Here’s my speech at the House of Commons about life after the riots
Posted by: Sue Atkins
Here’s my speech from last night’s Westminster Debate about Life after the UK riots.
Thank you so much for inviting me here this evening to discuss such an important subject.
You like me, were probably really shocked and horrified to watch the events unfold live on TV as it just seemed unbelievable that people from all walks of life were raiding shops, nicking trainers and TVs, and randomly kicking in shop windows.
I was particularly upset to see Reeves Corner, a family business that had been in Croydon for generations, burn down as I used to shop there with my Dad for beds and furniture, as we lived in Croydon for many years, and I just couldn’t believe that it was torched and it was so sad to see it burn down.
The riots were due in my opinion, to a number of complex factors and of course there is no one single, simple, solution but what disturbed me most was the discovery that despite more than 4,000 riot-related arrests, and harsher than average sentences in the courts, many of those interviewed said they did not regret their actions !
And while I think there is an argument that the riots were caused by a generation of children growing up with no hope and nothing to lose, and with an absence of “hopes and dreams”, why have these young people grown up with these disturbing values that it’s OK to steal and pilfer?
I remember nodding fiercely in agreement with the Acting Commissioner of PoliceTim Godwin when he spoke live on Sky News and asked: “Parents where are your children?” as I DO believe parents have a key role in bringing up honest, law abiding, respectful adults with strong values of right from wrong, and parents need to care enough to know where their kids are and with whom..
Four years ago I read the UNICEF report on why children in the UK were so unhappy, so un-cherished and so un -nurtured. I was so incensed by the Report the last time, that I stayed up until 2.30 am to record a video called “A Nation Of Bad Parents“ trying to be part of the solution to this very serious problem.
Four years later and I see nothing has changed…… another UNICEF Report – another sad indictment of life as a child in the UK – and yet parenting workshops, parenting talks, parenting classes are all still taboo, stigmatised and frowned upon as akin to therapy, counselling or implying you are broken or troubled if you want to be the best parent you can be.
We as a nation don’t do “self development” as we are far too sensitive to being taught how to bring up happy, confident, well behaved kids with strong values and big dreams a sense of individual responsibility.
The definition of madness is to keep doing the same thing over and over again; expecting a different result and this is like a four year cycle of failure here in theUK.
We go on courses on everything from marketing to management yet we receive literally no skills training for the most important job in the world – raising happy, confident well behaved, independent and socially responsible adults.
I would like to see the Government taking up the mantle of making parenting workshops less taboo, and as natural as going to Ante Natal Classes…… free from finger pointing and blame because it’s not JUST about poverty, or single parenting …… it’s about the MINDSET of making our children our priority, and making it OK to explore our parenting techniques …… because children really don’t come with a handbook but they do need us to guide, nurture and teach them !
Children spell love T-I-M-E and they don’t really need huge amounts of material things – they need our attention: our presence – not our presents and they need to feel that they are the most important people in our world.
They need us as parents to pass on our values to them, to talk with them, to play with them, and to read with them and have fun with them – building happy memories that last a lifetime, and to nurture their dreams and to help them take small steps every day, every week and every year towards fulfilling them. We need to hold high aspirations and expectations for our kids and teach them self discipline, right from wrong and social responsibility.
We need to de – mystify parenting, to simplify it, to make children’s emotional well -being CENTRAL to family life and to teach some parents the tools , the techniques and strategies to make life with children rewarding, joyful, fun and enriching – free from finger pointing, judgment and criticism.
I was pondering being a role model to my own children during the riots, who have both recently turned 19 and 17 which lead me to write a blog that is on my website called:
Heroes, Role Models and David Beckham – being a super hero to your kids.
Some people idolise footballers, athletes, film stars or business dragons and I actually think that it really matters who you choose to be your hero because it says a lot about you.
After all your heroes and heroines are the figures and people we wish to become or wish to emulate.
These are the people we secretly admire in our quiet moments of pondering and daydreaming.
They represent our potential and our unlimited possibilities.
Heroes provide us with a moral compass, a destination that we would like to reach or a core value that speaks to us.
We are our children’s role models, whether we like it or not, and we pass on our values to our kids who look up to us as role models.
Perhaps it’s time to step back and reflect on whether we are doing a good job and if we decide that we’re not, to ponder…. what are we as a society going to do about it?