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How to ace early years parenting

It's all about celebrating the journey and building strong relationships, according to Reigate St Mary's Head of Lower School Sam Selkirk - which means stand down all you tiger mums!

We live in an alarming age of tiger mums, helicopter parenting and child mental health issues. But at Reigate St Mary’s Prep there’s a refreshing approach to learning which means kids are happy, confident and caring. (They also do brilliantly on the academics – check out our review for more on that.)

So we had a chat to Head of Lower School Sam Selkirk for her top tips on how to set our little people on the path to happiness.



Be happy!

Life is busy, but we all need to look after ourselves – take some time out, laugh with friends and family, happiness is contagious, model it. If parents are happy, kids will take that on.

Build strong relationships

Positive attachments are essential, this means letting children know they are valued unconditionally. What this does not mean is giving children everything they want, instead envelop them in a blanket of love, acceptance and understanding. Long term happiness cannot be bought with material objects, but spending time with children, talking to them, showing an interest in what they do, going out with them, sitting down at mealtimes together is invaluable – children need to know that they matter.



Celebrate the journey, not perfection

Note to helicopter parents and tiger mums: relax. At home and at school we need to remember to praise effort, not natural ability. All too often we celebrate every little thing a child does, with a throwaway ’good boy’ or ‘good girl’ – we celebrate the achievement, getting it right, but this can be counterproductive. Although it can be difficult to watch children struggle, the challenge for us is to stand back and let them do things they are capable of themselves and afford them the space to fail. Children need to learn that throughout life they will need to persevere and work hard.

If children think we value only a perfect result, they won’t take risks and they’ll will strive for only perfection – and if they do not consistently succeed anxiety and unhappiness will set in.

Managing emotions

This is very important. We need to recognise, acknowledge, articulate and feel their emotions. Emotional intelligence is a skill and we need to teach and support children in identifying their feelings (both positive and negative) and letting them know it is ok to feel that way. We can’t expect to be happy all the time and it’s wrong for us to put our child in a bubble and try to protect them from life’s challenges.

Increasingly in schools, Mindfulness is becoming an integral element of the school day. At its most basic level, it is allowing us to ‘be in the moment’, discouraging us from dwelling on the past or predicting the future, we are training our attention and focus.

The beauty of play

We only need to watch a child whilst they are playing to see pure joy and happiness. They are in control, part of a team, negotiating, they are having to self-regulate. There is considerable evidence suggesting that time spent outdoors, in nature, increases life expectancy, improves wellbeing, reduces symptoms of depression and increases a child’s ability to function in school. And playing outside, climbing trees, making dens costs nothing.


Reigate St Mary’s has an Early Years Fun Morning on Sat 5 Oct from 10am-midday. Click here to register.

There’s a working open morning on Wed 20 Nov from 10.30am-midday. (To regisgter email Marie Goddard: or telephone 01737244880.)

Read the full review of Reigate St Mary’s School here.

Reigate St Mary’s School, Chart Lane, Reigate, Surrey, RH2 7RN. Tel: 01737 244880.




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