part in the Ashton agenda.
In case of need, the children of the nation’s infantalised parents will be looked after too in Aston’s brave new world of nationalised parenting. They will receive daily and no doubt compulsory meditation classes at school grafted onto their dose of PSHE brainwashing, giving them time in which they can despair of their parents and their lot, plot revolution or plan suicide.