I think it’s entirely appropriate to try to have your children playing with friends that will be a good influence on them. What might not be so appropriate is judging children based on jewelery, gadgets, lateness to school and grades.
Katie Hopkins has taken things way too far and let her controlling and apparent judgmental instincts get the better of her good intentions.
What troubles me greatly with her flawed system is that she has confused ‘under performing’ kids with’ bad influences’. This mistake is extremely offensive to good-natured, highly respectable and courteous children from loving homes who are discriminated by her due to their Maths average. Similarly, it might have been best for the families of her children’s classmates, that they were left in the dark about her scheme:
Call me controlling, call me ruthlessly aggressive. But I’m convinced one of the best things I can do for my children – India, eight, Poppy, seven, and Max, four – is to choose their friends for them.
I target children that I think will be a good influence and curtail friendships with children I think will drag them down.
I know I’m not alone, either. If they’re honest, I think most caring mothers do exactly the same.
They’re just too embarrassed to admit it.
So I wasn’t a bit surprised to learn last week that a study confirms exactly what I have always believed. Academic success is infectious. Pupils ‘catch’ cleverness from their friends.
I have absolutely no intention of letting my two precious daughters get dragged down into the quagmire of underperforming children. So I work hard at targeting the right sort of friends for them.
From the moment they started school, I have kept an ear out for little snippets of information about their classmates. I know who is falling behind and who is clearly not interested in their work or study.
My state primary school doesn’t stream children academically but you don’t need to be a genius to work out who is clever and who, most definitely, is not. For example, hearing that a child has finished their home learning book (we used to call it homework) and asked for another is music to my ears. It means the parents are investing time and trouble in their child’s education.
When one of my girls came home last week and announced that a classmate had filled up her star sheet for good behaviour, I made a mental note of the child’s name for future reference.
She is clearly the type of child who is eager to learn, ambitious and wants to work hard in order to be rewarded with success. And that is the type of child I want my daughters to play with and to learn from.
When I hear my daughters talking about children who have all the latest gadgets – whether it’s an iPhone or iPad – I’m instantly on my guard because they definitely won’t have time to devote to homework. As a result, I will discourage any friendship.
At the risk of sounding snobbish, I also favour children who have good old-fashioned Victorian names such as George, Henry and Victoria. And, if a child has a name with a Latin or Greek derivation such as Ariadne or Helena, all the better. It indicates the parents are well educated.
And then there is this …
I am convinced that my tactics are paying off. Recently I asked India which children she liked to play with.
‘The children who come to school on time and wear proper school uniforms are the nicest and the most fun,’ she told me. ‘If children don’t put any effort in, I don’t want to play with them.’
My younger daughter, Poppy, is attracted by the wild side and I have no doubt that, left to her own devices, she would choose friends who would be a bad influence on her.
When she was four she asked if she could have her ears pierced like a (male) classmate. I, of course, said no. I cannot understand why the parent of this child would think it was acceptable.
Recently she asked for a Nintendo after she played on one during a class trip. The boy sitting on the coach next to her had sneaked it into his bag.
‘But you know that children aren’t supposed to bring in electronic games equipment,’ I said. ‘So what on earth were you doing sitting next to him when you knew he was doing the wrong thing?’ That hammered my message home.
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