Wiser words are hard to find, as Dilemma Emma hears from top headmaster Tim Haynes

Dear Readers,

It sounds as if marmalade is being made country wide, fantastic – Paddington would be thrilled, as am I.

Thank you to Anna from Surrey, who has highlighted a very common conundrum. She asked what to do if, after sending a gift you hear no word, so you start to wonder, has the receiver received? Is it the lack of a thank you or is it the lack of Post Office completing a task that is causing the silence? The risk is the recipient thinks you are a miserable godmother for not sending a gift or a miserable godmother chasing a thank you… miserable godmother status is just a flash away.  Anna, a delicate one and my advice would be to ask kindly after its whereabouts, your only intention is to establish receipt and it’s best to know. Hopefully, miserable godmother status is avoided, good luck and do tell us how it goes.

Now, this week for something slightly different…

After I had washed up all my pans, I had the excitement of an audience with a tip-top tippity-top Headmaster, Tim Haynes of Tonbridge School. So, I had to get over the nagging feeling that I was going to get told off, suppress an unnerving sense of inadequacy and stop feeling like a twelve-year- old girl sharpening her pencils. I mustered every ounce of courage I had and questioned a highly respected headmaster, claimed by assorted gossip columns to have been the highest paid headmaster in England. By the end of my interview I thought he deserved every alleged penny. He certainly delivered the absolute business end of parenting advice.

I asked him first educational advice he would give parents.

“Choose your schools wisely. A carefully considered choice means you then embark upon constructive years. Ask yourself one question: will they flourish in this environment? When you are moving school, you must listen to the teachers in your current school, as they know your child in a school environment. Schools offer different things, which does not make them better or worse than each other. No school is right for every child.  If the school is right for your child you need no academic preparation, so that means no tutoring. This is important. Allow them to play and allow them their childhood.

“It is a recipe for disaster if you take a contrary position to the school when a child is in trouble. A teenager, if not all children, but especially a teenager, needs very clear boundaries or will go adrift. You and the school can have a conversation but to the child, you and the school must act as one.”

I asked the headmaster to put aside his headmaster’s hat and to speak as a father.

Now reader, this is where I would shout these words to you, but I’m not one for yelling, so instead I would ask you to commit to memory :

“We should always give unconditional love to our children. This is often quite testing, as they can drive us to distraction but that is always the point at which they need it more than ever. Especially, as they explore adulthood they need our love and support more than they ever have. Have an open dialogue with your children, have an atmosphere where a child can say, ‘I’m worried’. Listen, reassure and be supportive.”

So, the sage take-away nuggets are: allow them their childhood, allow them to play but most importantly give unconditional love and time to your children.

My advice is to heed his advice; wiser words are hard to find.

Dilemma Emma

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