TV beneficial to children? Let’s stop kidding ourselves.

April 8, 2013

I sighed when I read another article in The Guardian this weekend that does nothing more than simply tell parents what they want to hear – this time that it’s OK to let your children watch hours of TV.

girl holding a remote controlThe article offers no new evidence, just the opinion of a parent seemingly trying to justify the amount of TV her kids watch. Another parent wanting to reassure herself that it’s OK for her children to spend hours in front of the TV because it’s somehow beneficial to them. Keep telling yourself that, but sorry, the evidence for it just isn’t there. In fact there’s plenty to refute it, most of which the writer has saved me the trouble of having to refer to since she does this herself, then proceeds to ignore it.

She waxes lyrical about all the wonderful things CBeebies has to offer to such a degree that one wonders if she was commissioned by the BBC to write such an article. I agree that the quality of children’s TV programmes varies, and that the BBC’s are of the highest. But it’s still just TV. It doesn’t replace interaction with the real world or with real people. It has zero value, other than to give parents a break. Let’s all stop kidding ourselves, cut the crap, and just admit it, please.

But what I really have a problem with is the last paragraph of the article;

“Good-quality children’s programmes are an asset to be treasured and the idea that there is always something better to do than watch TV or play computer games is, I think, rubbish – part guilt about not giving our kids enough time and attention, part snobbery about popular culture not being worthy of serious attention and part nostalgia for a more innocent past when playing in the street was thought to be safe.”

Firstly, if Susanna Rustin really can’t think of something better to do than watch TV or play computer games, if she really thinks her kids can’t, then she must be sadly lacking in imagination.

Secondly, I am very uncomfortable with the choice of words here; “..playing in the street was thought to be safe.” Excuse me? Playing in the street was safe. It wasn’t merely “thought to be”. In fact it still is, at least in many areas. It wasn’t just some misguided notion that we’ve now wised up to. And it’s not just for the sake of nostalgia that organisations like Playing OutOutdoor Nation, Save Childhood Movement and Play England, to name but a few, are working to get kids back outside.

And this is really why the article bothers me so much. I don’t wish to take a shot at every parent who ever allows their kids to watch TV. I’m guilty of it myself. I don’t throw my hands up in horror every time I see a child in front of a screen. But I take issue with articles like this because they undermine the very real need to raise awareness of the growing concern over the changing nature of childhood today and the long-term implications of this. They fail to take seriously what needs to be taken seriously, they promote myths, and burying of heads in sand (or in this case, screens).

So please, Susanna Rustin, keep reassuring yourself if you need to, but don’t try to reassure everyone else.


The puzzling contradictions in our attitudes to child welfare

November 27, 2012

With the media buzz about Jimmy Saville following close on the heels of the media buzz about the April Jones case, we’re all keeping our kids indoors and not letting them out of our sight, despite the many warnings of the disadvantages to our children of restricting their lives in this way. Only zero risk is acceptable when it comes to child welfare it seems. 

This week’s media buzz is around the case of the Eastern European children removed from their foster placement with a couple who turned out to be members of UKIP. Yet despite UKIP members and politicians making their views and attitudes known via blatantly homophobic and archaic comments about gay couple adoption, and policies that seek to “end the active promotion of the doctrine of multiculturalism by local and national government”, we’re all outraged at the idea that a couple who subscribe to these ideals are not considered suitable carers for these children. 

Explain this one to me. It’s OK to deprive children of the opportunity to play outdoors on the grounds of a minute risk that has actually been shown to have decreased since the 70s when kids were roaming all over the place, but it’s not OK to remove vulnerable children from the care of a couple whose political views are directly at odds with their background and cultural needs. 

Winston McKenzie – how is it OK for Eastern European children to be placed with members of your party, a party that does not welcome the presence of these children in this country, nor their ability to obtain benefits, (how much do you think it costs social services to keep these children in foster care, genius?), but not OK for children to be placed with a gay couple? 

I’m sensing a few contradictions amongst all this. 

But there’s one particular point I’d really like to make, because whenever the subject of fostering and adoption is in the media this seems to be missed by many, including UKIP leader, Nigel Farage, who is reported to have ‘demanded the children be returned’, and talks about the couple’s ‘right to foster’. 

There is no ‘right to foster’. This is not about foster carers rights; it’s about children’s rights and needs. Social services are serving the interests of the children. And this is the way it should be. No-one has an automatic right to foster or adopt. It might be tough, it might be unfair, but that’s the way it is. Get over it. 

In any case, no-one has said this particular couple can’t foster, just that this was not a suitable placement for them. Michael Gove might think “We should not allow considerations of ethnic or cultural background to prevent children being placed”, he might think these considerations are unimportant, irrelevant even, but I think he’s wrong. Meeting the long term needs of fostered and adopted children is complex, and their cultural and ethnic needs absolutely should be considered. It’s not as simple as he makes out. 

Perhaps, instead of asking, “Would you honestly want your child to be adopted by a gay couple?”, Winston McKenzie should encourage us to ask this; 

If you were from Eastern Europe, would you honestly want your children to be placed with a couple who are members of UKIP? Would you consider this to be a suitable match, a good placement for the potential long term? Or would you wonder if your children might be better off with another foster family?


Going with the flow of technology?

July 31, 2012

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends zero television for under twos, and no more than one to two hours a day for older children.

Rather shockingly, after a quick bit of research, there don’t seem to be any such guidelines from any equivalent UK body, although back in 2007 psychologist Dr Aric Sigman made recommendations to the government of zero television for under threes and just thirty minutes to one hour a day for children aged three to seven, increasing after this to up to two hours a day for sixteen year olds. He asked the government to produce guidelines to this effect.

Newspaper articles are always giving us various shocking figures regarding how much TV the average child views every day, every week, in a year or in a lifetime, but these statistics often don’t include time in front of screens other than TVs, something which would surely make for even more sobering reading.

Miranda Sawyer’s recent article in the Guardian struck me as incredibly complacent. That unquestioning, ‘go with the flow’ kind of attitude that I so detest. “He could play computer games before he could read. Now he reaches for his Nintendo DS like I reach for my mobile; he fills in idle moments on Fifa..” she says of her six-year-old. And she just accepts this?! A six-year-old? I must be leading some sort of sheltered existence because I admit this actually shocks me. Not just the idea of a child being so addicted to something at such an age, but that their parent could be so blasé about it.

The thing about these devices is that, unlike TVs, which are bad enough in the way they’re cropping up in more and more public places, kids can take them everywhere, so they can interfere not only with their play at home, but when they’re out and about, on camping trips, at parties, at a friend’s house, on a visit to relatives, picnics, everywhere. Not much good the National Trust and other organisations bleating about getting kids outdoors more and away from screens if they’re just going to take the darned things out with them.

When we went to a barbecue recently, my child, having been told we were going to a party, was a bit taken aback on arrival by the absence of a bouncy castle and face painting. But with plenty of other children there and a large garden to explore he soon became happily occupied with playing hide and seek, ball games, and just being kids.

But there was one child who had brought some hand-held device. He played with the other children for a short while, then sat, squatting on the grass, engrossed in his device for the remainder of the party. I can’t even begin to list all the things this child was missing out on. I kept looking over at him, then at the other children playing, with a mixture of horror and amazement that such a situation has seemingly become acceptable in our society.

There is plenty of evidence of the harm screen time can do to children’s development. After all, this is what the recommendations of psychologists and organisations like the AAP are based on. Short attention span, aggression, obesity, impaired language development, reduced academic performance, poor sleep are just a few of the potential problems, perhaps the ones easiest to dismiss. A more potent warning for me is that of children becoming dependent on screens for entertainment and losing their natural ability to create their own play. But it’s what children are missing out on that really kills me, what they could be doing if they weren’t glued to a screen of some sort.

Many seem to think technology is just something we must accept for our kids as part of our modern society. Things were different when we were kids, things change. Technology will be part of our children’s lives, there’s no escaping from it. We must embrace it.

But somehow I’m just not comfortable with this view. There’s an appropriate time for kids to start engaging with this sort of technology, and I don’t think as soon as they’re able to press buttons or control a mouse is necessarily that time. We all know how easy this stuff is to learn, so what’s the hurry? It’s another erosion of childhood, something else that keeps kids from being kids, and something else that we, as adults, need to protect them from.

TV and computer games are addictive, habit-forming, and kids can’t self-regulate in the way adults do (and we’re bad enough with the frequency we check in with our smartphones) so it’s up to adults to put limits on the amount of time they spend on these things. Every parent will have their own views as to what is and is not an appropriate amount of screen time for their children, and when they do or do not allow it, but if Miranda Sawyer’s article is anything to go by, those government guidelines that Dr Sigman called for five years ago are long overdue.

I know there’s going to be peer pressure and pester power as my child gets older, but if he ever has a DS or similar, and I intend that he will go as long as possible without one, then one of my limits will be that he doesn’t take it out with him to parties.

When I first became a parent someone once warned me never to say ‘My child won’t do that’. But after observing that child at the party, and the contrasting example of the other children’s capacity to make their own entertainment, I’m going to stick my neck out here;

My child won’t do that. I will personally see to it that he doesn’t.

Because I will not be blasé, I won’t go with the flow, and I won’t just accept it.


Free range kids

July 19, 2012

I’ve been noticing a fair bit of stuff in the press lately about how today’s children don’t get outdoors enough, and spend too much time in front of screens or in scheduled activities. There has even been a phrase coined for this phenomenon –  ‘Nature Deficit Disorder‘ –  for which the National Trust blame the increase in gadgets and traffic, and to which they attribute the rise in obesity and mental health problems amongst children.

All very depressing, but what really caught my attention was this article about the Playing Out Project in Bristol, where two mothers sought and gained permission from the local council to close their street to traffic at an agreed time to allow the children to play out on it. The project is now spreading across Bristol and elsewhere. The benefits of this type of play discussed in the article were to me both obvious and a revelation at the same time.

Sure, I remember some great days out, some great family holidays. But the bulk of what really defines my childhood memories are those of just playing out, with my friends, in my village. Favourite hiding places, favourite trees, favourite games. Roaming the village and surrounding woods and fields, unchaperoned by adults. I don’t make this latter point because we took the opportunity to get up to mischief (not that we were perfect either), but because the absence of adults gave us a certain autonomy. We were free to express ourselves, to play games without fear of disapproval or ridicule, to get lost in our own children’s world without the self-consciousness of knowing adults were watching and listening. We climbed trees, made dens, strayed in and out of each other’s houses and gardens, went in search of conkers or blackberries, but most of all played all sorts of make-believe games, sometimes just two of us, sometimes quite complex, organised games with larger groups of mixed ages.

Now, having a child of my own but living in a large city, I’m lucky again to live on a no-through road where the kids play out regularly. My child doesn’t have as much freedom as I did, but reading about the Playing Out Project made me appreciate that the little freedom he does have – being able to step outside his own front door unchaperoned, and play freely on his own street – is an unusually large amount, at least for kids who live in urban areas. And just as I have always taken my own childhood experience for granted, so I have been taking my child’s for granted now. Free range childhoods have become something in danger of extinction, something to be campaigned for and saved.

But what has really dawned on me is that it’s not just about loss of exercise, fresh air, or knowing that apples grow on trees. It’s about the loss of free play. Unsupervised, unorganised, unscheduled free play. It’s not just about getting outdoors, it’s about free range, unobserved, unstructured, spontaneous, creative, imaginative, cooperative play.

A constant source of admiration and wonder for me is just how long the kids can and will play out, with no adult supervision or organised activities, but with just their own initiative and imagination. They make use of whatever materials happen to be available. There have been Saturdays this summer when my child has played out on the street from 10am to 5.30pm, just coming in briefly for lunch. What does he do out there all this time? Sure, the adults facilitate the play to some extent, providing chalk, scooters, balls, and materials to create a messy play area, although even this was not originally intended for the kids, they just made it theirs. But often they’ll just create. Last weekend they spent a good deal of time playing with an empty wheelie bin, for example. Sometimes they come in requesting specific materials to further their ideas. My child came in the other day and asked for a rucksack and an umbrella because he was ‘going camping’. I provided the requested items then watched with interest through the window while he and his friends all trekked with their backpacks 25 metres down the road then stopped to ‘set up camp’ with old blankets, and sat there for some time pretending to read magazines and newspapers under their umbrellas.

This is real play. This is what those kids the National Trust talk about are really missing out on. In real play they learn teamwork, cooperation, negotiation, how to be inclusive, how to share, how to deal with disagreements and fall outs, how to put their ideas forward, how to handle rejection, how to interact with others, how to socialise. The list is endless. And kids need space to do all this. Not just physical space, but space of their own, that they can organise and control themselves, not be subject to the organisation and control of adults.

Kids don’t need to just get out to the park, out on a walk, or some other adult organised and chaperoned activity, but out, on their own, in their own neighbourhoods, on a regular basis. Let’s get behind the campaign for free range childhoods, for reclaiming the streets, for getting kids away from screens and back into the creative, imaginative play that kids do best. The nature of free range play is unique and worth fighting to preserve.

For more on the movement for free range kids, kids play and childhood generally see:

http://playingout.net/

http://rethinkingchildhood.com/

http://www.sustrans.org.uk/freerangekids/about-free-range-kids

http://www.playengland.org.uk/

http://outdoornation.org.uk/


Cherie Blair’s mythical yummy mummies

June 22, 2012

What to make of Cherie Blair’s recent remarks? Just another strike in the ‘mummy wars’ – stay at home mum versus working mum? Probably. But what stood out for me as being particularly idiotic was her reference to ‘yummy mummies’.

I’ve always been puzzled by that expression. What does it mean exactly? A recent thread in the Guardian asked this question and got varied answers ranging from women who manage to retain their sex appeal after having children (Gina Ford should approve), to women who look after their children full-time and don’t work  (in line with Cherie Blair’s definition it seems) to women who are out to make other women feel guilty (not that one again!). Other comments and newspaper articles imply a well-groomed set of women living a life of luxury and leisure because they don’t have jobs to go to. That’s the one that really puzzles me.

Perhaps precisely because Ms Blair never tried being a stay at home mum she is unaware that there’s really nothing very luxurious or yummy about it, at least not in the sense implied. Dropping your child off at school wearing designer clothes and with hair and make up in tact? I’m lucky to throw something on over my PJs to make the trip, let alone even look in a mirror. Sitting around outside cafes in the sunshine with cappuccinos? Squatting in a cold church hall covered in snot, letting your cup of tea go cold while you negotiate yet another toddlers-not-sharing clash more like, before returning home to trudge play dough through a house that smells of poo. Attending pilates classes and hairdresser appointments? When exactly? Difficult enough to just grab a shower without your baby concluding that you’ve abandoned him forever or your toddler emptying the contents of the baking cupboard on the bath mat. Even basic functions like going to the toilet or eating often don’t happen until you’re desperate.

And we’re not just talking about women from lower-income families who can’t afford childcare costs. Ms Blair is talking about women with rich husbands. But babies with rich daddies still spew their milk back up on your designer label jeans, fresh out of the laundry (don’t even get me started on the laundry). Middle class toddlers still throw their food around and blow raspberries at you whilst eating yogurt. Private school children still wipe their hands on your sofa, miss the toilet bowl every time, produce quantities of mud and dirt from nowhere, and ensure that you have zero leisure time of your own. Money just doesn’t come into it – the fact is, being a stay at home mum just ain’t glamorous.

Personally, I don’t think yummy mummies exist. I think it’s just a term used by;

a) stay at home mums who are paranoid about their appearance and the state of their house

b) working mums who wish they were stay at home mums

Yet stay at home mums are accused by Cherie Blair of trashing feminism and choosing an easy life. So selfish. So lazy.

Give me a break.

Cherie Blair has, like so many others, missed the point entirely – she simply can’t allow that mothers can be motivated by what they believe to be best for their children.

“How can they even imagine that is the way to fulfil yourself?” Ms Blair asks. There’s the funny thing. Despite the unglamorous picture I’ve painted, none of it matters when you’re doing it for love of your child, and yes, love of being a mother. Experiencing to the full that unique relationship, that special bond that exists between a mother and child. Being there when your child utters their first words, takes their first steps. Being there to share with them their journey through childhood.

There is surely nothing more fulfilling, otherwise why do we put ourselves through it all?

Women have fought long and hard for the choice to continue with their careers after having children. But I wasn’t aware this made it compulsory. A key word here is choice. A word that implies there’s more than one option. Whilst working women demand to have their choices respected and protected, could we not possibly extend the same respect and support to women making other choices please?


Attacking the minority

May 21, 2012

There have been a lot of annoying articles written about attachment parenting recently as part of the buzz created by TIME’s recent stunt.
But probably the most annoying article I’ve read is one published by the Guardian last Friday, written by Katha Pollitt. Her sub-heading claims that,

“The latest fashion in child-rearing is about regulating the behaviour of women, not benefiting children.”

That’s possibly the most twisted take on attachment parenting I’ve heard so far. Attachment parenting not about benefiting children? How did she arrive at that conclusion?

And clearly it is inconceivable that women could genuinely act out of love for their child, love of being a mother, and through natural instinct and informed choice. There must be some ulterior motive. Or they’re just fashion victims.

She accuses attachment parents of projecting their guilt ‘outward onto more relaxed mothers’. Strange. I’m not sure how I project something that I don’t feel, but if I make other mothers around me feel guilty then I’m very sorry, but I would gently suggest that the problem originates with their own perceptions and insecurities, none of which are within my control.

The article goes on to suggest that instead of practising attachment parenting our efforts would be better put into tackling child poverty, as this ‘affects children’s well-being more directly’ – a clear failure to grasp the whole concept of attachment parenting as a long term goal.

Sure, we need to tackle child poverty, but make no mistake, no matter how much we reduce poverty, social problems will not go away if we continue to fail to understand and take seriously the emotional needs of our children. And I’m not saying everyone must practise attachment parenting, but a little open-mindedness might help, a little more willingness to consider new ideas and information.

Ms Pollitt’s ignorant remarks are insulting, to say the least, and on more than one level. They are insulting to women who make this parenting choice, not just by dismissing the parenting style itself, but by suggesting that they are merely following a fad, are victims of some sort of social conspiracy to ‘regulate’ their behaviour, and furthermore, do not actually have the best interests of their children at heart.

As usual, the minority are an easy target for ridicule and attack. A typical social problem, and perhaps another example of our failure to raise human beings who are able to be respectful and empathetic towards each other.


Attachment parenting; not just for babies

May 18, 2012

Enough has been written about TIME magazine’s cover, and the service, or disservice it did to promoting attachment parenting. I feel anything I add would be mere minnows in an already raging sea of debate. 

But I will add this: What bugs me, aside from all the other issues with TIME magazine’s choice of cover, is that attachment parenting is, as seems all too common, made out to be all about breastfeeding. 

One thing I personally would like to shout out to parents who wish to know more about an attachment based parenting approach is that it is not just about breastfeeding, co-sleeping and baby wearing. 

OK, attachment theory informs us of how vitally important those first few years are.  How a child’s early life experiences can wire their brain, and form the basis of their social and emotional development, really cannot be over-estimated. So it’s essential that parents get this. But get this too; there’s still plenty of opportunity to screw things up after those first few years. 

It doesn’t matter how long we breastfeed or co-sleep for, or how secure our child’s attachment to us is, if we then go on to make poorly informed parenting choices as our children get older, this too has the capacity to do lasting harm. If a child is consistently subjected, day in, day out, for years, to parenting methods that harm self-esteem and parent/child relationships, and fail to meet their emotional needs, this too has far reaching effects. And even for the many children who emerge from it all OK, how much better could we have done? Better than just OK. 

Attachment parenting is for life, not just for babies. So let’s promote attachment parenting beyond infancy. I wonder what TIME magazine would come up with as a cover photo for this. Any ideas?


Ofsted chief’s answer to low literacy standards; same old tried and failed methods.

March 16, 2012

Sir Michael Wilshaw’s answer to the poor literacy standards in our country’s schools brings to my mind an image of a man repeatedly trying to force a door open without taking the trouble to find out what’s stopping it from opening in the first place. Not only that, but there are other people all around him who have managed to open similar doors, and people who have taken the time to look into why the door won’t open, and are offering advice. Yet, he just ignores them all and keeps on forcing. More force must be all that’s required.

Hundreds of primary schools are failing to reach the current target. Wilshaw’s answer? – Raise the target. I may be missing something, but I confess I am totally unable to see the logic in this.

A recent Ofsted report finds that since 2008, there has been no overall improvement in primary pupils’ English learning. You would think this would be a clear indication that what we’re doing really isn’t working. Wilshaw’s answer? – More of the same.

“..…if they can’t read securely at seven they struggle to catch up as they progress through their school careers.”, says Wilshaw.

This may be perfectly true of children in the UK state education system, but in other countries, that don’t even start formal literacy learning until age 6 – 7 (ie: the majority of other countries in the rest of Europe!), they seem to be doing just fine. Wait, they’re actually doing much better.  But the government continues to ignore this remarkable anomaly. Presumably because they just can’t understand it.

“Having a strong grasp of literacy needs to start with the youngest pupils”, Wilshaw goes on.

Really?

Not according to the Cambridge Primary Review, which says there is no evidence that an early introduction to formal learning has any benefit, but there are suggestions it can do some harm.  They suggest extending the foundation stage to age 6, and examining the “feasibility of raising the school starting age to six, in line with these changes and international research and practice.”

In a summary of the problems with current arrangements the report finds, “children’s statutory entitlement to a broad and balanced primary curriculum compromised by the national tests and strategies”, “excessive micro-management by government and the national agencies” and “the dislocation of mathematics and, especially, English by the national strategies for numeracy and literacy.”

The final report was published over two years ago. And this is just one report. There’s plenty of other evidence out there to support some major changes. When, oh when, will the government start taking this seriously, and give up trying to force that door open?

 

This post was featured on Mumsnet. 


Another gem from Gina

March 9, 2012

After reading this and other articles about Gina Ford’s latest book, I’ve thought hard about where Ms Ford might be coming from, and have to come to the conclusion that she simply wants parents to pretend they don’t have babies.  Just try to forget about them.

Clearly this must be the overall view of a woman who advises us to ignore our baby’s cries, have nights out away from them when they’re just a few weeks old, don’t talk about them, and don’t let them affect our sex life.  Just act like nothing’s happened really.

This seems a very strange attitude. Dare I be so bold as to wonder why one would have a baby if one wishes to pretend it doesn’t exist, or at least, behave as much as possible as if it doesn’t exist? Extraordinary.

Yet Ford is popular. Parents are either unaware of the evidence and research that warns us in no uncertain terms against such methods as controlled crying, and are fooled by the apparent success of these methods, since any damage done is neither visible nor immediately apparent, or they are buying into the notion that you can ‘have it all’; that you can have a baby and still keep all the things in your life the same. Here, Ford tells many parents what they want to hear.

The problem is that life just isn’t the same after you have a baby.  It will never be the same again. And trying to make it the same not only means we’ll be fighting a losing battle (not a good recipe for being ‘contented’ I’d say), but we’ll be putting our own needs before that of our baby.

OK, OK, there is no perfect mother, we all have to put ourselves first at times, there has to be a balance, we can’t parent if we’re a mess etc etc, but to say Gina Ford takes this too far really is an understatement.

It is quite natural for parents to seek help and support and to want to do things ‘right’, and the simple fact of Ford’s reputation is enough for unsuspecting parents to feel they must live up to the standards set out in her books, to doubt their own instincts, and trust in this seemingly wiser philosophy. But parents deserve better than this. They deserve real support, help and information, from real experts, not childless celebrities more interested in success and popularity than in what’s best for children.

Gina Ford gives childcare writers a bad name. This might seem like a contradiction after I have just made reference to how influential Ford’s reputation makes her, but what I mean by this is that parents who are aware of the issues associated with Ford’s methods push her books aside, and too often push all other parenting books aside with them, having drawn the conclusion that parenting books are bad, throwing the baby out with the bath water as it were. I have heard this sentiment expressed numerous times, and this is a great loss for parents.

I know how much fantastic literature there is out there and the huge, positive difference it has made to my own parenting. Shame on Gina Ford, not just for her bogus advice, but for frightening off parents who are reaching out for genuine help and support.


David Lammy’s comments on smacking.

February 1, 2012

In wishing to respond to the ill informed and ill considered comments made by MP David Lammy on Sunday regarding smacking, it is difficult to know where to start.

His comments show such an astonishing degree of ignorance, not just of the facts, and what the overwhelming evidence of research regarding the effects of smacking now shows, but also of the possible alternatives to smacking available to us as parents, that it is difficult to imagine why a man in his position has taken it upon himself to speak publicly on the subject.

Not only has he clearly failed to grasp the basic concept that smacking models and therefore teaches violence, but in making repeated references to his ‘deprived constituency’ and the difficulties facing the parents living in it, he perpetrates the ludicrous notion that disadvantaged parents have more need to smack because they do not have ‘other disciplining techniques’ available to them that middle class parents have. In elaborating on what he means by these middle class techniques, he merely mentions private schools and tennis lessons.

He paints a picture of parents in a ‘tough part of London’, their hands tied by legislation, totally unable to discipline their children or teach them right and wrong. Oh, please. It amazes me that he is unaware of the many other, more effective, parenting tools and strategies available to parents of all backgrounds, that cost nothing.

The argument against smacking is not based on a ‘liberal middle class assumption’, but on evidence and research – something Lammy seems to have skipped.

He seems aghast at Iain Dale’s suggestion that smacking is violence, and later claims “This is not about abuse, not about hitting or about violence…”.  Erm, yes it is.  That’s exactly what it’s about.

Smacking is violence. Let’s not pussy foot around trying to draw lines, talking about ‘reasonable chastisement’ and ‘reddening of the skin’, which Lammy himself is pleased to point out would not be a good indicator for non-white children in any case. Such quibbling over what does and does not constitute violence also misses the wider issue of emotional harm.

Smacking, in whatever situation, to whatever degree, is unnecessary and wrong. If Lammy doesn’t know any other way to raise a child then he needs to keep his ignorant remarks to himself, crawl out of Victorian times, and enrol on a basic parenting course.