Turns out babies are complicated beings, and pretty dreadful at paperwork. So, as a parent, you’ve got to take the reins. But what exactly are the parental responsibilities that come with maintaining these lovely, yet demanding little people?
Once you and your partner leave the hospital or curl up at home after the marathon that is labor, you’d be forgiven for thinking that you can sit back and relax. Oh, you. The truth is, even though you might feel like you’ve been hit by a freight train, your parental responsibility has just kicked in. And this won’t stop for around 18 years – sorry.
Food, shelter, clothing, love. Seems pretty straightforward, doesn’t it? But beyond these four cornerstones of parenthood, there is all manner of complex parental responsibilities you’re going to have to mull over. From naming them to medical decisions, religion to discipline and education, here we help demystify some of the big responsibilities you’ll face over the course of your little one’s early years…
The Legal Stuff
When you have a baby, and you’re married to the person you created it with, you’ll both automatically have legal rights and responsibilities to your child. If you’re unmarried, the parental responsibility lies with Mum – that is until Dad signs his name on the birth certificate. Your fundamental legal responsibilities are to provide a home for your child, protect them and maintain them as they grow. But beyond this you’ll have to consider:
Naming your child
One of the perks of parenthood is deciding what to call this brand new miracle of a person. If you’re not married, you can choose whether your little one takes yours or your partner’s second name. Beyond that, there are very few limitations in the UK as to what you can call them. The only real stipulation is that it’s ‘not offensive’. In France, it was recently ruled that the parents of ‘Nutella’ needed to rethink their naming decision after a judge ruled that it was potentially harmful to the child. He obviously wasn’t a fan of chocolate spread.
Registering your baby
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland you have 42 days after your baby’s birth date to get them to your local registry office. It’s at this appointment that you obtain your baby’s birth certificate. You’ll have to book this in beforehand. It should happen in the vicinity of where the baby was born. But, there might a reason you can’t get there. Perhaps you went into labor early on an adrenaline-fuelled caravanning trip. In these cases, you can go to another registry office, who’ll forward the details to the correct place.
You’ll need to bring a form of ID with you. And some registrars will even like to see that faithful Red Book (personal health record).
As a parent, legally you’ll have the right to consent to medical treatment on your child’s behalf until they’re deemed old enough to make an informed choice. You’ll also have to take active personal choices over certain aspects of medicine your child receives. For example, will you be getting your child vaccinated? And how much will you rely on Calpol to get you through those teething times?
The Personal Responsibilities of Parenthood
Discipline and teaching social behaviour
When it comes to creating a socially and emotionally intelligent child, setting a strong example is key. As are showing patience, love, and a healthy approach to discipline. We recommend that you don’t just rest on your laurels when it comes to forming the emotional and social intelligence of your child. Rather, it’s worth doing a bit of research into the science behind the behaviour. Learning how you as parents you can confront those challenging parenting times. It’ll help give you an arsenal of rational, realistic and well-thought through approaches to rely on. Which will come in handy next time you feel the stress veins pulsing in your forehead.
Check out our pick of parenting guides for more insight into approaching your child’s behaviour.
Choosing their education
School is ages away right? Well, when it comes to choosing which nursery or school you want your baby to go to in the future, it’s worth putting the feelers out way beforehand. Not least because positions at the best places can be rarer than Posh at a Spice Girls reunion tour. Some parents even register their babies before they’re conceived, which isn’t an exaggeration, we promise.
Once you start looking at schools, beyond state education, all sorts of names start popping up. You’ll see names such as Montessori, Steiner, faith, independent, free-schools, the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, etc. What’s more, over the past three years, the popularity of homeschooling has soared by 40% (according to a report by the BBC), allowing parents to create their own curriculum on a full or part-time basis. You can even get help with home education from your local council.
Before the beginning of the school year in which they turn five, there’s no legal obligation to send your child to pre-school. In fact, if your child was born between April 1 and August 31 (which falls at the end of the academic year), and you don’t think they’re ready to go to school yet, you can apply for permission to the council to delay their start until the September after their fifth birthday.
So how do you know which school environment will be right for your child? Firstly, communicate with them, gauge their learning patterns, understand what their concerns are and whether they have a personal preference. Secondly, if you’re deciding on a school, arrange a trip to see it in the daytime. This will be when it’s in a day-to-day flow, so you get a real taste for how it operates.
Choosing a religious upbringing
One of the most deeply personal choices you can make is whether to introduce aspects of religion into your child’s upbringing. For those who follow a faith themselves, raising children to follow in those religious footsteps is often expected.
Parents often look to religion to help guide their offspring to behave ethically. And have more parties (hello Bar Mitzvah buffet!). However, imposing a doctrine of belief on a small person who hasn’t yet got the capacity to question it could be seen as tricky moral territory – see, we told you this parenting thing was a minefield. We’re afraid there is no right or wrong answer, so it’s over to you guys for this one.