The things we teach our children

30 August 2016

IT IS nearly back to school time so in anticipation This Week in Fostering is looking at what we teach our children through the messages that we give them – and how sometimes those messages can be unhelpful, or just plain wrong…

First up this week is the BBC’s news item on magic dolls, those robotic infants which mimic the needs of actual babies and are intended to show their young owners the challenges of parenting and put them off early motherhood. Some rather shocking findings revealed that teens given a Magic Doll as part of a programme to reduce teenage pregnancy in Australia were actually more likely to get pregnant or have an abortion before the age of 20 than those that did not, according to a study in the Lancet.  The results are from a randomised trial – the kind of study that we like at TWiF and which scientist Ben Goldacre will tell you gives the most reliable results so definitely a study worth taking notice of.

As Matthew Syed, author of the book Black Box Thinking will tell you there are a couple of clear lessons here for us as carers of vulnerable children – firstly that the interventions that appear obviously likely to succeed could well end up doing the opposite. The second is that anything that could identify a vulnerable person as needing extra help because of a perceived need or weakness –  could simply reinforce that person’s image of themselves as likely to become that person anyway.

THE HUFFINGTON Post takes this a step further by highlighting this video from the Atlanta Speech School which shows how every negative interaction with adults can hinder a child’s capacity to learn – which really matters if you are a child already struggling at school. Lisa Cherry looks into these messages that have remained into adulthood in her blog published earlier this year How do we begin to change the story given to us in childhood and suggests how to reframe some of the negative messages that might have been flung out in the past.

WITH RESULTS month just about out of the way it is Deborah Orr in The Guardian who reminds us that mainstream school and its fixation on good exam results are just not right for everyone. Orr laments the “insidious propaganda” of well-groomed, smiling children pictured in the national media, celebrating their collection of A* results. As the Government’s own statistics remind us just 14% of looked after children achieved 5 or more A*- C GCSEs or equivalent, including English and mathematics last year.

AND FINALLY Marilyn Stowe picks up on a poll that reveals that many parents don’t like to read their children stories that feature scary characters such as the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Cruella de Vil in 101 Dalmations. Speaking to The Guardian, psychologist Emmy Kenny takes a different view: “Children are often being wrapped up in cotton wool. Risk and fear are something we need in childhood,” she says concluding that, “We know that people who take risks, in the long term, do better than those who don’t.”




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