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Ministry for Parents

Ministry for Parents

Joining Forces: While people sat glued to their radios and televisions on the 20th waiting for Bush to declare war a good crowd were in the Beehive Foyer watching Hon Steve Maharey unveil the logo of the newly formed Parenting Council.

Those with good memories will recall both Helen Clark and Steve Maharey mentioning, in their campaign launches, of the need for a Parenting Council to advise government on the needs of parents. Their idea got absorbed into the Families Commission, but Parents Centre and other leading parenting groups weren't going to let a good name go begging

Triple P, The Pacific Foundation, Parent to Parent, Parenting with Confidence and Parents Centre have joined together to give the government what they want - a pipeline to parents As a collective we tap into the needs and issues of hundreds of thousands of parents right across the nation and we intend to make sure that government considers their issues - and why not? The country has so much to gain by ensuring that its parent have got what it takes to succeed.

This initiative comes at an exciting time for parents. The political momentum to understand parenting is clearly building. A month ago the Centre for Family Studies was launched at Victoria University. In a year we will be welcoming the Families Commission. All this points to a growing recognition of the pivotal role that parents play in the nations success. It will be exciting to have three separate focuses on parenting, a government focus, an academic focus and the experiences of the NGO sector. From the interactions of these groups we should be able to define clearly what the best parenting environment would look like, and the benefits it will give us.

A hobby for the millennium? We've talked about how the parenting environment is failure focused, in the sense that all the government resources are put into propping up parents who lack the skills, knowledge and resources to cope - rather than ensuring they are equipped to succeed. What does this say about the status of parents?

In any business, skills training, industry magazines or purchase of educational resources are considered tax deductible. The message behind this is that we want business to operate at top efficiency, to turn out the best product or service and want to encourage that. Those parents who want to do well, learn to parent better and understand child development get no such message. If you want to attend parenting courses, buy books or subscribe to parenting magazines the money comes out of the family budget. The message is that the government doesn't care how good a parent you want to become - they are not going to support your efforts to improve. This message puts parenting on a par with stamp collecting - it's a hobby.

The key difference to society is that stamps don't become disinterested in their educational experience, unemployable, bad at relationships and cost the country through increased demands on the security and welfare systems. Children do. The first step in ensuring people are good parents is to get them motivated to try harder and become interested in acquiring skills and knowledge. If the messages that they get from government is "who cares?", and the cost impacts on their family spending many are going to think of this as money badly spent.

This is something for all our political parties to consider. While we don't want parenting to be considered a business, we can borrow some of the incentive mechanisms that work in business to encourage our parents to want to do better. This simple mechanism will send the message to everyone that parenting isn't a hobby, how well you do does matter, and our society wants you to do a good job.

Comments? mailto:lobbying@parentscentre.org,nz

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