I was delighted to have been interviewed recently about childcare.
Here is the interview.
Sue Atkins describes herself as ‘a writer, a speaker, a broadcaster, and a mum’, and will perhaps be best known to many as a TV presenter who regularly contributes on parenting and childcare issues. Making herself available to First Discoverers on the telephone, Sue chatted enthusiastically about her work with parents, childminders as unsung heroes, pushy politicians praising pencil-toting preschoolers, and much more besides.
First Discoverers: Hi Sue, welcome to First Discoverers’ series of interviews with professionals, and thanks for giving us an opportunity to talk. Perhaps we could start by asking you to outline your current career focus.
Sue Atkins: I coach lots of parents. Of course that’s my main passion – working with parents. And my work has seemed to take a turn towards parents going through divorce, and it tends to be with women going through divorce … perhaps it’s because I can identify with all the roller coaster of emotions as I have been through this process myself.
FD: So could you tell us how you came to be in your present role?
SA: Ever since I was a little girl of five, I wanted to be either a teacher or a journalist. [As a teacher] I had become a Deputy Head teacher as well as Head of PSHE for personal, social health and education in the school. I’m very passionate about children and self esteem, and always have been. I really loved doing that sort of work with the kids. Then I went on a course called ‘Change your life in 7 days’ with Paul McKenna and Dr. Richard Bandler – and it did change my life in 7 days. I just came out of there and said, right, I’m going to use my skill set to teach the parents how to give their kids self-esteem. And so everything I write, speak about or do is actually about building self-esteem in a child so they can go on to achieve their true potential.
FD: How does teaching parents actually work?
SA: There is this kind of taboo in Britain that you don’t ask for help when you raise a child. If you do, it must mean that you’re rubbish at it, or broken, or a bad parent. Well I don’t get that, because we ask for help in every other areas of our lives from marketing to management, but we don’t ask for ideas or strategies for doing one of the most important jobs in the world – parenting ? We don’t feel bad asking for help if our computer breaks down, so why feel bad asking for help raising a child?
FD: So just what help can you give?
SA: We [all] bring home the most precious thing in the world to us, and have no idea what to do with it! And if you’ve had a great childhood, and you’ve got great parents, you tend to copy that … play with them, talk to them, listen to them. But if you haven’t had a great start, you tend to repeat the pattern. I’m working with some families where they don’t think to turn off the television – it’s on four or five hours a day; or think to come off their phone when they’re talking to their toddler; or know that it’s lovely (and important ) to eat with their children regularly, and to talk with them over a meal. Simple things some parents don’t know because they haven’t grown up like that.
A CORNERSTONE OF CHILDCARE PRACTICE
FD: Are there some things you think we should celebrate about modern childcare?
SA: Yes, I think we should celebrate the professionalism of our childminders. I think child minders do an extremely good job: they go on courses, learn all about food and nutrition, a lot of it is done in their own time, and they’re not incredibly well-paid. They provide families with the knowledge that their child is being really taken care of. Like a surrogate mother, they care enough when they’re picking up the children to talk to them, listen to them, play with them, maybe even do some homework (depending on their age). Families know they can relax when [the job] is being done that well …
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