Good Parenting


Great article in the Business Insider May 6th 2016. To quote, summarise and comment:

“Good parents want their kids to stay out of trouble, do well in school, and go on to do awesome things as adults. And while there isn’t a set recipe for raising successful children, psychology research has pointed to a handful of factors that predict success. Unsurprisingly, much of it comes down to the parents. Here’s what parents of successful kids have in common:”

  1. They make their kids do chores
  2. They teach their kids social skills
  3. They have high expectations
  4. They have healthy relationships with each other
  5. They’ve attained higher education levels
  6. They teach their kids maths early on
  7. They develop a relationship with their kids
  8. They’re less stressed
  9. They value effort over avoiding failure
  10. The mother works
  11. They have a higher socioeconomic status
  12. Their parenting style is  authoritative rather than authoritarian or permissive
  13. They teach perseverance and grit

Against all the fashions and trends and veiled criticisms of what has gone before that fashions and trends imply, I feel vindicated!  Psychology research is catching up with common sense. Apart from the obvious, some points need comment.

Firstly, definitions: The article quoted researcher, Diana Baumride, who described the three parenting styles quoted in point 12 as Permissive, where “the parent tries to be nonpunitive and accepting of the child,” Authoritarian: where “the parent tries to shape and control the child based on a set standard of conduct,”  and Authoritative, where “the parent tries to direct the child rationally” and where “the kid grows up with a respect for authority, but doesn’t feel strangled by it”.

Secondly, good parents teach their kids maths early on. From Northwestern University one coresearcher, Greg Duncan, said: “Mastery of early math skills predicts not only future math achievement, it also predicts future reading achievement.” I wonder how many early learning skills they studied? Does early tuition in other subjects, for example, language learning, have a similar effect?

Thirdly, the mothers work. Interesting. As most mothers work these days, this may be a context factor rather than a cause. However the researchers interpreted their findings as a modelling issue. The lead researcher said: “Role modeling is a way of signaling what’s appropriate in terms of how you behave, what you do, the activities you engage in, and what you believe,” and “There are very few things, that we know of, that have such a clear effect on gender inequality as being raised by a working mother.”

Finally, the issue of higher socioeconomic status. Hekia Parata, New Zeaand’s current Minister of Education, needs to be listening to this. The researcher from Berkeley, Sean Reardon, stated that there are between 30 to 40% more students from higher socioeconomic contexts in the higher achievement levels. Hekia, instead of bashing teachers who work themselves to the bone, how about working at raising the socioeconomic status of those students at the tail?

The Salt of the Earth


We are newly returned home after a ten day road trip which included New Zealand’s South Island West Coast. It has been nearly thirty years since I was last there and quite a lot has changed.

The main reason for going was to visit family heritage sites. My Mum was born in this gold and coal mining area, called Brunnerton. Although the mines have closed and many of the original homes are gone, the small village of Taylorville, where my uncles went to school, and the larger town of Dobson, where the family lived and where my grandfather worked in the mine, still remain.

My mother’s family immigrated from Ireland in October 1926 and soon after, in December 1926, nine men were killed in a methane blast. I recall Nanna telling the story of standing terrified at the mouth of Dobson mine with the other wives watching the men being stretchered out, their skin and flesh dripping off them.  Granddad was lucky.  He was elsewhere and unscathed.

After travelling from Nelson and stopping by the Punakaiki Pancake Rock site, we settled into the quaint old Railway Hotel in Greymouth.  To begin with, we visited Shantytown, an award-winning heritage park.  It was just as I remembered it when I visited with thirty fourth formers on a school trip in the 1980s.  Then we drove to the site of the Brunner and Dobson mines, where Grandad had worked. I expected to find  the same wooden memorial plaque that I had encountered at the site of the mines thirty years ago. It had been planted in the long grass beside the swing bridge that my uncles had walked on their way from Dobson to Taylorville to school in the 1920s and 30s.  Instead, we found a well-kept interpretive Brunner Mine Memorial Walk and marble memorial that leads the visitor around the remains of the mine and associated brick works and fittingly honours the miners lost in half a dozen methane disasters, the most recent, the Pike, only five years ago. This insightful photographic installation straddles the Grey river and includes the swing bridge that still links Dobson and Taylorville.

After the walk, we explored the village of Taylorville by car. We found that the lovely old school block is now a bed and breakfast.  Then we drove up to the village of Blackball, the home of the Labour Party and the Blackball mine where we found another quaint memorial/art installation in two shipping containers with decking between. We drove back via the town of Dobson.  While Taylorville seems to be a quaint but average little holiday town beside the Brunner river, both Blackball and Dobson were sad and destitute. While Blackball had a few things going for it, a well-subscribed local pub and salami factory, Dobson, the larger of the two, didn’t even boast a corner dairy.  The volunteer at the Greymouth Heritage Centre, where we visited with questions the next day, told us that there is not even enough money around to support a corner store.  Purchases can be made at the petrol station.  With the closing of the mines, the people are destitute.  You could feel it.  We drove the twenty minutes back into Greymouth.

There we finished our touring day with a beer tasting and early dinner at the Monteith’s Brewery.  More of a contrast with Dobson and Blackball couldn’t be found.  A modern, cathedral-like, architect-designed  edifice that you would expect to find in a wealthy Californian wine country and where tourists are led in groups around the shining vats of the brewery and taste beautifully served craft beers and nibble on expensive whitebait fritters.

Many changes from thirty years ago, that’s for certain. Yet one thing hasn’t changed.  The people.  Everywhere we went the locals were laid back, super helpful and friendly.  The volunteer at the Heritage Centre in Greymouth was a prime example.  She bent over backwards to help us find information about my family roots. The West Coasters remain the salt of the earth.