Sparky Parenting

Mother and Son 1

When I was a child, one of my favourite books was Roald Dahl’s Danny the Champion of the World. I can still remember the cover of the old library edition that my Daddy read to me when I was 7 years old. It was a pen and ink illustration of an autumn wood, in which most of the russet and golden coloured leaves still clung doggedly to the branches, while some others had drifted to the ground creating a carpet which would rustle under foot. In the centre of the illustration, surrounded by the strongly coloured leaves, was a clearing in which the two figures of Danny and his wonderfully imaginative father stood; the father stooped slightly towards the small boy as they walked through the woods holding hands. This cover did a phenomenal job of conveying what is at the heart of this book, which is the beautiful relationship created through a child’s unconditional love and admiration for a parent, and that parent’s reciprocal love and the attentive, unpatronising manner he takes towards his son.

When I read it to my own children quite recently, I was particularly struck by Dahl’s message at the very end of the story. What it says is:


to Children Who Have Read This Book


When you grow up

and have children of your own

do please remember

something important


a stodgy parent is no fun at all


What a child wants

and deserves

is a parent who is


I just love the sentiment behind this, and I believe that its simplicity belies a deep truth. Kids need to be understood. Kids need to be allowed to play and experiment. Kids need to be given time and attention. Kids need to have fun.

Here are a few of my ideas for ‘SPARKY’ parenting:

  • Next time the rain has set in and gathered in dips and hollows of the pavement, get your wellies on and take the kids out for a puddle stomp.
  • Forget about looking silly. Lose yourself in the moment and that moment will become a treasured memory when your child has grown up and flown the nest.
  • Turn the volume up on the stereo and dance badly but enthusiastically.
  • Read a story out loud at any point during the day. It doesn’t need to be restricted to bedtime! The only rule is you must do voices.
  • Follow your kid’s lead and let them help you to rediscover your curiosity in life the universe and everything. Squat down low, get up close, ask questions, find out answers, but above all, awaken wonder.

How do you stay ‘SPARKY’? What memories do you have of your own ‘SPARKY’ parents?


January 7, 2008. Creativity, Inspiration.


  1. Pages tagged "parenting" replied:

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  2. A Wish For My Children « Lives Less Ordinary replied:

    […] site called Voice Thread which I’ve just been experimenting with. Following on from the last post’s theme of parenting, I’ve made a short ‘thread’ of some of the photos of my hand holding my […]

  3. Writing Mommy replied:

    Hi Amy,
    I loved the book when I first read it and I remember telling myself I would be a “sparky” parents. Trust me, I try, but every now and then, I end up playing the strict mommy. 🙂 My son and I have fun doing a lot of “non-parentish” stuff. He’ll even admit sometimes that his mommy is mischievous!!
    I’d like to put in a link to your blog on mine, if that’s okay with you?

  4. amypalko replied:

    I think the fact that we are still inspired to try is the most important thing of all, Writing Mommy. It’s when we stop trying that the stodginess sets in 😉
    Here’s to mischievious mummies!
    Oh, and, of course, it’s absolutely fine to link to my blog. Please do!

  5. Kelly Jene replied:

    I love that term, Sparky. My kids and I laugh all the time. During school we explore as they like to explore as well as “school” stuff. We dance and we sing. We make music videos with the children dancing to silly songs. We play tag in the dark. We absolutely adore having fun as a family.

    I think our number one rule as a family is to laugh. Great post!

  6. amypalko replied:

    That sounds like a great family rule, Kelly! You certainly sound like a sparky parent 🙂

  7. Writing Mommy replied:

    Thanks! Have put the link into my blog. I’ve been fooling around with cameras since I was a teenager and last week, bought myself a digital camera. I hope to put up some nice pictures on the blog soon. 🙂

  8. amypalko replied:

    I just love my digital camera, Writing Mommy! Before, with film, I was always so conscious of not taking too many photos. Now I can click away to my heart’s content without any worries of how much it’s going to cost me to see the results. Looking forward to seeing what you do with it!

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