Why are children self-harming THEMSELVES?

self-harm illustration

Cyber-bullying is bad enough, but children are increasingly posting harmful comments about themselves. Tanith Carey reports.

In a nondescript bedroom, a sombre-looking girl holds up a message that seems to have been hastily scribbled on the back of a homework assignment. The words “Roast Me” next to her photograph are an invitation for users of the social network site Reddit to annihilate the girl’s appearance, from her glasses to her hair style.
Minutes after the selfie, titled: “I’m 15″ is posted, there is a feeding frenzy of comments beneath it, vicious to the point of being unprintable.
“Are your glasses a substitute for your lack of personality?” asks one commenter. Another writes, “When your parents found out that you were cutting yourself, I bet they went out and bought sharper razors”.
The only rule in this online bear pit, where users compete to make the cruellest remark, is that those posting must be over 13 and they must hold up the sign, to show the picture was not uploaded by anyone else.
And while most posts are by older people, you don’t need to scroll far to find pictures of vulnerable teens (some are even taken at school) lining up to be ripped apart, even though they look far too frail to withstand it.
This month, a report launched for Safer Internet Day revealed that a quarter of 13 to 18-year-olds had been abused online. One in 25 said they were singled out for insults “all or most of the time”.
As parents, we are growing sadly used to frightening headlines about cyberbullies and trolls invading our children’s bedrooms via their smartphones. But absurd as it may sound, it’s now becoming clear that there is another source: some of our children are bullying themselves, either by adopting fake online identities or inviting strangers to do it for them. It’s a phenomenon known as cyber self-harm.
In one study of 600 students, US researchers found that almost one in 10 had posted toxic remarks about themselves online.
Such behaviour first came to light in the UK three years ago, when 14-yearold Hannah Smith, from Lutterworth, Leicestershire, killed herself in her bedroom after messages such as “go die”, “get cancer” and “drink bleach” were posted to her profile on anonymous question-and-answer site Ask FM. At the inquest into her death, the coroner concluded that, on the balance of probabilities, the vile messages “would all have been at Hannah’s own hand”.
But why would any young person say such vile things about themselves so publicly – using words, rather than razors, to inflict harm themselves? Self-trolling can pre-empt criticism from others and help express the selfloathing teens feel for not measuring up to the high standards of physical perfection they set for themselves.
“Bringing this pain out into the open can make it feel more real and important,” says Rachel Welch, a counsellor from Freedom From Harm.
Furthermore, in an online world where self-worth can depend on the number of likes you get for a picture, posting remarks from mean “strangers” can attract compliments from otherwise indifferent peers. Welch says: “Anyone can set up a new profile to send themselves horrible messages. It gives the young person a label that finally gets them the support they haven’t been able to ask for.”
This self-harm is even harder to spot than the physical hurt that young people inflict on themselves. Last week, it was revealed that the number of self-harmers under 18 admitted to A&E and diagnosed with a mental disorder has grown from 7,000 in 2010/11 to almost 15,000 in 2014/15 – the number who had self-poisoned went up by a third in the same period.
Andy Phippen, professor of Social Responsibility at Plymouth University, says self-harm does not have to be physical to be damaging: “This is so hidden, and it’s hard to get young people to talk about it, so it falls between the gaps. One child might be doing it to seek attention, another may be suicidal. Either way, it’s a manifestation of factors such as low self-esteem and depression.”
For social media psychologist Dr Arthur Cassidy, who studies young people’s online behaviour, cyber selfharm is symptomatic of the isolating effects of social comparison: “Judgments are no longer based on how generally attractive you are, but on the finest details of your appearance, such as whether your legs are the right length or shape.”
While most social media sites go to great lengths to remove offensive content, they rely on being made aware of it in the first place. This is less likely to happen when such content has been posted by the target.
Ellie Thomas, now 19, admits that when she was 15, she went on Ask FM to pose questions and invite answers. Having posted queries such as: “What is the best thing about me?”, she would then log back on under the alter ego “Staceeey” and remark: “Nothing. You are no one.”
Ellie has still not told her mother that she posted the comments – only confiding in counsellors at the help website, www.self-harm.co.uk.
“I knew it was me writing that stuff, but on screen it wasn’t me,” she says. “My own posts would say I was ugly, I was useless, I wasn’t loved… all the stuff going round in my head. My friends were trying to stick up for me against these mysterious trolls, so to keep up I had to post insulting messages about them, too.
“It was killing me to see them get so angry on my behalf, and I knew I had to stop. But it was never about hurting people. It was about hurting myself.”
After five teen suicides were linked to Ask FM, the site has since tightened its controls. But the self-abuse has migrated elsewhere. On Tumblr, a scrap-book style website for pictures, videos and comments, dozens of blogs are given over to outpourings of selfloathing by people, which are then shared by like-minded youngsters.
Another form of this masochistic trend is the “rate my looks” posts on Facebook and YouTube, in which others are invited to comment – usually snowballing into a series of sexual or appearance-based insults.
Back on Reddit, there are plenty more young people ready to be “roasted”. A small boy with shaggy hair, asks “Help me cry myself to sleep”. Another, of about 14, appeals for users to “destroy what little selfesteem I have left”. A startled, pudgyfaced girl of no more than 13 is being told she is a “fat-faced whore”.
Even if these situations are created by the young people themselves, the anguish they express is real. More than anything, cyber self-harm is a stark reminder that no one judges our children more harshly than they do themselves.
Some names have been changed. If you have experienced any of the issues raised here, call Childline on 0800 1111 Tanith Carey is author of Girls Uninterrupted: Steps for Building Stronger Girls in a Challenging World
‘One child might be doing it to seek attention; another may be suicidal’

Hot or not videos – Why are children rating each other on their looks?

Tanith Carey Heathcliff O Malley headshot Sept 2015

At first glance, it appears to be any ordinary play-date for two young girls at primary school.

In a pink-walled bedroom, decorated with posters of Justin Bieber, best friends Zoe and Eleanor settle themselves on to the bed and press play on the webcam of their computer.

But they’re not about to video-chat with friends or a relative abroad. What they’re doing is far more pernicious – and will be horrifying to parents everywhere

‘This is mine and Eleanor’s hot-or-not video,’ announces Zoe, waving a list of her classmates’ names at the camera. Then she settles down – seemingly without any comprehension of the genie she is unleashing from its bottle – to publicly deem each one of them as either ‘hot’ or ‘not’.

‘If we say you are not pretty or good looking, don’t get offended,’ pipes up Eleanor, issuing the standard disclaimer for videos of this kind. ‘It’s just our opinion!’

The roll-call then begins. ‘Anna Wright’ is the first of the 30 names on the list to be read out as if from a class register. ‘Hot!’ the girls immediately exclaim in unison.

Next is Charlotte Davies. ‘Hot!’ is the decree.

The name of a third classmate, however, is met with a pause just long enough for the girls to exchange knowing smirks.

‘Not hot. Sorry!’ they chime in high voices which belie the cruelty of what they’re saying.

 If you are judged to be “not”, you don’t say anything as you don’t want the others to think you are upset. But it’s humiliating because it’s so public. Some people will try to change the way they look because of it. There are loads of these videos. There are so many of them on people’s Facebook pages as well as YouTube – and there’s nothing adults can do.’

These girls, and the objects of their judgment, are no more than ten or 11. And they’re far from alone. These kinds of scenes are being played out in children’s bedrooms across the country.

Seven more classmates, both boys and girls, get the thumbs-down. As soon as the last judgment is handed down, the girls sign off with a satisfied: ‘Thanks for watching!’

They then upload the video to YouTube for everyone to see. In just a few days, the clip gets 120 views, suggesting no one in their class – or perhaps their school – has missed it.

But what people will miss is the sight of the stricken faces of the children so cruelly dismissed, the tears shed into pillows, and the bravery needed to go to school the next day.

Of course, cruelty among children has existed since the words ‘No, you can’t play with us’ were first uttered. But this is a new, more public humiliation. Scroll through YouTube and you’ll find ‘hot-or-not’ videos by girls who look no older than nine. Thousands more can be found on Facebook pages.

And coming at such a critical time in their lives, when youngsters are looking to their peers to help them work out who they are, those effects can be life-long.

The fact ‘hot-or-not’ videos are so public increases a young person’s feelings of shame and powerlessness about how they look. My worry is that youngsters internalise these labels and start bullying themselves, telling themselves they are ugly and they can do nothing about it.

Feeling unattractive and worthless can have a devastating impact on their chances of success: study after study has found that the grades of such children go down.

And if they feel they do not belong, they often start to avoid school.

Meanwhile, those who feel ugly or not good enough rarely join in class discussions, for fear of drawing attention to their appearance.

Indeed, more than six out of ten children who have been bullied said it had a detrimental effect on their education, according to a survey by charity Ditch The Label.

Living up to these ideals of beauty is one of many pressures bearing down on 15-year-old Alannya Blackmore as she prepares to take her GSCEs this summer.

Alannya, who lives near Yeovil, Somerset, has been on the receiving end of some of the judgments passed down in the 50 or so videos made by fellow pupils at her school, an oversubscribed academy rated ‘good with outstanding features’ by Ofsted.

Although she has been mainly rated ‘hot’, she has also been dismissed as ‘not’ in some clips.

When she describes her experiences, it offers a glimpse into a brutal world in which youngsters’ popularity is dictated by looks and the ‘in’ girls seek to maintain their classroom pecking order by passing down decrees on others.

As girls grow up, the prettiest rise to the top of the popularity poll, and it is this group, says Alannya, who are more likely to feel entitled to declare from up high who also makes the grade.

 She says: ‘If you are judged to be “not”, you don’t say anything as you don’t want the others to think you are upset. But it’s humiliating because it’s so public. Some people will try to change the way they look because of it. There are loads of these videos. There are so many of them on people’s Facebook pages as well as YouTube – and there’s nothing adults can do.’

‘Hot or not’ started off as an American phenomenon, where young women would put a picture of themselves online and be rated by other users. In the UK, it morphed into the version we have today.

Some youngsters justify these videos by saying classmates can put themselves forward to be rated by ‘liking’ a status announcement saying someone at their school is planning to film one. Sadly, it’s often the most insecure youngsters, aching to be accepted by the pretty girls who make these videos, who volunteer. They’re seeking validation they won’t get.

So why is such ruthlessness starting ever younger? One reason is puberty is kicking in earlier, with as many as one in seven girls showing signs of breast development (with the associated surges in hormones) aged just eight.

Girls can also be allowed by their parents to grow up too soon, so they act like teenagers without the maturity to understand the consequences of their actions.

In a world where girls grow up feeling like they are in a constant beauty contest – half of three to six-year-olds say they worry about being fat, and a fifth of those under 11 have already been on a diet – these ‘hot-or-not’ videos should hardly surprise us.

Throw into the mix that they see adults being just as judgmental on some of our most popular TV shows – The X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent, The Apprentice – and it’s easy to see where they get the idea that being jugdemental wins friends.

In a clip in another bedroom, Sophie, yet another girl in her early teens, signs off her YouTube video – which was viewed 13,000 times – saying: ‘If it offends anyone, I am not sorry. I don’t care because I am just telling the truth.’

But the comments posted by viewers make clear that some of her peers see life very differently.

‘Everyone is beautiful in their own way. What is the point of doing these videos?’ asks one.

But there is one perhaps that sums it up the best:

‘I can only hope that one day, you’ll understand what a terrible thing this is to do,’

Steps for building stronger girls in a challenging world – why I wrote this book.

When I chat to my two daughters, 13-year-old Lily and 10-year-old Clio, we cover all the usual topics: how their school day went, what’s for dinner, why can’t we get Honey, our dog, to behave.

But throughout the course of our conversations, lots of other, slightly trickier subjects also crop up: like why is Miley Cyrus naked in her latest video, but for a pair of Dr Martens? ‘I mean, I get why she’s sitting on a wrecking ball,’ Clio has said, ‘because that’s what she’s singing about. But why she doesn’t she have any clothes on?’

From time to time, Lily has also wondered why every year at her primary school fair there is a ‘beauty’ tent for girls to get their nails manicured, when boys never have to bother about how they look.

So was I pleased when, the other day, Clio asked me why Rapunzel just didn’t cut off her own hair and make it into a rope to get down from the tower, instead of waiting for a prince? Am I delighted that Lily’s favourite game as we wait in tube stations is ‘spot the model whose been airbrushed’? Frankly, yes.

Does it make me a humourless, ball-breaking man-hater? Am I brainwashing my poor little girls with politically correct feminist theory? Some people might think that. But I believe I am simply encouraging my girls to open their eyes to a world which might otherwise give them deeply unhelpful messages about who they are, and how they should feel about themselves.

My daughters are not weak and defenceless – and neither are yours. But in a world where many pubescent girls say they are more worried about getting fat than their parents dying or the outbreak of nuclear war, my view is that our daughters need help to work out why so many of their gender think this way – so they don’t end up thinking like that too.

They need to know that, in the words of the late Anita Roddick, there are over 3 billion women who don’t look supermodels and eight who do.

Girls Uninterrupted cover by Tanith Carey

Because if our daughters are allowed to believe what they see all around them, they will be fooled into believing they have failed before they’ve even begun.

Why our kids feel trapped in a contest over everything – and how it changes their childhood

The moment we set eyes on our kids when they get out of school, it’s understandable that the first thing we blurt out is: “How was your day?”

Really that’s become code for what we actually mean, which is, “How well did you do on your Math test?” “Did you score a goal in sport?”‘ and “Have you done better than the rest of your classmates?”

After all, parents today are conditioned to believe that ALL competition is healthy — and that by checking our kids are doing their best at everything — at every moment — we are safeguarding their futures.

What else is a responsible parent to do?

Constantly we are told that economic uncertainty means our children must work harder, and from an earlier age, to get the excellent exam results, which will lead to top universities which will land them the secure jobs.
That has meant that somewhere along the way that when we tell our kids to “do your best,” we really mean: “Be the best.”

No wonder the most popular trend in kids’ movies and books are about other youngsters competing against each other in fights to the death, as in The Hunger Games, Divergent and The Maze Runner.

This type of fiction speaks to them because it sums up how their lives feel to them — like a cut-throat contest orchestrated by adults. We don’t have to be living in a futuristic dictatorship for our kids to identify with Katniss and Peeta.

As the author of the new book, Taming the Tiger Parent, what I know is that we are not creating a generation of warriors, fit for the battle ahead.

Far from it. We are creating a generation of kids who are folding under the pressure. After all, by definition, most people who take part in competitions lose. As the testing starts earlier, this also makes for divided classrooms. Children who don’t do well right away tend to write themselves off early on.

The winners don’t find it any easier. As soon as the moment of victory passes, they become nervous about how they are going to stay on top. They find they have to continually compete to maintain their feelings of self-worth.

This pressure also damages our own relationships with the kids we love so much.

Children who worry about disappointing you, but who can not articulate that fear, distance themselves to spare themselves that pain.

Research also shows that tests don’t necessarily make kids’ minds any sharper.
This diversion of their brain power into worrying about whether other classmates are performing better means that it takes them longer to find the answer.

In short, competition increases stress in young children and sends the brain into fight-or-flight mode which short-circuits the ability of the intellectual brain to work.

Youngsters who are constantly tested before they are ready start to code subjects, like Math, as “dangerous.” Anxiety quite simply stops their brain from operating properly.

Instead of allowing kids to develop a secure base from which to develop safely, our panicking education systems are pulling the rug from under children’s feet before they’ve had a chance to plant both feet firmly on the ground.

Beyond that, raising children on the principle that it’s every man for himself out there makes the world feel like a very lonely place.

But is there any alternative? After all, isn’t competition an instinct?

Even though Charles Darwin never actually coined the phrase, we constantly talk of “survival of the fittest” as if it were the driving force behind society.

Anthropologists studying animal behaviour aren’t so sure because there are also plenty of examples of cooperation to be found in the animal kingdom.

While chimpanzees compete with each other and fight aggressively for limited food and mates, their close cousins, the bonobos, which live in more bountiful climes, care for each other’s children and work together to find food.

But as I argue in my book Taming the Tiger Parent: How to Put Your Child’s Well-Being First in a Competitive World, civilization itself is testament to the fact that we cooperate as a species much more than we compete.

Yet without questioning its worth, we have allowed ourselves to get swept up in the idea that all competition is “healthy” and have unquestioningly passed those pressures down to our children.

Yes, we must set standards for our children, but they should be for effort, not just attainment.

More than ever, we need to raise children on better principles than the need to beat everyone in their class, or for their school to beat every other in the district or their nation to defeat every other country on Earth.

In short, we have to be careful what we wish for. Mental equilibrium, not exam certificates, should be the measure of our success as parents.

Without it our children will achieve nothing.

So next time you see your child after school, don’t ask them what mark they got, how many goals they scored, or who they beat.

Ask them what whether they enjoyed their match, who they helped at school or what they learned today. In that moment, you will not only be making your child’s world a friendlier, less hostile place to be. You will sending them the message that it’s what they think and do that matters, not just who they vanquished.DSC_0711

The day I saw a parent do a HAKA dance at a netball match – and why pushy sports parents need the red card

As the seconds counted down in the final moments of my daughter’s netball match, I can’t deny I was doing everything I could to keep my cheer-leading under control.

In the centre of the court was my little girl Clio, 8, earnestly trying to get control of the ball to stop the visiting team scoring the winning goal.

Tension was already etched on her small face – and something told me that yelling: “Come on!” or “Get the ball off her!” was not only stating the blindingly obvious. It was also going to make Clio’s nerves worse.

But it seemed that a mother on the other side of the netball court DID think screaming and jumping up and down from the side-lines was helping.

When, just before the final whistle blew, a girl in her child’s team scored to make it 8-9 victory, what I witnessed was the most outrageous display of bad sportsmanship I’ve ever seen in my life.

The other mother got up and performed a full-on TP - netball blog pic

Haka, a dance that rugby players perform to intimidate their opponents, to the open-mouthed astonishment of my daughter and her heart-broken team-mates.

In my new book Taming the Tiger Parent, I analyse how and why competition at the school gates has been driven underground to become parenting’s dirtiest secret.

After all, the contempt heaped on Amy Chua, author of Battle Hymn of  Tiger Mother, convinced most of use it was better to hide what are doing to make sure our kids get ahead.

Yet there is still one place where pushy parenting is still openly on display  – and that’s the sports pitch.

Last week a Welsh youth rugby club, Beddau RFC, posted a notice on its field which summed it up: “These are kids. This is a game. The coaches are volunteers. The referees are human. This is not the Six Nations.”

So how has sport become the last bastion of pushy parenting?

The main reason is that because the whole point of a match is to win, this is the final place that parents still feel justified in letting their true  instincts shine through –  not only by yelling so called ‘encouragement’, but also by hurling abuse at their own children to try and get them to do better.

While parents are behaving worse than ever, schools and coaches know full-well how how bad this is for the kids themselves.

At my older daughter’s primary sport days, parents  had to be reminded over the tannoy to cheer for their child’s house, not just for their little darlings. At other schools I know of, mums and dads are banned altogether because they can’t be trusted to behave.

Even scare tactics are not off-limits for the most determined.

During my research for my book, I came across one ten-year-old tennis player who was so intimidated by the parents of her opponent continually questioning whether her shots were during a key match, she deliberately lost the game to get it over with.

Sport is also the arena where  Eagle Dads, rather than Tiger Mums, come into their own.

Fathers often tend to want their sons to excel in their sports they love or played at school, whether their boys are good at them or not.

Dads in particular cling to the belief that pushing kids hard in sports makes them tough and is somehow ‘character building.’

The higher up the ladder a child goes – and the more visions of glory and sponsorship dance before their eyes –  the more dads can lose their perspective.

More and more, many  of them feel justified in their endless criticisms of their children’s performance on the pitch because they believe they are following in the highly-publicised footsteps of Richard Williams, the parental powerhouse behind Wimbledon winning Venus and Serena, or Ted Beckham, father of soccer superstar David.

Among those have pointed how damaging this is to our youngsters is none other than former England Captain, Gary Lineker, who has four sons of his own.

When he was a young player rising up through the ranks, Gary has noted that his own dad never intervened or shouted at him to play better or differently.

Times have changed since then, says Gary, who points out that these days dads get their practice moving pixelated versions of premiership footballers around video games screens, allowing themselves to believe they can do the same with their sons.

Gary says:  ‘I have stood on the side-lines of countless games, spanning many years. Oh, the drivel I have heard, the abuse I have witnessed, the damage I have seen done.

‘Promising young players are barked at by clueless dad (with comments) like: “Don t mess with it there” and “Just kick it!”. I have seen a father pick his son up by the scruff of the neck and yell in his face: “You’ll never make it playing that cr**p.”

“Who cares who wins an under-eights game? Who cares if a youngster makes a mistake? It’s how we learn.

“If we could just get parents to shut up and let their children enjoy themselves, you would be staggered at the difference it would make.”

Never mind that if your child does make it, even talented youngsters are continually weeded out of sports training programs.

At best, the likelihood of them reaching the top echelons, like a 300,000 pounds-a-week Wayne Rooney, are miniscule. And of course the higher the expectations on your child, the greater the humiliation.

But even beyond this, there is something even more serious at stake here – the health, fitness and well-being of our children far in the future.

Coaches say that when the pushing from parents becomes intolerable, children feign or exaggerate injuries to take the heat off themselves.

Even more worrying, considering that our nation is in the grip of a creeping obesity epidemic, is that many kids react by simply giving up the sport altogether – with lifelong consequences.

By the age of fifteen, a range of studies have found that a staggering eighty to ninety per cent of young people have dropped out of organised sport, saying they feel under so much pressure to win from adults that it’s no longer fun.

Researcher Dr Clifton Evers, who studied the effects on children, found that kids are appalled and frightened when their parents behave aggressively.

In his study for the University of New South Wales, he found that the ninety children aged ten to sixteen who he interviewed about how they felt about their family’s involvement in sport ‘overwhelmingly resent parents who scream at them. Some kids spoke about “hating” their dads for being overbearing. That’s very strong language to use.’
Other US research has found that sporting events make certain parents behave the same as they do in road rage incidents.

Here in the UK too, research from the MCC Marylebone Cricket Club also found that 64 per cent of children would be ”relieved or not bothered” if the competitive element of school sport was dropped.

Nearly nine out of ten kids said they felt that winning was more important to their parents than them.

So next you’re tempted to open your mouth at a school match and tell your child to ‘try harder’ or ‘get the ball’, ask yourself another question.

Is it worth it if it ends up putting your child off sport and exercise for life? Because if  we are only concerned about our kids winning today, the fact is that we will be scoring a spectacular own goal tomorrow.

Workbooks: Turning parental panic into profit

The commodification of parental panic.
The commodification of parental panic.

Who remembers doing work books at home when they were children?
Not me. My childhood was one of benign neglect in which I was left to my own devices in the back garden for most of the summer holidays.
Look how far we’ve come. This is a just a small section of the vast selection of workbooks on sale today at my local WH Smiths.
This dizzying array is graphic evidence that parents no longer feel secure enough to leave education to schools.
Once carefree, school holidays have now become catch-up sessions where children are made to work through volumes of exercises and tests to ‘get ahead.’
Even when children manage to get through their homework during the week, they are presented with still more work in the form of these books which enable parents to play ‘teacher’.
The problem is that when everyone else’s children are doing workbooks as well behind closed doors, there’s no advantage to be gained.
So what happens? Suspecting that everyone else is doing the same, modern parents work their children STILL harder to make sure they are the ones pressing home the advantage.
But while there is no advantage to be gained, there is a huge cost to our children’s childhoods. Our homes become bootcamps.
With the UK languishing on the PISA league tables, some may say that what this country needs is not LESS pushy parenting – but MORE.
But there is also an uncomfortable truth lurking here.
The children of the most over-invested, over-ambitious generation of parents in history – the ones who buy these workbooks – are being educated alongside those from some of the most under-invested and economically deprived families – and treated by governments as if there is a one-size-fits-all solution.
At the same time as our newspapers obsess about the latest antics of the most extreme tiger parents, there are also shock-horror headlines about children turning up at nurseries barely able to speak, huge swathes of six-year-olds unable to read basic words, and school-leavers still not meeting the standards of Maths and English required by employers.
The underlying reasons for this low achievement are often that these children are products of extreme poverty, teenage pregnancies, households in which English is not yet spoken or chaotic family backgrounds. In these homes, it is not improving comprehension skills that is the priority for parents. It’s putting food on the table.
But the measures introduced to catch the so-called ‘tail’ – like nappy curriculums, early nursery school starts and SATS throughout primary – also end up over-heating children who have been over-cooked from the start.
At one end of the scale, high-stakes testing is turbo-charging an elite class of alpha children who have been on the hamster wheel from the moment of birth.
At the other, it is alienating a generation of children who have been branded as failures early on because they never got the same level of parental investment.
Because children see the world in black and white terms, it feels like a case of all-or-nothing. They don’t have the experience to know there is a middle ground, so they give up.
The result is a two-tier education system with a huge achievement gap through which more children are falling all the time.

Taming the Tiger Parent

Taming the Tiger Parent

Next weeks sees the publication of my latest parenting book: ‘Taming the Tiger Parent: How to put your child’s well-being first in a competitive world.’

Those who have read the review copies so far have told me they were surprised to find the book so shocking.

Educationalist Sue Palmer, author of Toxic Childhood, who I respect hugely, has even questioned if parents can handle the truth.

After all it’s a hugely painful moment to realise that what you thought you were doing in the best interests of your child is actually harming them.

For parents, who have been led to believe there is no choice but to push, push push, it’s daunting even to consider stepping off the bandwagon when every one is driving it at full-throttle.

But the book contains one unassailable truth: Unhappy children can’t learn.

Pressuring our children is leading to an unprecedented rise in anxiety, learning blocks, like Maths Anxiety, as well as a disconnection from our children which is striking at the heart of our relationships with them.

‘Taming the Tiger Parent’ may be just one book, but there is already a movement afoot.

Whether it’s slow parenting, minimalist parenting, free-range parenting – or the more bluntly named calm the f*** down parenting, there is a growing recognition that we all need to resist the impulse to micro-manage.

The change starts with you, letting go bit by bit. We need to set our ideas of what our children are ‘supposed to be’ – and let them be what they are.

Most of all, we need to appreciate how wonderful our children are in their own way – even if it’s not in the way we once wanted them to be.