An interview with Sarah McCrum, director of the Academy of Potential Education
Jimmy Allen: What can parents do to improve their children's happiness and overall behavior?
Sarah McCrum: Many parents are facing a big problem these days. It seems that whatever they do their children don't react in the way that they expect them to. This is especially clear in the area of respect. I have met many parents who were genuinely surprised and confused at the lack of respect children have for them and other adults. And the irony is that the more they try to understand their children and give them what they want the less the children respect them.
Jimmy Allen: I have found that most parents are confused about when to be strong with their children and when to listen more to them.
Sarah McCrum: On the one hand a lot of advice is now available for parents about how to bring up children and at the same time the children's rights movement has encouraged people to consult children much more about what they want. But we live in a fast moving, and fast changing, society where it is difficult to be sure that what you want now is going to be useful in the future. This has left parents in a vacuum - trying to prepare their children for a world about which they feel they know almost nothing. In this case the usual response is simply to do what you know. But now, more than ever before, doing what we know seems not to be working as well as it should.
Jimmy Allen: That's pretty hard for parents. It leaves them somewhere between a rock and a hard place.
Sarah McCrum: It's not parents' fault that the children don't behave in the way that they expect. And it's not the teachers' fault or anybody else's fault. It's just we're in a society that is changing extremely fast and we're not figuring out what society will be like in 10 or 20 years. I believe we need to start a debate among parents and educators about what the future may look like. Even if we can't be very sure about it at least it would start people thinking about it rather than relying on the present or the past, as we do at the moment. Even some sense of the future starts us thinking about what kinds of qualities children will need to handle the challenges they are likely to face and become successful. This would make a better foundation for decisions about upbringing and education than anything we know about the present.
Jimmy Allen: How can we start that debate?
Sarah McCrum: On the internet is a good starting point because it is relatively democratic. A lot of people have access to the internet and it is an easy forum for expressing opinions. But discussion has little value without action. I would like to see families and schools emerge from the discussion with the courage and vision to create new kinds of upbringing and education specifically geared to the future. It is beginning to happen in a few pockets. A lot of experimentation is needed, which is frightening for parents and teachers but great experience for the children. When the world is changing fast we need to change fast too.
By Sarah McCrum MA, PGCE, Dip LC
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