Whilst the recent riots and looting throughout the UK were entirely unacceptable by any reasonable standards I do not think they were entirely unexpected. We live in a society where authority has been undermined by well intentioned but misguided Human Rights campaigners.Teachers live in fear of recrimination if they use appropriate measures to protect themselves or others from bullying and we have condemned rather than supported the police force when they have had to apply strong measures to protect the public from overzealous protestors.
Hopefully the balance has, in part, been restored as the public and our politicians have come to recognise the need for firm measures to combat the “thug” culture that has arisen from the lack of respect for authority figures. We do not, however, believe that re-establishing respect for authority will prevent future problems of this nature. Many of those involved in the disturbances and looting were young children and teenagers who are already beyond the control of their parents. The solution therefore, must incorporate clear practical measures to help parents understand how important their role is, not just within the family home but within society.
Respect starts in the family and the role of parent is one of the most important (if not the most important) role in society. This is a role that we learn very little about in school and one that we therefore only learn from our own experiences as a child. Even if we are forced, by circumstances, to hand over responsibility for the care of our children for certain periods it is essential that we bond with our children. This bond will make it far easier for us to ensure our children make decisions we are proud of as they grow up.
The bond between parent and child can be formed when the child is just a baby and there are a growing number of classes which parents can attend with their babies which help to create this bond. Baby Sensory, founded by Dr Lin Day was the first programme designed for babies from birth. The classes stimulate baby development through exposure to sensory experiences, inform parents about how the time they spend with their babies supports early development and promote this vital early bonding.
It is always better to prevent problems than it is to try to fix things after they have gone wrong. Helping parents to bond with their baby is a preventative strategy and many Sure Start Centres have contracted Baby Sensory Class Leaders to run sessions for parents and babies in their area. Some of the funding for these programmes has been cut during the necessary government spending review and whilst it is easy to see the effect of saving a few pounds in the short term it is far harder to evaluate the long term social cost of stopping programmes which were making a real difference in their communities.
Despite the cutbacks, some far sighted authorities such as Tower Hamlets, have seen the wisdom of preserving the Baby Sensory programme which has helped with social integration as well as promoting early bonding and development.
Ian Sharland is Business Development Director of Baby Sensory (www.babysensory.com). Baby Sensory is the only provider of baby development classes designed specifically for babies from birth to 13 months, whose Baby Sensory programmes have been developed in the UK by Dr. Lin Day.