Production Line of parents…

To read some educational articles, you would be forgiven for thinking that teachers believe parents are mass-produced in a factory somewhere. I guess we are just as guilty of creating convenient stereotypes as any other profession. Mechanical metaphors abound. So much despairing talk about ‘Helicopter Parents’, those who hover over their precious progeny, ready to swoop in and whisk them away from anything that appears dangerous. Or educational, depending upon how you look at it.

Or the ‘Snowplough Parents’. You can hear them coming, grinding through their gears in the car park, bolshie and barging along ahead of their precious ones, muscling all challenges out of their path. And in the process, carving a rut in which junior is then obliged to follow.
Then there are the ‘Elevator Parents’. As in the ‘elevator pitch’, so beloved of marketing gurus. You have just this short, shared ride in the elevator to convince the CEO of the merits of your idea. In the case of elevator parents, read: “I am only going to see you very briefly before I dash off somewhere more important, my child, so heed and absorb these snatched words of wisdom.”

In truth, I rarely meet parents who are of only one make and model. There are parts of each in all of us. Pejorative as the descriptions are, who wouldn’t want to fly cover for their child sometimes? Or clear a few hurdles? Or impart some succinct advice?

On this topic, I read recently of a Head who advocated, in jest, that If we’re going to start producing perfect parents, maybe we should aim to build Transformers. Multifunctional, with fold-away parts. Let’s design Mums and Dads who can hover for a while, but from a decent height. Then add some boomerang bits, so they fly away again. Bolt on that plough, by all means. But add a few detachable shovels, so our children can dig themselves out of trouble occasionally. And if we’re going to program in elevator wisdom, make it Socratic, not Muzac. And maybe add some stairs on the side, so there’s an alternate route when it’s a longer discussion that’s called for.

Transformer Parents – not a bad gift for any child. Failing that, we could just keep being our fallible human selves, trying our hardest to do the best for our children? That would be fine too.


Matthew Burke, Haeadmaster, St Martha’s School

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