Parenting: 5 a day – Total Nonsense!

So this morning we all woke up to find out that a so-called think tank has concluded that playing, reading, and feeding our children healthy food represents good parenting. Ministers are already concluding that this research points the way forward to healthier children. There is even talk of having a 5-a-day good parenting logo being deployed in nursery schools and elsewhere.

Can’t you just hear the collective sigh of  #DUR resonating from parents up and down the UK?!

I listened to the Radio 4 debate this morning and thought for a minute we were back in the days of New Labour. I stopped what I was doing to listen to what I guessed would be the inevitable appointment of a Parenting Tsar supported by a new, all-encompassing Quango with the task of delivering measurable and attainable targets…! The heart sinks at what will come next…

So, before we go down this route I wanted to offer the Government an alternative five-point plan. As a single parent of two girls this stuff matters to me personally. OnlyDads is not a think-tank – so what follows comes from the heart. It is about asking our Government to deliver on things that they should be doing, and not patronising parents:

This is my DRAFT letter to David Camerron.

Dear Prime Minister,

I want to share with you some thoughts on how the Government can provide the best possible platform for us parents to raise healthy children.  

  1. The Olympics will be over and done with in one year’s time. We will have spent 9 Billion pounds (that’s billion, not million) on stadia for elite athletes. There will then follow endless talk of delivering the “legacy”.  My advice is keep Lord Coe in his job to ensure that over the next ten years every school in the UK has sporting facilities that are the envy of the world. That may mean buying (back) playing fields, hiring extra staff, and ensuring equipment is all top-notch. I am sure the existing Olympic Committee are adept by now at securing commercial sponsorship…keep them in their job too.  It is not too much to expect every school to have state of the art gyms and sports halls. And when they have, keep them all open at all times for community use.
  2. There is much talk about public libraries at the moment. I’m the first to say that there is something all a little bit sad about some libraries I visit. Shelf after shelf of big-print Agatha Christie’s, a couple of aged PCs and a photocopiers that you need tokens for, and a church-warden for a librarian. That said, every community NEEDS a library – but they need to be interactive and fun. Every Librarian should be buzzing – more Benjamin Zephaniah than Trollope. I would encourage you to think about enhancing school libraries – places staffed by media graduates, open every evening, places where mums and dads can engage in reading and IT projects with their children;  where tuition and help and support is readily available. And where talking is encouraged!
  3. As a Father of mixed-raced daughters, I want them to grow up in a country that shouts its liberal approach to multiculturalism from the roof tops. We have in the UK benefitted both from the Enlightenment and a hundred plus years of feminist thinking. I bring my daughters up to believe that they can do anything they want to. But still, when I view the Government I see way too many privileged white men. We had all of this debate during the expenses row. When are we going to get a House of Commons (and more especially a Government) that truly represents the British People? The benefits such a move would bring to our children will be enormous. It will display once and for all that “normal” people really can succeed. It will breed optimism and a real sense of ongoing fairness in our society.
  4. (and this may come as a shock) but EVERY parent in the land knows that a rocket, fennel, watercress and pear starter, before moving onto line-caught red mullet with fresh cabbage, all washed down with a glass of chilled Cranberry juice is good for us and our children. So the question is, why do vast numbers of us, decide instead, to eat stodge and get wankered on Jacob’s Creek every night?! The answers will be complex, but will definitely NOT include Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall coming on to our television extolling the qualities of buying organic. If it would help I’m sure OnlyDads and OnlyMums could pull together a small delegation of single parents and others on a tight budget to help the Government begin to answer these difficult issues.
  5. Apart from the physical and educational health of our children, I believe the Government can also play its part in delivering a country with good moral leadership. Let’s be straight. A country that deals in truth not lies or half-truths. I was watching some television coverage with Priya (14) just before the parliamentary recess. The questions being put to you were “did you, at any of the (26) meetings you had with News International staff, ever discuss the BSkyB bid” Your reply of “I did not have any inappropriate conversations” confused Priya! Let’s just say it really saddened me to have to explain to Priya, in these her formative years, the concept of our Prime Minister being “economical with the truth”. After being promised “a new politics” this spectacle really didn’t feel good enough! A straight “yes or no” would have so much better!

I suppose what I am trying to say is that rather than try to get into our living rooms and micro-manage us, the Government would be best employed ensuring that the true values of the British People are given proper representation in Parliament and that moving forward, they concentrate of giving us an up-beat vision for our wonderful country and the basic infrastructure to make it a reality.

As I say – it’s a draft letter, and would appreciate hearing your views as to whether it should be sent!


About onlydads

Single Dad living near Totnes in Devon. I founded in 2007 and live with my daughters Priya, 14 and Anya 11. I write about single parenting, work, overcoming trials and tribulations and sometimes not overcoming trials and tribulations.
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10 Responses to Parenting: 5 a day – Total Nonsense!

  1. Bob, great post mate. Send it, but attach this, too….these are the only parenting tips you will ever need. Trust me on this. They work.

  2. My first reaction is that the campaign is not aimed at you, it is not aimed at people who list of the foods you did in the letter. It is aimed at people who do not know the basics, tenet have never been taught or shown them. Tey have-not had any role models or peers to learn these basic parenting lessons from.

    It is for the families where the children start school not knowing their names, who only have the free books from book start at home, who survive week to week financially and choices between who gets new shoes this month.

    At times like this I feel grateful and blessed that I do know these basics, but there are many other parenting things I do not know or struggle with. I have wobbles weekly on how I deal with behavioural issues with my 3 yo.

    And the way in which these 5 a day are going to be used, I think it is a great idea, not everyone reads a paper or watches the news, or used the media to learn.

    People needs to have basic information in a non judgmental way or they will resist it. Not knowing things is a scary place to be, if you learn things from picking up a flyer in mother care (or where ever) then great.

    These 5 a day things need to be part of parenting for all, and for many it is not obvious.

    • onlydads says:

      I always admire your input into this blog – and thank you again.This is no exception!

      You make a valid point – and the way I see it, the education system in the UK does let way too many people “slip through the net”.

      Over the years I have spent bags of time volunteering support to adults who need help with “basic skills” but have never met anyone mum or dad who doesn’t know they should play with their children or that they need to feed them healthy food. Many don’t of course (I have been there myself during times of acute panic and anxiety) and the point I am trying to make is that the reasons for not doing so will be complex. Not knowing what to do is not the issue – not doing it is.

      I just found all whole thing way to simple – it’s what I describe as “lazy government”.

      I hope this doesn’t come over as being argumentative – it’s not meant to, and one day maybe we can share a beer and have a proper discussion. I’d like that 🙂


  3. Yes, completely agree with all five but especially point three (btw did you see the news story on BBC about new mixed-race Spidey? About time!).

  4. Will says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with everything you said. Good Parenting can only driven by making it possible, with funding and resources, rather than by producing a sound bite that suits a particular kind of voter. Also an initiative like this should be focussed rather than beating every parent with the same stick.

    We have to accept that there are a group of ‘comfortably poor’ people for whom no initiative would have a real impact. Here we have to utilise schools, social workers, churches and other community groups to show the children of this group that there is a better way.

    I find it frustrating, particularly now, that governments are high on rhetoric but low on delivery. I understand the need to be strident in the current economic climate but an initiative without resources is just an idea.

    You could also add a request to stop beating up the education community for achieving every target set by the incumbent government even if the target was unrealistic, un-educational and unnecessary. If the targets are met or exceeded then the tests are too easy or the system is being manipulated, if the targets are not being met then the teachers are rubbish or the parents are unsupportive.

    Go on, send it.


    • onlydads says:

      Thanks Will – Everyone I talk to is frustrated with Governments who are “high on rhetoric but low on delivery” we seem to have had years of it in the UK.

      Educational Targets!

      If you don’t mind, I think that deserves a whole new blog post!!

      Bob 🙂

  5. Claire H says:

    No, don’t send it. Run for parliament instead. Great post.

  6. If it it’s important to you Bob, then send it. Nothing ventured, nothing gained! I like your draft letter, a lot.

    Our children (and some of their friends at other schools) had some serious issues with how their education was delivered to them at school (and college). Often the complaints were these:
    Lessons = photocopied handouts, in the main, as did homework.
    Class sizes were too large for the children to get the help they needed. (The employment of TAs probably indicate this (no offense to TAs)).
    Schools amalgamating with other schools made it worse for the students.
    Teachers complained they had insufficient time for the children as they had too much paperwork and OFSTED to keep happy. (“don’t blame us, these requirements come from above”, type of remarks).
    College/school teachers gave extentions for work to be handed in, in order that they could preview the work and write in the bits that the students needed, to attain the correct level to merit a pass. (Is that learning, or having it done for you)?
    Both our son and daughter said it would be far better if exams became a thing of the past. They figured continuous assessment was a better way to go. Who knows the students ‘normal’ standard of work better, than the person teaching them? BUT and it’s a big but, the system needs to improve, before that could be put into practice.
    It’s common knowledge that some young adults really suffer from pre-exam nerves and can fail in subjects that they usually excel in, simply because of nerves. The exam pressure for some children is far to heavy and stressful. No one should ever have to feel that bad that they consider taking their own lives over exam results and yet some have. That coupled with the pressure to do well at exam level or face the prospect of life on the dole, doing volunteer work, (which will only serve to save the employer money and keep them in business).
    What can the government do to address matters such as weapons in schools? That is bullying taken way too far.
    I’m sure the lists could go on and on. .

    I am inclined to agree with you, Bob. The government can also play its part in delivering a country with good moral leadership.

    Whatever a childs’ faith is, the basis for a responsible future society, stems from good standards set in the formative years. And so many of those years are spent in school.
    Yet the government is putting the onus back onto the parents? Please!!!!

    Where did the youth clubs disappear to?
    Are the alternative out of school activities, affordable to parents?
    The government wants to get everyone in to the work place and out of the benefit trap, who looks after the children, while the parents are at work? (I’ll answer that one. Schools).

    I’m not that brainy to remember if this is correct, but wasn’t it the religious leaders who first said that every child should have a right to an education? Maybe they need to have a chat with the PM?

    (Sorry for the lengthy comment, I hope it makes sense, as it is rather late at 2am).

  7. Pippy says:

    Once again I realise I have to step back into media and listen and read what our leaders are suggesting – but I need to go on my anger management workshop first (its in November).

    I wonder if I’ve been going wrong, seeing parenting as more difficult that just five points?

    It sadden’s me, a further devaluing of an already undervalued and difficult role. One which is often ignored until it goes wrong and then harshly judged by parenting peers as well as by society bigwigs and the media.

    Have you read Sue Palmer’s ‘Toxic Childhood’ – she seems to have done quite a lot of research into the subject AND it seems to make lots of sense.

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