My West London Life

Weekly with David Boddy: Parenting Q&A 4


David Boddy, former Headmaster, grandfather of nine and now senior education consultant with home tutoring company, TUTOR DOCTOR, answers your questions on parenting...

My 18-year-old son is facing a social dilemma. A lot of his peers are involved in ‘serious’ relationships, but he wants to work hard for his A-levels. Peer pressure is mounting for him also to get involved with a girl and he does not want to be ostracised for not joining in. Advice please.

Although he is now effectively an ‘adult’, he is clearly looking for guidance. This is an important new year for him and he has an opportunity to “stand out” from the crowd. He needs to be encouraged to take a step on his own and become a “leader” by doing so. He should not be surprised that others in his peer group actually want to do the same, but for some reason don’t have the courage to do so – yet! Leaders are always on their own at the beginning, but when something is right to do, others quickly follow. He will not be alone for very long. In my experience as a Head, young men like himare quite capable of saying to their friends: “ Look, we don’t have to sacrifice very much to get good results; just a few nights in each week to study. We can party at the weekends.” As the exams approach, the sacrifices might have to get bigger, but not for too long. Help him find the balance between socialising and studying. We all need both. He also needs time to exercise…and he needs time to get proper sleep. Spend a little time with him to identify a combined study and social plan and help him keep to it. He may be an adult, but rather inexperienced at it. We all need confirmation from those who love us about what is right.

What is the right age to give my children a smart phone? All their friends are getting them, but they seem too young to me.

You know your children better than anybody and if you think they are too young, they probably are. Our offspring are far more savvy with these devices and so even the blocking mechanisms you can acquire are no guarantees of safety. I have often advised parents to take cautious steps. If all the child “needs” is the ability to stay in touch, a basic mobile is sufficient. When they demonstrate both responsibility and responsiveness in other areas, their access to apps and search engines can be expanded. If they are ‘hiding’ their phone for any reason, become very alert and probably remove it. Encourage an atmosphere of open communication about what they are doing on social media. Praise positive postings and expressions of harmony and friendliness with those they know. Check that they do actually know the people they are in touch with. Ask questions about their family, parents, school etc. No parent can be “top of the pops” at all times, so don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ if you have any concerns or doubts. Their grievances against you will pass and probably quite quickly. Far more online safety can be achieved, not by an app, but by using that old-fashioned two-letter word.

I am a stay-at-home Mum and my husband is often away on business. I fear my young children are too distant from their father and I don’t want to be labelled as “just a mother”. What can I do?

There are two big questions in this. Let’s deal with the most important one first. The parent staying at home with the children has direct care for humanity! That is what your job at present is; there is probably no more important one for the sake of society. I detest it when people belittle the role. But it is not one that lasts forever, and all your talent and creativity can be explored in other ways when the very young ones are off your hands. Mothers or Fathers who travel a lot for work may be away from their children physically, but they don’t need to be absent emotionally. When I travelled abroad regularly, I always did two things. I explained to my children ‘why’ I was travelling, not just where I was going or when I would be back (which is also an important matter). I also made sure that every day I was away, I phoned home and spoke to each of my children, sometimes briefly, but they could always rely on my call. They now do this with their families and the effect is very positive. The children always know that Daddy is there for them and that he will be home soon. Children need to ‘feel’ the love of their parents at all times, no matter what is happening. Modern communication methods, like Skype and FaceTime, make this so much easier.


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