I always approach parenting books with extreme caution after the first time I even picked one up was in a friend’s kitchen whilst I was pregnant and it scared the bejesus out of me; unhappily, it happened to be The Contented Little Baby book, and let’s just say, I knew it wasn’t the method for me. That kind of ‘thou shalt’ approach to telling people how to parent just turns me off. See, I’m one of those tree-hugging* liberal hippy-type people who thinks it’s all about the needs of an individual child, not about what somebody somewhere thinks can be applied to all children. We know where that kind of thinking logically ends up – assuming that all women can be categorised as a single block of emotional wobblyness and shoe fetishes and all men can be categorised as a single block of sweaty mathmeticians who can read maps sideways. Bah! No, over in Boogieville, we like books that make suggestions, that give us alternatives, that actually help us to be better parents to our own cute little individuals.
[We also, by the by, like books that deal with the science of how children’s (note: children, not ‘boys’ or ‘girls’) brains develop and work and how to use that information to help your child become who she or he’s supposed to be. We like those just cos we’re science geeks and find the inner workings of Boogie and L’il Boo’s minds fascinating. And on that note, I can recommend Nurtureshock, if only on the basis that it got Boogie to quit lying in about 3 seconds flat…]
So it was with the requisite caution that I have started to read How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk. It’d been recommended by a couple of people, and Boogie does have a tendency to withdraw into herself when she’s upset, so I thought I’d give it a go. I’m only a few pages in, but already it’s managed to make me feel like a complete bitch. Not, unfortunately, because it’s horrid and prescriptive, but because it’s done that thing of pointing something out that seems so frickin’ obvious once it’s been pointed out that you can’t believe you didn’t see it before. It’s managed to do it twice in fact, so now I feel like the biggest loser mother in history.
Don’t try and deny your child’s feelings. Simple, innit?
And yet. And yet… I manage to say all of the following, oh, at least once a day I’m guessing:
I don’t think that’s really true.
You’re being silly.
It’s really not worth making a fuss over.
It doesn’t hurt that much.
You can’t be hungry!
Denial is more than just a river in Egypt, much? It took one, single thought to make me see this from Boogie’s point of view. Someone who shall remain nameless does this to me when I express a negative emotion relating to my mother role, replying to my emotion by saying, ‘You don’t really feel like that.’ And it drives me absolutely frickin’ insane!!! Very few things, I think we can all agree, are more irritating and frustrating than somebody telling you you don’t actually have the monopoly on knowing how you feel. And yet, it appears, I unwittingly have been doing this to Boogie on a daily basis. No wonder the poor girl withdraws! For me, of course, there is also the issue of whether my responses are influenced by the fact that she’s female…but that’s a whole other issue. The very worst thing about this whole situation is that I realised I had actually read this idea before somewhere, but had clearly shoved it to the back of my over-crowded, under-used mind and forgotten about it. Baaaad mummy.
Still, onwards and upwards as they say. Yesterday evening, Boogie and I were doing her homework and L’il Boo took advantage of our averted concentration to scribble all over a drawing Boogie had just completed. The boy really went to town on it with thick black felt tip. And it was late and Boogie was tired…and I saw what he’d done a second before she did and I knew what was coming and braced myself…………….She went off like an air raid siren, completely over the top. Did I say ‘over the top’? Did I just deny her feeling again?? Well, no I didn’t. I simply hugged her and allowed her to wail (and wow, did she wail) about how that was her favorite picture ever and how she’d never have as nice a picture as that ever again. Grievances out, she then just continued to wail the wah-wah-wah of the four minute warning. And continued. And continued. And I just hugged her and made soothing noises. And then it just got hilarious, because clearly she was running out of steam and the wails were becoming more forced by the second and she kept looking sideways at me, obviously waiting for me to chime in with some kind of ‘that’s enough, it’s not that bad’ to re-charge her batteries with, but I just kept hugging her and stroking her hair. Eventually, she completely ran out of steam. I said, ‘Cor, that was upsetting, wasn’t it?’ to which she replied, ‘Yes, it was. Can we finish my homework now?’
The whole episode took about 5 minutes, tops – i.e. about 25 minutes less than it normally would have if I’d tried the whole ‘really, it’s not that bad’ approach.
Now that is the kind of parenting advice I can use. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the book despite the fact that it will no doubt mark me out as a loser mother with every page.
*This isn’t really true. Real actual tree-hugging mothers (and I don’t use the term derogatorily – what’s nicer than somebody who hugs trees?) no doubt would, if asked to vote on my inclusion into that clan, very nicely refuse.