Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Tick-box Parenting

Pardon my P's and Q's so early in the morning, but I'm getting just a little bit peeved at the pressures put on children and parents on what they should be able to accomplish by a set point in their development or things that parents should do with their toddler before they hit school. The Telegraph yesterday ran an article on a list of landmark events I should spoon feed Grace before she turns 3 years old, activities including splashing in puddles, visiting a museum and holding a teddy bears picnic. Yes really. As if I need a reminder that splashing in puddles is fun?! Cow & Gate had commissioned the survey of 1000 Mums on their intended activities between now and then, and I don't know about you, but I don't need a milk manufacturer telling me that finger painting and listening to classical music is going to be beneficial to my kid.

It gets worse. Opening my emails this morning, a monthly newsletter from a nappy manufacturer with three sub-headings:

1) Things your 17 month old can now definately do,
2) Things your 17 month old can now probably do,
3) Things your 17 month old may even possibly do.

Hm. A week short of the 17 month marker and I'm calling an Emergency Family Meeting. Grace is underperforming, consistently falling short on targets and if we carry on at this rate, my happy go lucky todder with a heart of gold may well be put onto a performance management program as she can't yet stick two duplo blocks together or pretend to feed a doll. FFS.

Is it just me or has the world gone mad?

No Grace can't say two words together, walk with confidence, take off an item of clothing or throw a ball overhand. What she can do is be herself. Take a few steps, crawl a while. Recognise the dog, cat, sheep, cow, monkey perfectly well one day but not at all the next if she's tired. She'll sit on my lap to read a book from cover to cover, another time she might get bored on the second page. She offers her food to me and Matt the Husband before eating it herself, and given the chance she'll offer it to Mr Rabbit and the dog too. She'll lather her hair when it's being washed, ask to have her teeth cleaned, and tell us when she wants to go to sleep. Does this make her advanced or behind? I couldn't give a flying F***.

She's my daughter, warts and all. And she will friggin well develop at her own pace thank you very much. And as for listing the activities we should be doing with our children before the age of 3, there's nothing like making the working parents feel crap more than a list of things to squeeze into the hour before bed when everyone's knackered or to cram into the weekend, when all you want to do is put your feet up and spend some unadulterated one on one time with your child.

Rant over, thanks for listening! This is a picture of Grace before bed, chosing which Teddy to take to bed. She can definately do this. Probably. Possibly even. (I'm waiting on confirmation from Cow & Gate).


  1. Oh it's so silly. Bizarrely I was looking at one of these milestone things today. My twins are 18 months and I haven't looked at them the whole time. Why do we need something else to make us paranoid. Grace sounds lovely, and completely on track.

  2. By the way if you get chance I'd love you to link this to my Tuesday tea and sympathy linky:


  3. Heather, I would love to tell you that it calms down the older she gets, but unfortunately this is only a slight representation of what it is like at school. Eleanor's school in particular is just beyond a joke, not the teachers, but the parents! I've now decided to move her out of the school and move out of that 'target driven' world so that she can have an opportunity to be...well her!

  4. A good old rant - nothing beats it. And well deserved too! Am glad you're letting Grace be who she wants to be - its far too early to be putting pressures on kids and their parents - there's years of that ahead of you!

  5. Still a bit grumpy about the whole thing this morning, so I've just sent a letter to The Telegraph telling them as much. Grr!

  6. It never EVER stops! It is silly how we have to set landmarks on our kids development. I have 2 boys very close in age which gave me the opportunity to compare (even when you don't want you do...) anyway the truth is that they are 2 boys and yet developed differently. They learn what they can use and what they are keen to learn when they want to. Children are very resourceful and will usually develop a skill when they need it. They all pretty much do the same things by the time they are 3 anyway. Good rant! :)

  7. Thank you Perfectly Happy Mum! I like a good rant, and it's a relief to hear we're all in the same boat. Ironically Grace decided to tick off a few things on her own list this morning with taking off her own PJ bottoms before I got the chance. I do hope she's not working through her own potty list :0)

  8. Hi Heather,

    My names Jemma and I'm working at TOLFA at the moment. I found your blog having googled TOLFA to see what people are saying about us etc.
    Just have to say full marks - ALL your blogs have physically made me LOL. You should write a book!!

    Take care and keep in touch via FB (I am "TOLFA India & UK" - feel a bit like a super hero revealing my true identity now!)

    Jemma x

    1. Thanks Jemma! Everyone's doing great work at TOLFA, and well done with the facebook entries - it's really taken off lately and the regular updates are so important to generate interest and support. Keep up the good work! Heather

  9. Hi Heather
    I'm a friend of SuperJemma and also new to your blog.
    I am a home educator and just wondered if (especially after Little B Bee's post)anybody else was or considered it? It's the perfect antidote to what you all describe! No tests, no pressure, no enforced "growing up", just kids happy to be just that - kids!
    BW's Karen

    1. I know of a few Mums now that have moved away from mainstream education to school at home. Hats off to them. I think I'd struggle with my own company 5 days a week - how do you manage that??