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Holland Park Press

Tips for Parents

25 July 2011 Zie Nederlandse versie
by Arnold Jansen op de Haar

I have always been interested in sociological phenomena. For example, this week I pondered why the Chinese do not close their mouths when eating. You don’t gain anything, but it is one of those things that strike you when you move in public places.

In the past week I have been frequenting a rather large number of pubs in London. In one of the pubs I spotted a hippie father with long hair and a beard, so I thought: aha, the understudy for the leading role in Jesus Christ Superstar. In any case, he looked as if he was about to be crucified.

You know the type, fathers who actually dream about pints of beer, cars and beautiful women, though not necessarily in that order. Unfortunately they are burdened by a family which specialises in ‘looking bored’. The mothers in this type of family always look extremely exhausted.

A family which, upon meeting new people, fleetingly creates a customary facade of merriness, which gives you the urge to shout at these fathers and mothers: ‘Having children isn’t a right but a blessing!’

Talking of children: most children look like their parents. In many cases this isn’t necessarily an advantage.

For an average person the chance of giving birth to a genius is minute. At the same time it is remarkable that a unique personality shines through even when a child is just four years old.

The worst thing must be to realise that your child is virtually bereft of personality. Even a Tiger mother can’t fix this. Tiger mothers seem to be getting very popular: their tough regime aims to extract huge achievements from their children.

You can call your child Wolfgang Amadeus, but if he has trouble holding a recorder it sets him back for life. ‘Wolfgang Amadeus, maybe you could play something for us?’

Fathers, too, play an important role. If your ten-year-old son has a burning ambition to become a professional footballer, think back to your own sporting prowess. In most cases, it is best to tell the boy to ‘enjoy playing’.

If your boy keeps practising for six hours a day and still has trouble kicking the ball on Saturdays, it may be advisable to say, ‘Daddy wasn’t any good either but maybe you should try astronomy.’ If he is really talented it will find its way.

It is even better if your child chooses a hobby or sport totally unfamiliar to you. It gives your child the chance to explain it to you. When I was growing up, I brought my parents up to speed with, successively, sailing, the construction of model ships, the rules of hockey and the secrets of the hundred meter sprint.

Severely limit how much you accompany your child! Of course, it’s different when they are six, but leave a fourteen year old well alone. My advice to parents who still insist on cheering from the sidelines every week: find a hobby of your own.

However, the danger is that daddy bores everyone to bits with his hobby. I know of a father who has discovered archaeology. He now digs full time: the moment he spots ‘an interesting field’, he is digging a hole meters deep. Not a problem in itself, apart from the fact that every time he discovers ‘something of importance’. During visits father always shows his PowerPoint presentation.

However, during the past week I have come across many lovely families. It was clear that the parents in happy families listen to their children.

A Tiger mother wants her child to do better than others, but this is not always achievable. Yet it doesn’t take much to make sure your children are even lovelier than you: it begins with listening.

You will understand that, for various reasons, I don’t have any children.

© Arnold Jansen op de Haar
© Translation Holland Park Press

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