Parenting success

07:00 16 February 2013

It is unlikely that Lee Emerson and I will be able to agree on certain key questions, as we approach them from different premises.

Based on a 30-year professional career in child welfare, including seven years as a university lecturer and researcher in this field, my starting point is that we need to understand what the needs of children are, and what kind of parenting will enable those needs to be met.

Having had three children ourselves in 18 months also helps focus the mind!

There is a wealth of factual research into successful and unsuccessful parenting that could usefully guide this debate.

Lee’s starting point is that the world was created by an intelligent designer (God).

From this premise he asserts we should look to that designer for guidance on how to live our lives.

There is a sense in which Lee’s comments are literally pre-judged, in that they are inherently based on these beliefs, rather than any factual evidence that I or anyone else may offer.

He is, of course, entitled to his beliefs.

Let me try to address the specific issues that Lee’s letter raised - gender roles in parenting; and the question of spirituality.

The research on parenting is pretty unequivocal.

Children can be, and are, successfully raised by straight and gay couples, single women, single men, heterosexuals, homosexuals, people of all races, and people with disabilities. (That’s why all these groups are recognised as eligible under English Law to apply to adopt.)

Equally, any of these categories can make a hash of parenting.

But that does not hinge on gender.

The research says the distinguishing factor is that successful parents are the ones who demonstrate a commitment to the parenting role.

They understand and nurture the child’s need for: love and security – the basis for all later relationships; new experiences - to enable cognitive growth; praise and recognition - to establish a realistic sense of self-worth; and taking responsibility - to enable growth towards independence.

I agree with Lee there needs to be a spiritual dimension to all this.

Lee writes (January 17) “the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom”.

Personally, I prefer a humanitarian approach which teaches the important central principle of “respect for people”.

This works perfectly well in helping children understand the difference between right and wrong, yours and mine, and in conducting responsible later relationships.

My final comment relates to the “gay marriage” debate.

I think that all couples who wish to express their love and commitment should go through the same civil marriage ceremony.

Then, as with some other countries, those who wish also to celebrate with an additional religious ceremony could do exactly that.

It could simply be left to the Church to say who they wish to welcome - such decisions to be exempt from equality legislation.

Alan Swift



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