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Parents also need to learn

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The family is clearly the most important institution in our society, and early next month we will be celebrating and honouring all fathers in Thailand. While expressing our gratitude to our fathers early next month, let us remind ourselves that there are many children in Thailand who are under the care of others who are not their parents. 

According to a comprehensive household survey on the well-being of children carried out by the National Institute of Statistics with support from Unicef in 2006, more than one-third of Thai children live without both their parents, usually due to marital problems or the death of one parent. Children from poor families are most likely to be living without one or both parents (44 percent).

The situation is especially bad in the northeast, where a large number of parents migrate to other provinces for work. In the northeast, 44 percent of all children below the age of five are living without one or both parents, compared with 39 percent in the north, 34 percent in the central region and 22 percent in the south.

It is fair to state that parents often do not have sufficient skills, knowledge or resources to raise their children to their full potential. Parenting education is a crucial issue for society in the wake of the dramatic social, economical and political changes. Parenting education programmes have to be tailored to the varying needs of children, their parents and other carers.

Good parenting programmes not only provide families with critical information on care practices, but also help families gain skills and confidence in their ability to give their children the best start in life.

Key guides

At the National Conference on Early Childhood Development in early November, 12 key "guides" on proper parenting techniques were presented. To help us better understand and remember them, I have grouped them into four categories: two essential points, four things to remember, four "to do" actions, and two "not to do" items. The two essential points to follow are: Parents must give unconditional love to their children; and it is fundamental to realise that morals, ethics and rights have to start with self-discipline.

Four things to do

The four characteristics to remember to be an effective parent are:

1) A child's learning starts at the time of conception and is a continual and incremental process; 2) All learning requires child participation, and children must be allowed to express their opinions; 3) Children learn best from human interaction; and therefore, learning should involve playing games, listening to stories, reading books, looking at pictures, telling stories, and joining art, music and other activities; and finally, 4) For children's social and emotional skills to grow, they must feel safe and secure with their parents.

Things to embrace

Parents need to pay attention to their children's listening, questioning and observing activities. Parents must encourage their children to learn, touch and show interest in themselves and their environment, including living and non-living objects. Parents need to understand that each child is unique and parents need to promote the best interests of their children, no matter what.

Avoid these

Parents have to avoid pressuring or accelerating their children to do certain activities because this compulsion has a tremendous negative impact on their children's attitude towards learning. Also, corporal punishment, forcing and controlling are the opposites of learning. Besides interrupting or obstructing their children's ability to learn and develop, these actions result in an unstable environment as well as lead to their children living in fear and feeling insecure.

!While we are celebrating and expressing our gratefulness to our fathers, we need to also remind ourselves that there are many children who benefit from the care of their parents. To ensure effective parenting education, it is extremely important to take into account family conditions as well as cultural aspects.

Dr Rangsun Wiboonuppatum is an education officer at Unicef, Thailand. He earned his PhD in international/intercultural development education at Florida State University and has been engaged in the education profession in Thailand since late 1980.

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