Life in 21st-century Britain is now so hectic that half of parents admit to feeling too worn out to teach their children basic life skills such as tying their shoelaces, riding a bike and telling the time, says Lianne Kolirin
Children are struggling with things such as table manners, brushing their teeth and learning to catch a ball because their mums and dads are so worn out from trying to have it all.
Yano commissioned a survey asking parents how much time they spent with their children to introduce them to some of the basic necessities of everyday life. The startling results highlight the plight of Britain’s exhausted parents, who often struggle to balance their busy family lives with their jobs.
Three out of five parents (61 per cent) say they are often too tired to teach their children these skills after a long day, while more than half (55 per cent) blame their tiredness on long working hours.
However, work is not the only drain on parents’ time. Around six out of 10 parents say doing the washing and cleaning takes priority over things such as teaching their children to dress themselves and learn the days of the week and months of the year.
In the poll of 1,000 parents, more than 70 per cent admit to feeling under pressure to have a career, a nice house and ‘well-spoken and intelligent children’. And two-thirds of parents (66 per cent) say they would love the opportunity to spend more quality time with their kids.
Parents think the three most important skills they could help teach their children are reading, writing and learning to cross the road safely, with nearly half of them (47 per cent) believing that they have to supplement the work that teachers do at school.
Nevertheless, more than a quarter of parents say they spend less than 20 minutes a night reading with their child. About half admit this is insufficient and that they felt guilty about it.
More than half (57 per cent) say it’s usually mum who passes on most of these important daily lessons to the children and roughly the same proportion (53 per cent) claim school, childminders and nannies should also be responsible for teaching children these skills.
Yano founder Ann-Marie McKimm commissioned the survey to get to the bottom of a question that we all ask ourselves: are we doing enough for our children? ‘The survey has shown us that parents are time-poor, but most would relish the chance to spend more quality time teaching their kids these skills,’ she says. ‘This is not about beating parents up, but highlighting what we can do to lighten their load and support them.
‘We would encourage the government and employers to consider more flexible working practices for parents, not just in the first year of a baby’s life – but throughout their schooling years.
‘We’re also keen to see schools and nurseries working together with parents to help nurture some of these vital life skills. If we can work together to produce happy and confident children, that’s the most important thing.’
Naomi Richards is a life coach for children and author of The Parent’s Toolkit. ‘We live in a society where life is very busy,’ she says. ‘We may no longer have the support of grandparents or aunts to help us out, so as parents we try to do it all.
‘Part of it is us having to work hard to provide for our families, but there’s also the part where we put unnecessary pressure on ourselves to have the perfect house, a good social life, our children to have play dates, an empty laundry basket… time with your children can be overlooked.’
Richards believes these skills are vitally important to building a child’s self-esteem.
‘As parents we want our children to be able to do things for themselves. If we put in the time they will be more independent, and all children need the skills we’re talking about. Being able to do things for themselves will give children a healthy self-esteem.’
Here, Richards offers a few pointers on how to make the time to introduce these key skills…
• Leave housework until the children are in bed or when they are at school.
• Use mealtimes together to discuss things such as spellings or the months of the year.
• When walking to the park or shops, take the opportunity to teach your child about how to cross the road safely.
• Try brushing your teeth together to show them how best to do it. The same goes for tying your shoelaces.
• Show them how to lay the table and then ask them to do it while you prepare the meal. Children love to do the same thing as their parent when they are young.
• As for reading, take it in turns for them to read to you – and then you to read to them.