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Do Swiss parents need a childrearing licence?

Should children be allowed to have the last word? vario-images

An organisation is calling for the introduction in Switzerland of nationwide standards for parenting courses.

The demand by the Swiss Federation for Parent Education (SBE) has raised concerns that parents will soon be legally obliged to attend further education classes.

But Andy Tschümperlin, SBE president and a member of parliament for the centre-left Social Democrats, tells swissinfo the goal is not to interfere in parents’ private lives.

swissinfo: Can one learn to become a good parent?

Andy Tschümperlin: Yes, I’m convinced you can. There are phases in which all parents reach their limits with their children: after the birth, when they start school or during puberty.

Parenting has become a greater challenge today especially when one’s child is going through puberty. Based on my experience as a teacher, I know that many parents don’t know what to do and need support.

Therefore it makes sense to be able to question your own parenting technique and exchange experiences with other parents and experts in courses. The variety of further education studies on offer shows that there is a need for coordinated, unified laws at the federal level.

swissinfo: What is right for one child is not necessarily right for another. What kind of parenting method should be anchored in the law?

A.T.: We don’t recommend any particular one. We don’t want to stipulate which method of childrearing is right, since there is no single approach. The schools are proof that education is anything but uniform.

We are simply demanding that the quality of parenting courses is approved by a recognised, professional association. It is unacceptable that there is no quality assurance.

We would also like to see that it’s easy for parents to sign up for such courses. Besides well-qualified parents who have taken the time to look into the issue and attend classes, we would like to reach educationally marginalised parents and immigrant families.

swissinfo: Isn’t there the risk that if further education is anchored in the law people not taking courses will be considered second-class parents?

A.T.: Certainly not. It’s simply about being able to provide comprehensive parenting classes because there are huge differences between urban and rural areas. There are a great variety of courses offered in cities while there’s very little in the countryside.

swissinfo: Many parents today have a much greater theoretical understanding of childrearing than previous generations. Will courses and self-help books lead to even greater uncertainty and self-reproach?

A.T.: I don’t believe that at all and I am speaking from experience as a father of four children. An exchange between parents and a review of different upbringing methods made possible by courses benefits everyone.

A recently published study by the Swiss National Science Foundation on childhood and youth shows that a participatory method of childrearing is important to ensure children develop properly. Parents do not have the inherent ability to raise their children correctly. They have to acquire the knowledge.

swissinfo: Are you not taking a paternalistic approach to parents?

A.T.: It’s not about taking away responsibility or interfering but improving their skills so they can do their jobs as parents better. A society has a vested interest in knowing that a high percentage of parents are good at childrearing. Our system needs these kinds of parents.

swissinfo: Opponents of such courses might accuse you of interfering in parents’ private lives.

A.T.: Of course, childrearing has a very private side, but a public one too. Children along with their parents are part of the public.

The importance of parenting courses shows up in the schools. Some childrearing methods produce little princes. That creates many problems and disadvantages for our education system.

Our society allows individuals to withdraw, and this is problematic for many pupils. Schools obviously have to deal with this situation but this is an issue that should also be discussed with the parents.

swissinfo-interview: Corinne Buchser

The Swiss Federation for Parent Education (SBE) was founded in 1967 as an umbrella organisation.

Around 1,000 organisations across the country offer parenting courses (lectures, group and project work and discussions).

The SBE would like to see the introduction of a federal law on standards for parenting courses. As part of this measure, the SBE would be given the mandate to coordinate all courses and ensure quality control.

Swiss parenting days – on September 6 and 13 – are part of the national “Festival of Learning”, which promotes further education through a series of workshops and events.

Tschümperlin is headmaster at a school in Zug.

He has been a member of the House of Representatives for the Social Democrats since 2007.

He was elected president of the SBE in June 2008.

Tschümperlin is married and the father of four children.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR