John Marsden uses his writer's understanding and his wide experience as both an educator and a paedagogical thinker to reflect on parenting snd the passage through what we call schooling to illuminate how we might better do both. There is wisdom both serious and with wit on virtually every page. Bravo, John. You elevate the profession and the young people we know are our future - and the future of our world.
I first became aware of John Marsden as an author when my son started reading his novels over (cough) 25 years ago. I was also aware that John Marsden has since established two independent schools in Victoria. So, when I read that he’d written a book about effective parenting, I wanted to read it. Since reading it, I’ve been surprised by the number of negative comments about what John Marsden has had to say.
Parenting is a difficult gig: most of us want to ‘get it right’ (whatever that means) and almost everyone is an expert (theoretically). But what are we trying to achieve? Is our aim to prepare our children for effective adulthood, or to cocoon them from mishap? How do they learn to develop and exercise judgement? How do parents work with teachers and other adults who spend time with their children to prepare them for responsible adulthood? Some parents seem to do this instinctively better than others while many of us struggle.
But I agree with John Marsden:
‘It can be difficult for us to confront an obvious truth: that one consequence of toxic parenting is uncountable numbers of people in our world who suffer from mental health problems.’
And so many of those who are toxically parented become toxic parents themselves.
In his book, John Marsden lists different types of parenting mistakes, and he provides case studies from his schools. He believes that things have become worse for children in recent years, and he believes that much of this is a consequence of parents who don’t know how to parent effectively. Could he be right? Should ineffective parenting be considered as emotional abuse? Can overprotective parenting be as damaging as physical abuse?
I kept reading, interested in what John Marsden had to say and in why. There are no easy answers here, but surely the views of an author (most of whose work is aimed at teenagers) and an educator are worth reading? As a parent, it’s hard to get it right. As a parent, all criticism hurts no matter how well intentioned. But the parenting role needs to be flexible, to support our children through the transitions from babyhood with limited independence to adulthood with (in most cases) total independence. As parents we move from caregiver to role model. And I think that we all aspire to be a positive role model.
I think this book invites discussion about the most effective ways to parent our children, and surely that is a good thing? I think that this book is worth reading, thinking about and discussing. I’d recommend it highly to anyone interested in children and their parenting.
‘Children will stop bullying other children when adults stop bullying each other. Don’t hold your breath.’