Recently I have been pondering about how hard it is to be a parent (having a newborn, a tantruming toddler and losing your dad in the space of a few weeks will do that to you!). It’s a difficult message to get across to wannabe future parents as really you can’t get any proper idea of how hard it is until you actually experience it for yourself. Some schools have access to those RealCareBabies (which cry and need looking after (with different settings from placid baby to very challenging) and a computer chip records how well the student did) for their parenting lessons. But these are an extremely expensive resource and not available to every student. They also don’t give any of the lovely aspects of parenthood, the smiles, the coo’s, the chuckles, watching the change in development every single day. Also the research is limited as to their effectiveness in teenage pregnancy prevention (a “white paper” produced by the company was all I could find in the time I had and I wasn’t convinced by their evidence!) *
I think the most important thing to consider when choosing resources to use around parenting education is what you are aiming to get out of them, and whether they offer value for money. Talking to other colleagues about such products the consensus seems to be that they are useful for stimulating a lively and informative discussion, but very limited use in behaviour or attitudinal change**, and frankly I don’t think they are worth the money. I’m passionate about supporting teachers with tools that are easily accessible and easy to use so I have been pondering alternatives (cheap/free) to RealCare Babies (I tried “flour babies” once in a school- by that afternoon other kids (not in my class) had turned the “flour babies” into “flour bombs” so the Head called a stop to that little experiment! Ooops!). As a less messy alternative I decided to take a recording of my darling 7week old crying (unfortunately babies do cry sometimes even when fed, changed, winded etc- this was one of those times- I’m not some horrible meanie who records my daughter instead of tending to her needs! She was being cuddled and rocked while I recorded and settled soon after)
I was pondering about the whether and how this recording could be used in lessons to explore one of the realities of new parenthood. The sound of a crying baby can be absolutely torturous to hear especially on next to no sleep, as Sarah comments below “I never knew the anger and frustration a baby crying could ignite in a person” and I think this aspect is worthwhile exploring with anyone considering becoming a parent as part of a balanced planned program of parenting education ie. not one that focuses solely on the negatives of parenthood! I often think sex education can often be guilty of focusing too much on the negatives and not on the positives of sex, relationships, pregnancy and parenting with some kind of misguided “preventative approach” but I don’t think this is effective. The most important thing supporting students to be able to think critically about their future options and what may affect them and help them with developing skills to cope with what life throws at them. Using this recording and lesson ideas should be done with this in mind.
Some of the ideas I had about how this recording might be used:
a) Play it at random intervals during lessons on parenting. Whenever it plays the students have to stop what they are doing pat their shoulders and rock back and forth for while going sh sh sh sh sh for at least 5 minutes after the recording played (to give them an idea of how dull and hard it can be to settle an upset baby!) (for extra effect you could always throw curdled milk (vomit) (or even chicken korma sauce (nappies)) at them- but perhaps that is overkill- hehe!).
b) Play the recording and brainstorm all the reasons that could have caused the crying (hungry, tired, bored, teething, windy, ill, stressed, uncomfortable, dirty nappy, overstimulated etc etc) and what needs to be done (make sure you include sometimes babies just cry even when you have covered all the bases.) Discuss with the class how the recording makes them feel. How would it make them feel if the crying continued for hours or was every 20 minutes all night long? Discuss the kind of support they might need with dealing with a crying newborn. Get students to ask people they know who already have babies how they feel about their babies crying and report back to the class.
c) Play the recording on a loop in the background for a section of the lesson. Discuss with the students how it made them think and feel, were they able to concentrate? Did they feel resentful of the noise? If the noise continued what would they have done. Discuss with them how they felt about their focus becoming the needs of a crying baby rather their own needs in the lesson.
Do you have any better ideas about how to use such a recording? If you do use it in a lesson I would love to hear how it went- please comment below or email me!
If you do such a lesson I think it would be worthwhile exploring and discussing with the young people how they felt about the lesson. What did it make them think about being a parent? Do they think it was a sucessful lesson and why?
Disclaimer: This approach isn’t a tried and tested approach- I have never used the recording in a lesson but I would be interested to see how such a lesson went and what the young people thought of it as an approach.
*At some point- (when less sleep deprived!) I will do a proper blogpost about RealCare Babies and the Teens and Toddlers approach and in fact other strategies supposedly designed to reduce teenage/unplanned pregnancy and the issues around that.
** and there is another blogpost in that around behaviour/attitudinal change and sex and relationships education! (watch this space!)