Parenting Today is far From Child's Play. Value Parenting to create a Child-Centred Society

Published date: 
14 Aug 2008

Former ISPCC Chief Executive and current Chief Executive of St Patrick’s Hospital Mr Paul Gilligan, who features in the latest edition of the Children’s Rights Alliance Podcast Series (published today), says a parent, in today’s Ireland, must endure increased pressures to successfully navigate their child into adulthood. In the latest podcast, where he discusses his book Keeping Your Child Safe: a Manual for Parents, Mr Gilligan argues for a child-centred society in Ireland, where parents and parenting are valued.

Speaking about today’s influences on childhood, Mr Paul Gilligan says: ‘I think if you look at things 30 years ago, you had major influences that made childhood quite difficult: poverty; high degrees of alcoholism; […] children being subjected to terrible punishment in the education system. Things have changed dramatically, not least because of the work of organisations like the Children’s Rights Alliance but I think the influences now on childhood, [..the] focus on sexualising children at earlier and earlier ages [….] and the whole drug culture that has grown in Ireland [] a massive influence on childhood and parenting. So I don’t think children are any worse off, but I think there are definitely challenges to childhood in the era we live in that are different and need to be tackled if we are to protect our children’s childhoods.'

Speaking about a child-centred society, Mr Gilligan says: ‘A child-centred society is one wherein the day-to-day experience of children and in the day-to-day experience of parents, children are given rights as citizens […] in the education system, in the justice system, so that they are included in the decisions that are being made about them. Ultimately you can’t separate children from parents and if you’re going to truly create a child-centred society you have to value parents and parenting. The only way to enshrine children as citizens is through a constitutional referendum. For example, those parents who decide to take their own life but also their children’s lives, […] deep-down in their sub-conscious is that their children are their property or belonging to them. That’s a real challenge but it’s a challenge that can only be really met if we move at a constitutional level.'

Paul Gilligan continues: ‘Parents and children are inextricably linked. You can’t be a parent without a child and, while that might sound a little bit silly, effectively children’s rights are an enhancement in the Constitution and will inevitably strengthen parenting rights and parents’ rights. I think very often parents find it difficult to get the support they require and if a constitutional amendment is made, it should ensure that a lot more money is poured into supporting parents and parenting rather than looking to try and remove children from parents or anything so dramatic.

’Mrs Jillian van Turnhout, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, says: ‘We are delighted to feature Paul Gilligan in our Children’s Rights Podcast Series. His wealth of experience is second to none and Paul clearly demonstrates how children’s rights and parents’rights are one and the same thing. While parenting may not be child’s play it is an integral part of our society and Paul clearly demonstrates that children’s rights in the Constitution will support parents in their crucial task’.


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Carys Thomas, Communications Director

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Notes to Editor:

1. Paul Gilligan is the former Chief Executive of the ISPCC with over 14 years experience in child protection. Paul has also been a lecturer in Clinical Psychology at Trinity College and has travelled extensively to examine child protection systems and children's rights organisations around the world. Paul is currently Chief Executive at St Patrick's Hospital in Dublin.

2. The Children’s Rights Podcast Series is available here or iTunes; a transcript of each podcast is also available online.

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4. The Children’s Rights Alliance is a designated Social Partner.

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