Jul 032015
 
over-protective parents

I remember once, years ago, seeing a toddler wearing baby reins being led around a playground by his parents. The playground was all grass, so as safe as you get (when I was a kid they were all hard concrete). On swings, on the slide, on the see-saw, walking around, the parents held onto the reins, keeping their little boy as close to them as possible. I had never before seen a child being kept so literally on a short rein. I could understand it if you were on, say, a busy road, but in a playground? I wondered what […]

Jun 282015
 
should we listen to children?

That was a trick question, the obvious answer is ‘well, duh, yes of course we should listen to children.’ We should listen to children very carefully. By carefully, I mean that in the way we listen we should take care not to feed children our own adult interpretations and assumptions, or influence them into our own agenda. That also means taking care not to add the huge burden of adult feelings to the mix: all that anxiety, worry and concern which communicates so clearly to a child that this is a massive problem. We need to stay neutral, which means that […]

Jun 192015
 
making empty threats

You know how you sometimes make empty threats which you have no intention of carrying out? They just pop out before you realise what you’re saying and your next thought is ‘Oh shit.’ Like this: I’ll take all your toys down to the charity shop and give them all away. I’ll put you out of the car onto the hard shoulder and drive off without you. Right that’s the last time you get any sweets from me. I’ll leave you in the park all by yourself. And then there are the threats you make and instantly regret because it’s something […]

Jun 122015
 
cultural conditioning of girls

I sat down with my daughter on Monday this week to watch her favourite t.v. guilty pleasure Don’t Tell the Bride on BBC3. It’s a programme which gets me spitting with rage at the attitudes sometimes shown by bridegrooms (or their mates) about what the stag do will entail, together with the breezy ‘boys will be boys’ approach of the programme (will he be ‘naughty’ or not?) Nevertheless, I watch it with my daughter and pride myself on my ability to make the odd pithy comment without getting too upset, so that I don’t put her off questioning things herself. It’s […]

Jun 052015
 
giving power to negative feelings

Children’s feelings weren’t taken very seriously back when I was a child; in those days a child expressing negative feelings was known variously as  ‘ungrateful,’ ‘spoilt’ or just ‘naughty.’ Remember these favourite parenting phrases from childhood: ‘I’ll give you something to cry about’ ‘Your face will be fixed in that expression if the wind changes’ ‘I’ll show you what unhappy means’ ‘Who said life was going to be a bowl of cherries?’ ‘Big boys don’t cry’ ‘It’s no use crying over spilt milk’ ‘There are plenty worse off than you’ ‘Life isn’t fair, better get used to it’ ‘Has someone […]

May 292015
 
how to get your kids to listen

Close observation over many years has revealed to me the fact that children have very selective hearing. We all do, to be fair, it’s not just them, and it’s for very similar reasons. We screen out so much around us in order to stay sane; too much information overload would send us mad, so we focus on what’s relevant and important and our brains do a pretty good job of automatically sifting out and discarding the unnecessary and distracting. So it’s healthy and good that our children have this ability! Really.             Here’s what children […]

May 222015
 
transgender - a parents' guide pt II

It’s hard to write about transgender issues as a parenting blogger because in questioning the prevailing trans ideology I know I will be dismissed as transphobic by many, so it’s a risk. If it was hard for me to write honestly about what I see, imagine how hard it is for our daughters to speak out and question something that everyone else believes. Risking ostracisation from a group is very difficult, which is why group-think happens and is one reason why businesses fail – nobody dares speak out and disagree with the boss when everyone else seems to be in […]

May 152015
 
transgender - a parents' guide

My eighteen year old son tells me that at his college, everyone’s talking about gender and in particular whether they might be transgender, gender-queer, gender-fluid and a host of other things which he couldn’t remember. The teen/young adult years are a time of exploring identity; in those years it feels particularly crucial to find out who you are, and these days young people are faced with a bewildering display of options. I wrote here about transgender children (and how they don’t exist) but what about young people? What do parents need to know? The ideas that your kids will be […]

May 102015
 
staying friends when your kids fight

You know the scene, when your kids are little: whenever you go round to your friend’s for a nice coffee and chat the kids fight, one gets hurt and it happens again and again. Gradually resentments build up on both sides and you and your friend end up falling out or at least ‘having a break for a while.’ Let’s say it’s a typical scenario where one child is the ‘aggressor’ and the other child is the ‘victim.’ Or the ‘hitter’ and the ‘crier.’ I don’t like to use these labels but you know what I’m talking about so let’s […]

May 012015
 
how to deal with disrespect

So our child is treating us with disrespect or contempt and we’re feeling really pissed off. How do we do ‘pissed off’ effectively; what’s the best way to deal with disrespect? Here are a few do’s and don’ts: Don’t think about your child, think about yourself. Don’t engage with the content of the child’s message, just respond to the way he is sending it. Don’t bat the ball back over the net. In other words, don’t fight back, threaten, call her names or be really nasty to get your own back. Don’t try to be really polite ‘to model respectful […]

Apr 242015
 
socialising girls into motherhood

Writing my last post about kids treating their mothers with contempt got me thinking about the role of cultural socialisation on how we are as mothers. There’s a lot of discussion these days about female socialisation and how it impacts negatively on girls in terms of their confidence in speaking up, pushing themselves forward, standing up for themselves and being assertive in the arena of work and careers, but I have seen nothing written about the effects of that socialisation on the role of mothering. In the work arena a lack of that innate (and by innate here I mean […]

Apr 102015
 
obnoxious behaviour

I’ve been hearing stories all week of obnoxious behaviour from children towards their mothers. I’ve heard stories about kids of all ages, boys and girls, from toddlers to teenagers, and it kicked off with a piece I read in the paper by Rachel Cusk, about teenage girls treating their mothers with contempt. It was this sentence about overhearing their conversations that jumped out at me: “Their mothers are known as “she.” When I first heard about “she,” I was slightly puzzled by her status, which was somewhere between servant and family pet. “She” came in for a lot of contempt, […]

Apr 032015
 
sons and daughters

I had three sons in a row and then a daughter. During my fourth pregnancy people would say to me (in front of my three little boys!) things like: “I expect you’re really hoping for a daughter this time.” People have assumed that I carried on having babies just in order to get a daughter, which was obviously what I really wanted. I have had comments like: “If you hadn’t had a daughter this time would you have tried again?” As if! As if having four children was part of some kind of plan! (Rather than just plain carelessness). And […]

Mar 272015
 
will shared parental leave work?

When I had my four babies my husband and I were both self-employed working mostly from a home office so we had the perfect situation for sharing childcare (bar his frequent trips away). We were both able to spend time with the children while they were little and we could both escape to the office (mutually acknowledged as the easier job). When I had to go to outside meetings I would take the latest breast-feeding baby along in a sling. I was once in a meeting of all men, my baby was slurping very noisily on the breast and every […]

Mar 202015
 
nine ways we're made anxious

I haven’t always been this laid-back, easy-going and cool as a parent, I don’t want you to think I just landed here like this. It’s taken a lot of sheer effort, determination and hard work to reach this place of carelessness. Sorry, confidence. I started out, just like every other parent, overwhelmed with the sudden massive responsibility of keeping another human being alive, and by nature I worried endlessly. Worrying about our kids and being anxious about getting it right is probably an intrinsic part of being a parent, but I think there are certain factors that make it more […]

Mar 132015
 
top 3 gifts for mothers day

According to a poll by homes4media, the most popular gift for Mothers Day – as voted for by mothers themselves – is…a hug. 59% of mothers voted for that as their top gift, followed by a card at 58% and a lie-in at 41%. When did our expectations drop so low? Getting away with just a hug for mothers day, that’s not very aspirational is it? Isn’t a hug just one of those things children give you anyway, during normal day-to-day life (usually in apology for something). Isn’t it just part of any relationship, not even particularly remarkable? And isn’t […]

Mar 062015
 

I have been debating for a while about writing a blog about transgender issues for parents. This article, Parenting a Transgender Child, which recently appeared in the Huffington Post, has pushed me into action. It’s about an eight-year-old boy who likes to be called by a girl’s name, and it made me thank my lucky stars that when I was growing up people just didn’t know the term ‘transgender.’ I am a heterosexual woman who lived most of my childhood wanting to be a boy; for a few years my sister and I would answer to nothing except our ‘real’ […]

Feb 272015
 
I won't worry about my daughter

I refuse to worry about my daughter. Point blank refuse. She’s fifteen so there’s lots I know I should be worrying about but I am not going to. I refuse to worry about my daughter because of the unequal society she is growing up in. I refuse to worry about my daughter because of online porn. I refuse to worry about my daughter because of media representation of women. I refuse to worry about my daughter because of unrealistic expectations of perfect bodies everywhere we look. I refuse to worry about my daughter because of the low representation of women […]

Feb 202015
 
do we have to play with our kids?

I just read a blog called Why I’m Afraid to Play With My Kids which reminds me of an article in the paper I read a couple of weeks back, daringly and shockingly entitled ‘Playing with my daughter is so boring it melts my brain.’ Credit goes to Esther Walker for gleefully saying the unsayable in that article, and to psychologist Peter Gray for backing her up with lots of common-sense Official Expert reasons. I suspect that I have such a strong memory of spending an afternoon playing with my second son when he was about three because that was the only […]

Feb 132015
 

I’m not a fan of strategies and techniques of behaviour-management and discipline, I never have been, partly because it all sounds too much like hard work to me and I’m basically lazy. I’m also uncomfortable with the words themselves, they remind me of boardrooms, or war, they don’t seem applicable to normal messy life. So whenever I’m asked the question ‘What’s your strategy for getting children to..?’ (fill in the blank: go to bed, eat their greens, show respect…) I’m always flummoxed because I don’t think in terms of strategies and techniques, I think in terms of relationships and communication. […]

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