How to screw up your child's schooling: Simply follow our tongue-in-cheek guide

Parents! Want to make sure that your child does really badly in class? To guarantee that he or she will be underachieving and neurotic in lessons?
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The Independent Online

The Pre-Pre-School Years

Make sure that your baby understands from the beginning that learning is work, not fun. Demonstrate – repeatedly – that shape-posting and block-building must always be done right. Introduce early reading and counting with plenty of over-intensity and visible impatience. Practise your insincere "teaching" voices – phony and high-pitched for encouragement, tense and bitten-down for "Why-the-heck-can't-you-get-it?" Issue lots of instructions, leaving no time for playing, listening, laughing and running around outside. Cram every day with organised activities and always direct your baby's attention to how well little friends are doing at Gym Tinies or Yoga Babes. Begin to talk anxiously, and always in your toddler's presence, about getting them into the "right" nursery – and how terrible it will be if they don't make it.

The Pre-School Years

Regularly collar teachers and assistants to point out your child's exceptional cleverness and sensitivity. Explain at length why your child needs more time and attention than other children. Make sure your departure from the nursery every morning generates high emotion and reappear, waving, at the window just as your child has stopped sobbing and is settling down to play. Quiz your child relentlessly about what they have been doing when you pick them up, and always point out when other children seem to be making more progress than they are. Wonder if your child needs a tutor to get them ready for school. Throw unlimited time and money at making sure they are the most popular in the class by hosting expensive birthday parties even when they say they "just want to go for pizza with you". Start to agonise loudly and often over school choices and the life-or-death matter of getting into the "right" school.

The Primary Years

Measure every millimetre of educational progress and be sure to detain your child's class teacher in heated conversation just as school is starting, whenever you find that the teacher is teaching reading the wrong way or failing to teach your child fractions. Always check your child is within earshot. Cram out-of-school hours with swimming, judo, dance, football, tennis, yoga, gymnastics, piano, violin, guitar and additional maths, plus expensive tutoring for all other subjects. Double-check that there is no time over for being bored, mooching about, finding their own amusement or making up games with friends. Hover closely over homework, creating a nightly drama about doing the work and getting it right. Never forget to emphasise that your child MUST NOT make mistakes. It might be how they learn, but it is not how they come top. Fuss closely over your child's friendships, manoeuvring to get them into the "right" set, and pointing out the flaws in the inadequate friends they have already made. Always berate other parents if there is a falling-out between your child and theirs. Talk often about the enormous difficulty of getting a place at the "right" secondary school and crank this up to an all-consuming family agony by the end of the primary years. Make sure that your child fully understands that their failure to get into the "right" school will mean educational ruin.

The Secondary Years

Continue monitoring educational progress and pressurising your child to achieve. Always focus on grades, never effort or progress. Work yourself into a frenzy over every test, exam, sports match and school performance. When the time comes to make subject choices, steer them firmly towards your choices not theirs. Boast loudly to other parents when your child does well, and berate your child vociferously when they don't. Be sure to complain whenever your child is left out of any school activity and go into overdrive if they are ever reprimanded, making sure the school understands that your child could never, ever be in the wrong. At the same time, withdraw them from any school outing that might have the tiniest hint of danger about it, declaring that you don't care what other parents think, your job as a parent is to keep your child safe. Keep close tabs on all friendships and yell loudly at your child for being sneaky and secretive if you ever discover there is an issue they have not told you about, but are proud to have solved for themselves.

The Sixth Form Years

Back away from detailed involvement in your child's schoolwork, knowing that your sketchy understanding of the French Revolution or covalent bonding may become visible, but redouble general homework harangues. Refuse to listen to any problems or explanations, dismissing them all as excuses, and pepper every conversation with the words "selfish", "lazy" and "useless". Intervene forcefully on all schoolwork issues involving project planning, time management and essay choices, to ensure no independence or autonomy starts to develop. At the same time, demand frequently that they "grow up" and "act their age". Begin to feel overwhelmed with anxiety about whether your child will get into the "right" university and research courses online. Tell your child what courses they should be applying for. Begin to write your child's personal statement, pausing occasionally to complain that they have not done enough community service, off-grid travelling, political campaigning or charity fundraising to sound interesting. Stare into space and wonder "Where did it all go so wrong…?"

For better ways to support your children in school, download Hilary Wilce's two short e-books: 'Backbone: How to Build the Character Your Child Needs to Succeed' and 'The Six Secrets of School Success', £2.99 each, amazon.co.uk

The no-effort route…

The Pre-Pre-School Years

View your baby as an annoying hiccup in your life. Live on your phone. Spend mornings having coffee with friends – raspberry babyccino for baby – and afternoons trawling through 'adorable' children's clothing sites. Declare that you 'don't do' finger painting. Put in place unreliable childcare arrangements, and change them often.

The Pre-School Years

Consider nursery times to be flexible guidelines. Fail to notice that your child is stressed by arriving early, or being picked up late. Continue to talk on the phone while picking your child up. Do not ask about their day. If you ask, don't listen. Occasionally remember you should be interacting with your child so talk at them loudly for a moment, before handing over your iPad.

The Primary Years

Fret briefly about school choices, find a school, put your child in it, arrange after-school care. Find it hard to make pick-up time. Fail to remember parents' nights. Tell your child often how stressed you are by juggling work and family commitments. Occasionally feel that you should be doing more, so kick up a giant fuss at school about something that doesn't matter.

The Secondary Years

Feel completely stressed-out by having had to find a suitable secondary school. Tell your child how hard it's been when you're so busy. Acquire hazy knowledge about teachers and after-school clubs. Complain about the cost of school trips. Yell at them about school reports and dirty football kit. Continue to forget parents' evenings. And what exams they are taking.

The Sixth Form Years

Tell everyone how hard it's been, and how great it is they can finally fend for themselves.

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