Tuesday, May 25, 1999 Published at 13:12 GMT 14:12 UK
Straw plea to absent fathers
Many parents find bringing up children hard but rewarding
Fathers should spend more time with their children, Home Secretary Jack Straw has told a conference on parenting.
Mr Straw said fathers who work too much miss out, as do their children.
He told a conference organised by the children's charity Barnardo's that research showed many fathers only spent 15 minutes a day with their children.
And he had heard of one who spent just 18 minutes a week with his child.
"In a blink of an eye children are grown up and it's sad if you miss out," he said.
"Think about what you'll get out of seeing your children as well as what you children will get out of it."
Mr Straw said he believed attitudes could change.
Last year, the government launched a consultation paper, Supporting Families, which included initiatives such as a 24-hour telephone parenting helpline and a new parenting institute.
Mr Straw said the institute could promote positive fatherhood roles.
He cited a project in Plymouth called Dads and Lads which was based around football and encouraged fathers to spend more time with their children.
His comments came as Barnardo's published an NOP poll which showed that 61% of parents found looking after children hard.
Putting paid to the mother-in-law jokes, 53% of fathers said they had asked their mother-in-law for help with their children, compared with only 26% of mothers.
About half said they were attend parenting classes and they said these should include issues such as parent/child communication, toddler development, advice on discipline and special help for fathers.
The poll includes a host of questions about the nature of modern parenting, including disciplinary issues and common worries parents have about their children.
Parents' number one concern was bullying, followed by drugs, traffic, sexual abuse and kidnap.
The poll ties in with a Barnardo's report entitled What Works in Parenting Education.
Most parents surveyed expressed positive emotions about parenting. Eighty-seven per cent said their most common emotion was joy, followed by pride.
But more than half said there had been a number of occasions when they felt the need for support.
Ninety-four per cent said it was helpful to talk about their problems.
David Gamble, Barnardo's chair of council, said: "This poll shows that parents care deeply about the crucial job that they undertake.
"There needs to be more commitment to helping parents develop skills to address day to day difficulties."