Because our children aren’t quite good enough …

Is it just me or are you noticing this too? Loads of new ‘toys’ all aimed at improving the performance of our children, to make them just that little bit better. And it all sounds terribly nurturing, doesn’t it? It’s helping them to ‘fulfill their potential’, and what caring parent wouldn’t want to do that?

But the underlying message is still there. Our children aren’t good enough. And if we don’t get involved in tweaking their performance, rather as you would with a racing car, then we’re at fault. Could do better – the phrase that strikes fear into the very soul of the conscientious parent. It’s a part of our culture of relentless self-improvement with the fundamental agenda (yes, that creaking sound was me getting on my high horse again) of creating dissatisfaction and anxiety as a means of creating consumer desire.

So anyway, I found a new product (new is good) mentioned in a few newspapers and I thought I’d have a look. You’ve got to read the copy – it had me quaking (and gnashing my teeth too – which is quite tricky to do all at the same time) even though I don’t have children in the target market. And it’s only one of, I suspect, thousands of products out there that manage to scare you senseless while simultaneously offering reassurance – provided you buy them, of course. This system comes in at a little over £30 quid, which means it’ll be bought by the worried-well of parents – and there are plenty of us. The children who, arguably, have the greatest need probably won’t get a look in.

Maybe it really works. If it does work, then it should be made available to every child in the land at nursery (once these free nursery places eventually materialise – and I’m not holding my breath here). If it doesn’t work, then we should just ignore it and hope it goes away. But who’s going to be brave enough to ignore copy like this (even though the grammar is a bit off in places). I’ve highlighted the best bits, for your reading delight.

“Just over half of 5 year olds have failed to reach the Government’s new targets for what children should know, understand and be able to do by the end of their first year in primary school.”
Telegraph 7th Feb 2006.

As any parent will know, their child’s education and development is one of the most worrying aspects of parenting. On the one hand, parents feel very opinionated on what is best for their children but at the same time at a loss as to how to have an effect on their children’s development. Dr ………… has designed a programme whereby giftedness can be taught by developing children’s thinking skills, enabling them to work out challenges for themselves.

Children, even when they are in full-time education are only in school for 13% of their time. Relationships that parents share with their children, which is established during the Early Years, are fundamental in determining the adults their children will grow up to be. This programme equips parents with all of the tools they need, not only to develop thinking skills but form positive relationships with their children through a whole range of interactive experiences.

The pack contains the equipment an instructional manual and DVD with activities that cover the whole range of Early-Years development. The DVD, (which is for the parent and not the child), together with the manual shows how to assess their child’s current skill level and then use these emerging skills to accelerate learning.

Sections target:
Movement skills
Language development
Perception and number
Thinking skills
Social development

Parents who have had access to the programme are astonished at the progress their children have made with their skills well above the expected level for their chronological age. This programme does not teach reading or mathematics in the traditional sense, but it does give the child the conceptual framework. Children as young as four are able to understand Pythagoras’s theorem, because they have been taught to understand how the shapes fit together to form squares on the hypotenuse. The children’s use of language is extended because they are encouraged to observe details in their environment and use fantastic words to describe them.

So often, parents are encouraged to buy ‘educational toys’ where a button is pressed, a reaction follows, and the child loses interest. Early Years development is all about interaction and parents using the programme will be able to utilise their skills and decide which activities, toys and experiences will really make a difference.

The programme is unique because it is based around child development not curriculum targets. It teaches thinking skills rather than rote learning. …..

Giftedness can be taught! Did you get that? Or should that read ‘bought’? Children are only at school 13% of the time – that’s one below the belt for working parents. Are you feeling terrified yet? Do you realise how you’ve failed? Do you understand Pythagoras’ theorem? And if not, why not? Shame on you! Quick – where’s your credit card.

If you come across any more beauties of this ilk, do share …


15 thoughts on “Because our children aren’t quite good enough …

  1. Meanwhile, here at House of Joy, The Mayor and Rooster Girl play only with pots, pans and tupperware…

    So much for graduate school…or whatever.

  2. “Giftedness can be taught”? Wow. I didn’t learn P’s theorem until middle school. You mean, I could have learned it years earlier, instead of learning primary colors? I’ve been gypped.

  3. And our kids get to enjoy their childhoods and learn through play, when???? R. spend some of her best play time with her crayons and paper!

  4. Why the ## does a 4YO need to understand Pythagoras?

    And what good does it do for a parent to “assess” their child’s achievement level (any more than we do currently)?

    I don’t need or want my kids to be “the best” in their class/grade/school etc. My assessment of them is that they are my absolute two favourite kids in the whole world. That’s good enough for me.

  5. I’m not sure what worries me more; that this is all a scam which preys on parents’ natural anxieties or that it might work. I have vivid memories of seeing Ruth Lawrence cycling round Oxford on a tandem with her father. That is where all this encouraging giftedness leads.

  6. I make a point of not reading into parenting tips…
    I trudge along and think about the big picture… Our my big picture as I know it,,,
    The big picture being giving my child self confidence. The Big picture being that she is kind compassionate and loving with social responsibility.
    We lead by example and hopefully along the way we will have added a very special citizen to the planet that will help her fellow man… and know that she comes from love… and know that this is what she has to give…
    I think all the other stuff is just stuff to clutter what truly should be the big picture…

  7. i think pretty much everything revolves around consumerism/capitalism. buy, buy, buy. companies prey on our insecurities, like being a better parent, being thinner, etc., etc. if we don’t buy (literally) into it, it simply fails. but the problem is, we do. over and over again.

  8. I think it is sad that so many people want to rob our kids of their childhood. I am all for the “teachable moment”, but not at the expense of fun! I am a teacher, and I can say I never took a class in college on how to teach “giftedness”. I must have been absent the day that taught that one, because I surely missed it!

  9. “Giftedness can be taught” – yup, that’s what jumped out at me too. Pythagoras? At 5? And I thought we were doing so well because Big H doesn’t play in his poo.

  10. I guess we live in an age where we need to be told the basics or something.

    That common sense is now a marketable tool to sell to people.

    And granted, some people do need it.

    Maybe having a book tell us how to read with our kids and spend time with them WILL encourage parents to do so.

    My big thing is getting the MIL to buy things that don’t need batteries…that just because it makes a lot of noise does not make it a good toy.

  11. isn’t gifted – er, well – a ‘gift’? y’see, the clue’s right there in the name. anyway, now it can evidently be bought/taught every child can be well above average – just like lake woebegone. but, as gilbert’n’sullivan pointed out, ‘if everybody’s somebody, then no-one’s anybody’.
    lm – it’s something to do with the square on the hypootenuse, so big h is well ahead there.
    cc – whoops! how did those batteries end up in the recycling?

  12. Gah! I have a serious hate on for all the many, many “educational” toys on the market. Why can’t we let them be? You are so right, they do totally prey on parents’ fears and hopes and it totally boils me.

  13. My God, what a frightening concept – you are SOOO right, those “worried-well” parents who want to do the best for their kids, who make sure they have every opportunity, so that after they’ve been to gymnastics and dance on Saturday, horse-riding on Sunday, Rainbows on Monday, Art-Club after school on Tuesday, Karate on Wednesday, piano lessons on Thursday and Beavers on Friday are so knackered they can’t learn the basics at school(let alone how to become gifted…)


    And on a professional note from me, if we teach ALL the children to be gifted, what does that do to the Governement targets (which are riducluous) of 20% of any cohort as Gifted and Talented… How can 20% be Gifted and Talented? surely that’s just “above average”?
    Sorry, just got a splinter from my Soap Box.

    Please, as a teacher, why can’t people accept that being average is OKAY – your child will have the life skills they need and they will probably not be anywhere near as stressed out as all the “high achievers”.

    I’d take happy, caring and average over not fitting in and gifted (see Ruth Lawrence) anyday.

  14. We don’t allow “educational” toys into our house, for the most part. Toys are educational enough without chanting in Greek or reciting the times tables. My mother-in-law was despondent when we announced our “no educational toys” rule (and “no electronic toys”, too), because her poor grandchildren were going to be raised up stupid. Sigh.

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