Opinion: To the point - Try a leaf out of their book

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We should look to poorer countries for another view of parenting, says Pat Wills.

Sitting on the bus in downtown traffic is an entertaining opportunity for people watching. The upmarket offices have staff sticking cotton wool balls to windows adorned with red Santas in sleighs full of presents. Restaurants play Christmas songs.

The date? The first of December. The place? Kandy in Sri Lanka. The occasion? The first test match of the series against England.

Sri Lanka is predominantly Buddhist, but Catholic, Muslim and Hindu communities sit happily side by side. Schoolchildren are dressed in immaculate white European-style uniforms, some girls with headscarves and others with rather incongruous red ties. The only clues to any religious allegiances are the statues erected in and around the villages.

Our busload of white tourists provokes some interest. Passengers at the front of the bus wave cheerily at everyone, and it seems a great privilege to be seated towards the rear when their smiles and waves are returned with laughter and enthusiasm.

This is a land of plentiful food where people eat healthily and enjoy a huge range of fresh fruits and vegetables. Physical work is undertaken by all ages but education is valued as the way upward. Sri Lankans are proud of their 93 per cent literacy rates.

Younger children are carried by their parents and protected from the sun. Mother and child have constant facial interaction. Westerners are permitted to admire babies, but parents can be superstitious in smaller communities and cover the babies when breastfeeding - not because they are coy about exposing their breasts, but because they want to ward off the 'evil eye' from the child.

The rural landscape shows a sparse lifestyle with few Westernised comforts. Children walk many miles to school. However, my overwhelming impression is that loving their children is an absolute priority.

To contrast with the words of the new chair of the English Parenting Academy, Hilton Dawson: 'We don't like children in this country'. Some lessons for us to learn from our third world neighbours?

- Pat Wills is a parenting co-ordinator in Blackpool.

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