Tony Gurr

Are you a GOOD parent?

In Learning & Parenting on 22/02/2011 at 7:53 pm

OK, maybe that’s a bit of an unfair question. What I really mean to ask is how good are you as a “LEARNing parent” or how much do you help your own kids (not your students) LEARN?


There’s a Turkish saying that goes “terzi kendi söküğünü dikemez”Roughly translated it means “tailors are not very good at repairing their own stuff“!

As a young teacher (who was also a young “dad”), I always doubted my own ability to do the “parenting stuff” really well. I remember I used to say that I do the “work stuff” really well – just not so good at the whole “life thing”. I’d see these “great dads” in the parks or leaving work early to spend time with their kids – they always seemed to do more with their kids than I could ever manage…

I would always work too much – extra classes, developing new materials (without a “sexy iPad”), drafting end-of-term exams, running student clubs, going to meetings (more often than not about “administration” – not student LEARNing) and grading (with a “correction code”, of course)!

I did a silly amount of professional development – this conference, that diploma, this course, that book! I was, by all accounts, a very good LEARNer, in addition to being a half-decent TEACHer.

It was, to me at least, as if there had to be some kind of “trade-off” between “work” and “life” – and the fact that  I had been exposed to a “mixed marriage” myself meant that I had the “protestant work ethic” along with all the “catholic guilt“. I just felt bad about not having the “daddy ethic“…


I wondered, seriously, if I had been a really good dad (and “husband”, at times – my wife described my first PC as “Tony’s mistress” and since then my mistresses have got smaller and smaller – and they sit in my lap or pocket!).

I wondered if I had spent enough time helping my own daughter LEARN over her “seven ages”:

She is gonna kill me for publishing this!


I look back now and think “Hey, maybe I didn’t do such a bad job”!

I am still married to a wonderful woman (the same one) and I have this amazingly strong, young woman that I am proud to call my “big, little girl”. She’s away at university these days – doing school work, running her own life by also working part-time and earning enough to write and tell me that she doesn’t need that much cash this month!

Now, that’s the kind of kid all of us need to raise!


A few posts ago, I introduced some of you to the work of Guy Claxton (in a piece entitled “REAL Learning”).

In his book “What’s the point of school?” – Claxton offers some great advice to parents who might want to become REAL “LEARNing parents”.

I took a quick look again today:


  • Be a visible learner for your children
  • Involve children in adult conversations (sometimes I wish I had done this “less” – Çağla got far too smart, far too early)!
  • Let them spend time with you while you are doing difficult things (they also learn very colourful language this way, too)!
  • Involve children in family decisions (Çağla used to “dread” the “family meetings”)!
  • Tell your children stories about your learning difficulties
  • Encourage children to spend time with people who have interesting things to share (we did have lots of fun “grown-up” parties – and she was often the hired “bar-staff”)
  • Don’t rush in too quickly to rescue children when they are having difficulties
  • Restrain the impulse to teach (especially if you are a “teacher” – we are the worst)!
  • Don’t praise too much – use interest rather than approval
  • Acknowledge the effort, not the ability
  • Make clear boundaries and maintain them (Çağla once told me “If I hear the bloody word CONSEQUENCES again, I’ll just…..)
  • Don’t over stimulate – boredom breeds imagination
  • Choose multi-purpose and open-ended toys (I gave Çağla a cardboard box when she was 2 – she loved it)!
  • Encourage different kinds of computer use (she could use a mouse at the age of two – in 1992)!
  • Talk to children about the process of learning (without offering too much advice)
  • Watch and learn from your children’s learning


Now, I’m not sure I did “all” of these (I know I definitely did not do one of them) – but I did a fair few!

Maybe we should ask my “big, little girl”!


P.S: My thanks to Çağla and Nazlı hanim – for everything but mostly for helping me become a better “man” – and “daddy”! And, to Guy – on behalf of  “LEARNing parents” everywhere!

P.P.S: Part Two of “Fatmagül’ün Suçu Ne?” – is coming!



What’s the Point of School?: Rediscovering the Heart of Education by Guy Claxton.

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