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Inspired children

The ABC TV series The Slap portrays how differently people approach parenting and how dire the consequences can be when those differing approaches collide. Do parents know best? Does society have the right to intervene in the parenting process? Is it ever all right to slap your own or anyone else’s child? Or is there a better way to ensure that children grow up to be balanced and happy adults and have fulfilling lives?

Parenting is never far from public scrutiny with the majority having a strong opinion based on their own experience of being parented or being a parent. While it is natural for parents to love, care for and want the best for their children, parenting is challenging and requires more than just love and following one’s instinct. The increasing demands of modern living, the growing number of children in crisis, coupled with the trend towards smaller family units - separate from the wisdom that used to be passed down by extended family members and communities - means that today’s parents need more support than ever.

Informed parenting requires knowledge and understanding of the changing physical, emotional, psychological and intellectual development of children as they grow into young adults. Wouldn’t it be so much easier for parents if they could base their most important decisions on scientific evidence, rather than by trial and error or other people’s opinions? Wouldn’t an approach that combined love, experience and the latest research help parents to feel more confident and provide better outcomes for our children?

When Associate Professor Rosina McAlpine, an internationally recognised educator and researcher at the University of Sydney Business School, became a mother, she said: ‘I felt the enormous responsibility I had taken on in deciding to co-parent a child, and when I looked for help I found the parenting books were filled with differing opinions and conflicting advice on most topics.’ So she turned to cutting-edge research to find out how to be a good parent.

Drawing on her many years of teaching experience and research into learning she has been able to develop practical and innovative approaches to parenting, which she describes in her new book Inspired children. She also invited some world leaders in the areas of genetics, neuroscience, personal development and psychology to write about the latest research on child development from preconception right through to teen years, and share how they have used the findings to support their own child’s development.

Inspired children turns the science of child development into the art of parenting. With lots of practical insights and heart-warming personal stories, the book is easy to read and is a valuable resource for parents, early childhood educators, teachers, child psychologists, carers and grandparents. In fact, Inspired children is a must read for anyone who works with children. If you are not yet convinced, here is what Charles Areni, professor and single father of two, has to say about it:

In the movie Parenthood, Keanu Reeves’ character, who is on the verge of becoming a teenage parent, quips ‘You need a license to buy a dog, or drive a car. Hell, you need a license to catch a fish! But they'll let any ***** a**hole be a father.’

I’m a father. It’s the most important role I’ll ever have, and yet, come to think of it, I didn’t need a university degree, a high school diploma, or even a license.

Rosina McAlpine starts with this basic premise, observing that ‘society as a whole seems to view parenting as something you can do just because you can have a child.’ She’s right. Most soon-to-be parents are woefully unprepared, hoping to ‘learn on the job’, and this may not be good enough.

Inspiring children is a simple guide for prospective parents, soon-to-be parents, and parents of children of every age; yet its principles stem from a meticulous scrutiny of research in the areas of personal development, psychology, biology, genetics, and child development, blended with the personal parenting experiences of the experts themselves.

McAlpine explores several strategies for raising motivated, goal-directed, self-assured children. The lessons are basic, and yet insightful. For example, what parent doesn’t want his children to help out more around the house? The solution is simple - make chores seem more like games! Create a point system. Get your kids to compete against one another. McAlpine taught her son the ‘laundry game’, where clothes are sorted by colour and then ‘stuffed’ into the washing machine, when he was just a toddler!

Subtle nuances become apparent if you read carefully. For example, McAlpine doesn’t just ask her four-year old son to ‘use words’ to communicate what is troubling him, but rather to ‘use his words’, giving him a sense of mastery and control over his problem as well as his developing vocabulary.

There are provocative ideas throughout Inspired children. Bruce Lipton explains how parents must start preparing even before conception! Imagine that! Information about parents’ diets, stress levels, emotional reactions, and behavioural habits can be passed along to their children via ‘epigenetic processes’. In short, your children’s genes will contain information about the world you lived in and how you lived in it, so live well!

Joe Dispenza’s ‘bread experiment’ is so intriguing that every reader will want to try it with their kids. If it works, they will quickly move on to the ‘plant experiment’, both wonderful ways to teach kids that what they think and feel and do in the world matters! They can control their fate by learning to be in the moment, and to harmonise their thoughts, feelings and desires.

There are some anomalies. For example, Janette Roberts advises parents to ‘cut through all the information’ and ‘tap into your instinctive response’; to ‘silence your, left, thinking, brain and listen to your inner voice’. This seems somewhat at odds with the premise of Inspired children, which is to make use of all the accumulated scientific evidence on effective parenting. Nevertheless, she offers intriguing explanations for why many contemporary parenting practices may be at odds with what nature intended.

Overall, Inspired children is a wonderful source for parents seeking guidance on the most amazing journey life has to offer. It’s a great read too, which is good, because there are so many lessons to be learned and absorbed that a single reading may not be enough. You’ll want to read each chapter again and again until the basic principles become second nature.


To what extent society has the right to interfere in the parenting is complicated issue since every parent is resposible for the development of his/her own child, and respectively has a different idea how to achieve that. Some parents are much stricter than others who prefer to give as much freedom as possible and not to restrict their successors with too many constraints.

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