Rioting and Reform of Family Law Good evening - delighted to be speaking tonight and just want to acknowledge the

time and commitment Natasha Phillips and FLIP have played in putting together this very important debate. Immediately post the riots we posted a blog on our website http://www.theparentpractice.com/news/2011/08/rioting-british-youths-failed-by-theirown-parents-it-takes-a-village/ -in response to the media statement of youths failed by their own parents - this parent bashing continued with David Cameron saying “ I blame a lack of proper parenting , I blame a lack of proper upbringing, I blame a lack of proper ethics and I blame a lack of proper morals.” Guess what happened next – only last week the Guardian/LSE “Reading the Riot” report attributing the cause to “widespread anger and frustration at the way police engage with communities”. I actually think this is a perfect example of the problems we are facing. Society today lives in a BLAME CULTURE. We BLAME the PARENTS; then we BLAME THE POLICE - It is always easier not to take responsibility for ones actions and accuse others. The rioters came from all works of life - If they were unemployed, uneducated, fatherless, estate-living, young people from disadvantaged backgrounds then commentators have claimed that it is the socio economic climate in which we live currently . But many of the looters were not from this demographic - they were middle class, teachers, dental nurses and ballerinas. Many were female, educated and in employment. Some of the young were living in stable homes with two caring parents. Chelsea Ives, 18 year old and promising athlete, took part in the rioting and was seen on television by her parents who took the courageous step of turning her into the police. And other parents have taken similar steps to teach their children responsibility for their actions. In other words people took part in riots despite – rather than because of- their upbringing. One thing that united them is a sense of powerlessness in their lives that compels them to seize control in this way. One youth was quoted as saying “We wanted to show the police we could do what we wanted.” It is as if our youth today are living in a MORAL VACUUM. So what is missing? Why did they give way to the thrust of the crowd? Where is the VALUE SYSTEM that tells a person when to stop and decide not to join the throng? Why wasn’t there an overriding compulsion that made them put the brakes on and think about how their actions impacted on others? How do you get those values and engage people in being more responsible? Clearly from one’s parents. Allison Pearson wrote in the Telegraph, “Our young people need adults to stop abdicating authority.”

Does that mean giving them a good smacking as some commentators have alluded to being punititive and disciplinarian. For the legal system to pass down sentences that in many cases seemed excessive. It is easy to be torn between loving and strict – I call this “pendulum parenting” as we see with the legal system “pendulum sentencing” There is a more effective middle ground involving parents setting and upholding boundaries, taking an interest in and being responsible for their children and being willing to be the parent not the friend. My view is that there is a crisis of parenting when the adults are not in charge, when they don’t know where a 12 year old is, when they have not been able to pass on values about respect for others, when they have not taught compassion and tolerance, when the young people don’t have the communication skills necessary to get what they need without violence, when they don’t have a proper education. 80% of parenting is modelling – we need to help parents become good role models. So what are the solutions? We need to ensure all parents have access to positive parenting classes. Childbirth is one of the most natural processes and YET often we prepare for it with antenatal classes. It makes complete sense then to help the nation prepare for the rest of the child’s upbringing! We need to dispel the myth that parenting classes are for “bad” parents or for those with 'difficult' children. Some parents worry that coming to a parenting class is an open admission that they are failing to do things well. Coming to a parenting class shows a commitment to your role as a parent, and a commitment to your child(ren)'s future. It doesn’t mean you’re not already doing a good job as a parent but is a recognition of the fact that there is always something to learn and is testament to the dedication you have to your family’s wellbeing. It is your commitment to the generation of the future.  FACT – parenting is not instinctive for many, but a deeply conditioned state depending on their own experiences and upbringing. Mothers and fathers BOTH need help to co-parent and it is not helpful for family law judges to insist on fathers attending Positive Parenting classes. This contributes to and exacerbates conflict with one parent being seen as not as able as the other. FACT - In 5 years we have never seen a referral for a mother to do a positive parenting class in divorce cases. With the rate of divorce still rising it is very important to give guidance to parents to support their children through the entire experience. Family Mediation is one solution to ensure parents have the best chance of coparenting from the start in an atmosphere of good dialogue where the child’s best interests are always the priority.

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Support groups that contain a variety of complementary professionals can assist in many ways e.g. Single father’s support / coaching –Billy at Dad’s House Parenting after parting / Resolution -took as look at the website the other day to discover across UK only 2 course are listed in Jan - no surprise at FLIP - where are the other courses? Grandparents support Divorce Survival Experts In conclusion - we need a comprehensive package of support for ALL parents whether together or separated/divorced
Nothing will change if we just mutter about the state of moral collapse in our society and point the finger of BLAME at parents who are not coping.

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