Parenting – THE most important job ever!

What do you say when someone asks what your job is? Most of us immediately think of the job we get paid for. After my last blog, about what happens when parenting goes badly wrong and children end up doing terrible things, I started to think about parenting as an actual job. It’s not often that we think about bringing up children as ‘work’. Yet, surely it is! Every child has the right to emerge from childhood as a happy, free thinking adult – ready to make positive independent choices for success in life – and able to bring up his or her own offspring in similar ways. Parenting is surely the most important of all jobs – yet one that also tests (psychologically) the skills of many.

So what do children need from us, as parents? The list below is adapted from Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs: originally presented as a pyramid that started from the bottom up, they include:

– Physiological needs – water, food, warmth, clothing and shelter – for good health
– Love and belonging, family and friendships
– Safety and personal security
– Self-actualisation – as the desire to make the best of one’s skills and succeed.

The list looks simple enough – until we begin to take it apart. We all have the first set of needs – don’t we? Unfortunately not. Even in Britain, a comparatively wealthy nation, poverty still haunts some families: as Marcus Rashford has been reminding us with his campaign for free school meals to be extended during lockdown.

Assuming that physiological needs are met, what happens when a child feels unloved and unwanted? If a child is not brought up to feel love, and internalise that feeling, then how can that child learn how to give love as an adult? When bad things happen to us, love helps the healing process and brings comfort to help us through our challenges.

What about the third need – for safety and security? The existence of charities, such as the NSPCC, remind us that thousands of children live in daily fear of abuse – either sexual or physical, or live in a home where the parents are addicted to alcohol or drugs. Some live in an environment that is unsafe – where gangs roam the streets and violence is an accepted requirement for survival.

The fourth: self-actualisation is highly unlikely to be realised without the existence of the first three. Self-actualisation is the end result of a happy childhood: when a young person feels inspired to make the very best of what life has to offer and sets off on the right road to achieve it. Self-actualisation happens when a person feels positive and in control – as opposed to negative and powerless.

What else does parenting involve that is not on the above list – in order for children to become good, worthy and valued members of society – contributors as well as mere consumers? Values: such as – courage, discipline, strength, determination, honesty, loyalty, dedication, kindness, patience, empathy, compassion, work-ethic, humility, skills of co-operation and compromise……. the list goes on.

We can see how the job of parenting is far from easy, and why children who have not experienced good parenting themselves often end up perpetuating the same negativities with their own children. All of which is why some parents may need help from time to time to get it right.

Parenting is THE most important job ever! One that Government, Social Workers, schools and other support organisations must recognise – for the sake of children’s well-being.

I am the author of thirteen educational books, plus five for parents. If your child has SEND, Book 1: Support Your Child with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities: a guide for parents, offers all you need to know about the SEND system. Books 2 to 5: Support Your Child At The Early Years Foundation Stage, At Key Stage One, At Key Stage Two and At Key Stage Three – offer a comprehensive outline of WHAT should be taught and HOW. Available from Lulu or Amazon, by Sylvia Edwards.

Sylvia Edwards

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