How to become a better mum or dad: Five easy daily steps to combat poor parenting

Tips: Reading to a child is one of the 'five-a-day' pledges the think-tank says will make you a better parent

Tips: Reading to a child is one of the 'five-a-day' pledges the think-tank says will make you a better parent

Mothers and fathers across the country should follow a ‘five-a-day’ pledge to become better parents, according to a think-tank.

They must be taught how to improve their parenting skills, with the poorest families given extra child benefit if they agree to enrol in special classes.

Critics have branded the recommendations from the CentreForum ‘ridiculous’ and another example of ‘nanny state meddling’.

They come just days after Coalition ‘poverty tsar’ Frank Field made explosive claims about the tragic effect of poor parenting.

The Labour MP revealed that many children begin school without knowing their first name because their parents barely speak to them.

The report from the liberal think-tank calls for a national campaign to boost parenting skills.

Each day, parents should be encouraged to read to their youngsters for 15 minutes and talk to them for 20 minutes while the television is turned off.

They should also praise their children frequently, play with them on the floor for ten minutes and provide a nutritious diet.

It should be ‘socially acceptable’ for parents to ask for help and learn how to improve, but this would require a shift in attitudes similar to those seen in relation to wearing seatbelts and drink-driving, the report states.

These are the five daily steps that parents should follow

Report author Chris Paterson said: ‘The scientific evidence shows that what parents do with their children is crucial in terms of the way the brain – and skills – develop.

‘There’s also evidence of significant gaps in information and behaviour between different parents as to what activities they should be doing and how often they are doing them.

Frank Field MP has raised awareness about the effects of poor parenting

Frank Field MP has raised awareness about the effects of poor parenting

‘One of the key ideas of a campaign would be to move towards it becoming socially acceptable to see parenting as something that’s learnt. People don’t pick it up automatically. Why would they?’

Parents hoping to adopt must study child development as it is not assumed they will ‘automatically’ know what to do.

Mr Paterson said: ‘In any other walk of life it’s accepted you have to learn things. There’s a bit of a block when it comes to having your own child as it is assumed you’d automatically know what to do. The evidence points to the fact that this is not the case.’

A greater number of fragmented families has compounded the problem because parents are less able to draw on the advice and skills of experienced extended family members.

The think-tank report also suggests creating an additional child benefit supplement for the poorest 20 per cent of the population who attend parenting classes, to encourage take-up.

But Tory MP Philip Davies said: ‘It’s ridiculous. Anyone would think we have money to burn in this country. It’s another well-meaning, but ill-thought-out, hare-brained scheme.’

And Nick Seaton, of the Campaign for Real Education, said: ‘It’s another example of nanny state meddling. While a few parents may need this sort of advice, the vast majority manage perfectly well on their own.’

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