The parenting 'expert' doing more harm than good

Penelope Leach says that the child of separated couple can be damaged if they don't spend every night with their mother

Share

When I was a child, Friday afternoon was my favourite part of the week. Even before the school bell rang, I’d be on the edge of my seat in anticipation, eyeing the door, ready to run out into the playground to meet my mum who was waiting to drive me to my dad’s house for the weekend.

When Sunday evening rolled by, my dad would drive the hour’s journey back to my mum’s, and the following Friday it would begin all over again. By the time I was seven, I knew the route off by heart. 

According to leading parenting expert Penelope Leach, however, allowing the young children of separated parents to spend the night away from their mothers with their fathers is damaging.

In her new book, Leach says that there is undisputed evidence that separating children from their mothers as a young age “reduces brain development” and increases the risk of “unhealthy attachment issues”.

She reasons that ferrying children back and forth between their parents panders only to the rights to the adults, not to the needs of the kids. Desperate to “make things equal” parents think only of themselves and their time with their children.

The problem with this approach is that it allows a relationship between father and child to exist only as day trips. Their only interactions quick visits to McDonalds and the odd picnic. Isn’t it time that we recognised a father’s role isn’t secondary to a mother’s, and that co-parenting (where possible) is in the best interests of everyone involved?

With Father’s Day on Sunday came the annual influx of tweets and Facebook posts about dads. “Thanks for being such a great taxi driver/bank/mender of broken laptops” crowed Twitter. It’s a day I find particularly difficult because my own father died seven years ago.

The death of a loved one is traumatic; even more so if the death is sudden and unexpected. But my parents’ decision to “share” me when they divorced meant that at the time of his death, my relationship with my dad was as strong as it would have been had they stayed together.

One of my happiest memories is of us reading a bedtime story together and both laughing until we cried. Denying fathers the opportunity to bond with their children is unforgiveable. Even more unforgivable is implying that this is actually in the interests of the child.  

The rights of the child should outweigh those of the parents, true. I’m not advocating subjecting children to two polar opposite parenting styles likely to confuse and hinder them. Certain things need to be agreed upon. Bedtimes, diet, hobbies, discipline. Children need a routine and it’s the responsibility of separated parents to agree upon and instil one.

But Leach’s comments are dangerous, not least because, as a “parenting expert”, divorcing parents will turn to her for advice. If a mother is looking for an excuse to prevent her estranged husband from seeing his children, this book will give her the ammunition she so desperately needs. What mother wants to be responsible for reducing her child’s brain development?

Amicable divorce is difficult but not impossible. Instead of guilt-tripping with pseudo-science, we should encourage mums and dads to work together to manage their separation in a way that makes the change as pain-free as possible for their children. It’s time dads got the recognition they deserved, not just a social media shout out one Sunday a year.

READ MORE:
After 44 years it's time the 1970 Equal Pay Act was enacted properly
Tony Blair has moved beyond parody
 

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - Nationwide - OTE £65,000

£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Ice skating in George Square, Glasgow  

How many Christmas cards have you sent this year?

Simon Kelner
 

Al-Sweady Inquiry: An exercise in greed that blights the lives of brave soldiers

Richard Kemp
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum