Category Archives: headline

How to punish children properly (and get their attention)

Reforms are afoot in the United Kingdom: children in the UK will be taught languages and coding and teachers will be able to impose old-fashioned punishments, like writing a sentence over and over again and pick up the rubbish. Just like the bad old days, when education was synonym of  discipline, but not necessarily development.

I am not a teacher, but I know a few children and if they are anything to go by, these kids are not likely to be impressed or scared by forced line writing. OH NO. They know better, so if this cabinet wants to teach them right from wrong, it’d better change strategy.

Since giving unsolicited advice is easy, I will volunteer.

Dear Mr Gove,

if you really want to instil sense of  duty and discipline in these kids, you must rise to their level, touch their imagination, their intelligence, their creativity, their sense. Kids may be young, but they are sensible, practical and resilient. If you really believe in punishment, you might as well do it right.

Here’s a piece of advice from a partial member of the public, with no teaching experience, but one who has had 1st class teachers and a 1st class mother (also a teacher); get a mirror.


Get each class a mirror. Every time a child is caught talking or being disruptive or being lazy (read: no homework done), you get the teacher to hand the mirror to the offending child and get him/her to say: “I have taken myself for a ride. I have let my laziness/giddiness stop myself from doing something good for myself.”

The other kids will laugh, the offending child will wish to be elsewhere, but at the same time s/he will also get the message: if you misbehave or are lazy, you lose out in the end. That’s one lesson they will not forget in a hurry.

You shake your head, Mr Gove, you don’t believe me but I can guarantee you that it works. It worked for me.

When I was 8 I was a chatterbox. I could not help myself: I had to talk, until one day my teacher made me stand up and, having given me a beautiful hand mirror, she made me say: “I let my chit-chat stop myself from paying attention and now I will never know ___ (whatever she was teaching at the moment). I have lost out, I have taken myself for a ride.”

I still remember. It hit me where it hurt: my pride. I don’t remember my friends’ laughter, and I did not feel humiliated, but angry: I had lost something.

I had missed a moment of complicity between my teacher and those who had paid attention, I had missed a trick and marginalised myself. 

That hurt. 

In her punishment, my teacher had shown her respect for me, her willingness to believe that I was mature enough to see the silliness of my actions. She had also left room for hope. Silliness is not incurable: all I had to do to be included in the magic of the lesson was to pay attention. I could do that and I did.

She achieved her purpose without having me write overbearing sentences 1000 times. I would have forgotten that in a hurry (plus my super Lady mother would have roared at the teacher’s outdated methods. Yes, I said ‘roared’ and parents would protest just as energetically today in the UK, albeit in a more Anglo-Saxon fashion)

Bottom line: kids are kids and they need our guidance, but they are not stupid. Respect them and they will get the message. Push them around and they will declare war on you. Can we afford to wage war on them? Here’s a war with no winners, if I ever saw one.

So, save us all tons of chalk and a generation-worth or resentment and admit you got it wrong. Get a mirror, utter a mea culpa and start again on the punishment front, if you must. Only, this time, ask a few teachers and parents for their opinions, while you are at it…

Best Wishes,



Give us Barbie on the Dole

This week I came across a blog published by the high-brow, intellectual daily The Guardian, which attacked the gender stereotypes and sexualisation, rife in the toy/kid’s entertainment industry.

As a woman I agree  with the author: mainly because my mother refused, point blank, to buy me Barbie or any other similar doll – unless and until they could give me a ‘positive role model’.  Apparently, one day I would understand.

Being a child of the rampant consumerism of the Eighties, I struggled to see the problem in owning a doll, which in turn owned a collection of pink ballroom gowns in every cut and in every shade of pink.

Don’t get me wrong; I had many toys and dolls,  such as Monchichi the clever monkey, beautifully illustrated atlases (to check out whence monkeys – and our ancestors –  originated), discs with matching (and beautifully illustrated) books: Andersen’s Tales , the Grimm Brothers’ Tales, Aesop, Ancient Greek Myths, Norse Legends, Alice in Wonderland,  and from Scandinavia , the land of happy kids,  I got Alfons and the Karlsson-on-the-Roof.

Still, it was Barbie I coveted. I pestered, argued with, cried, begged, protested with my mother, to no avail.

Barbie speaks…

This went on untill… Barbie spoke to me, while I gazed, enraptured at the latest Mattel addition, proudly occupying the centre of our local department store’s toys window.

I cannot remember exactly what Barbie told me, but hers were not  soft-spoken words extending invitations to shopping sprees and longs lazy days on the beach. Barbie uttered a call to arms:  “Go on, take the plunge, make a statement, buy your own Barbie doll”

So I did.

In the spring of 1988 I finally turned up at school with a Barbie, purchased with my own pocket money and during a school trip, miles away from my mother. Faced with the fait accompli, the lady mother acquiesced.

 There I was, clutching my long-limbed, smiley Barbie, showing off my own plastic representation of unattainable human perfection to friends (and their friends). Result!

I had won, Barbie had won, the Eighties had won.

And so had my mother, because of all the Barbie dolls I could have bought, I chose Barbie Doctor. So perhaps it was my mother,  who had always encouraged me to take charge and to stand up for myself and what I thought right,  who laughed last.

Life after Barbie…

My Barbie Doctor sported a beautiful, frilly lab coat, a stethoscope, and, if memory serves me well, a pink doctor’s bag for emergencies.

I soon tired of Barbie  anyway (kids are fickle), and saved next for a subscription to Poochie the Pink Dog’s mag. Poochie’s copybooks and stampers and even ear muffs followed. I loved Poochie because she was fun and organised, friendly and resourceful, not because she was pink (though I did not object to that)

So, in conclusion: dear parents, I understand your worries but, please, relax a little. Kids are practical and shrewd individuals. If you talk to them, they will listen.

I agree girls (or boys) should not be under the impression that they will necessarily grow into long-limbed, narrow-waisted, white-toothed adults.  Keep telling girls and boys that we can all make a difference, we can aspire to give something back, we can try to improve ourselves (whatever size we are) and that makes us special and beautiful.

Keep saying that they are beautiful because their minds are creative, intelligent, honest and a little wicked. Incidentally,  keep insisting that they eat well and are active, for their own sake, not to look like Barbie.

But should we really ban Barbie?

Barbie on the dole

Barbie appeals to kids. Period. So, it’s Mattel we must tackle!  

I’ll start: Dear Mattel management,

please, give us more natural, credible Barbies.  I would like to see

Barbie Professor,

Barbie Mathematician,

Barbie Fund Manager,

Barbie Business Owner,

Barbie Cashier,

Barbie Anthropologist,

Barbie  Campaigner (complete with pink placard),

Barbie on the Dole (now that would capture the Zeitgeist), applying for jobs

Barbie Chef,

Barbie Builder,

Barbie Cab Driver (ok, the cab can be pink, if you really insist),

Barbie President of the WHO/UN/USA

Barbie Detective

Barbie Judge

Barbie Waitress

Barbie Teacher

Barbie Fight Fighter

Barbie Cleaner. 

I want to see Barbie living in a normal flat, or still living with her parents, because she is paying off her student debts. (BTW who are Barbie’s parents?)

Give us Barbie looking dishevelled after a run, make her a little plumper, while you are at it.

Do that, and I will buy a Barbie for my Godson and every child I know and care about!