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Monday, 19 November 2012

How to Talk so They Listen and Listen so They Talk.

Having spent the last while ruminating on my parenting skills, it was made crystal clear to me the other night that I might be lacking a lot in terms of the moral compass, when I heard my youngest counting herself to sleep. Instead of opting for the traditional sheep or indeed any other childhood imaginings, she was counting "fucking hells", yep, as I was passing their room to cast an ear out on the pre-sleep chatter, thinking that bed time wasn't too bad, and that my children aren't as satanic as I'd previously thought, my ears picked up "one fucking hell, two fucking hell..." I looked at my husband and he looked at me and both our faces flashed fear and concern, but then, like any self respecting adult would do, we covered our faces, stifled massive guffaws and ran downstairs.

It's not just the younger on that makes us look and feel like absolute shams, the eldest plays her part too. At a recent party we went to, neither of them would sit down at the table and eat, neither of them would say please or thank you neither of them would stop shouting how they didn't like this or that until I was whisper shouting through gritted teeth whilst gripping their arms in psycho mode whilst other parents looked on and wondered why on earth I'd ever been blessed with functioning reproductive organs. It was just the last straw.

You're judging, I know you are, I'm judging, you can't help but judge. The panting Spaniels of the existent parent world swear too much in front of their children, so much so that it has found its own little niche in the "lullaby section" of bed time. Well done! Well, well done!

Having got over the initial hilarity, both my husband and me began to panic a little, but we soon rationalised it and normalised it and realised, not for the first time, that we really weren't up to the challenge of parenting and first thing in the morning we'd ABSOLUTELY call Barnardo's and make the problem theirs!

As fate would have it though, the next day in the post school playground a girlfriend of mine (also daughter's friend's mother) told us that she was reading a book, but not your average book, a book very much like The Holy Grail for parents of the book world. We stood and nodded and made her repeat the title at least a thousand times, committed it to memory, made our excuses and F1'd ourselves straight down to the nearest Waterstone's and simply bought ourselves a copy. You can do that, they don't keep it under lock and key, they don't question you and then hand the book over like " you really need this book, go straight to page 20 and that should sort you out, but just so you know, we have Social Services on speed dial, and we'll know if you don't read it..." With the shiny book under his arm, my husband came home and handed it to me, I devoured the first few pages, then came up to the bit where you have to ACTUALLY do exercises together. I coughed and awkwardly turned to husband read him the info and then tested him. He'd got it, far quicker than me, he replied with all the right things at the right time. Yet more humiliation for me who was reading it whilst thinking of what they'd have for tea tomorrow and how I was going to convince the eldest that wet uniform (that I'd forgot to wash that day) is very now and sooner or later everyone would be doing it. Eventually, I locked some stuff in, and so now all we have to do is apply the first exercise, it's easy. It absolutely works, you can level with your children and they level with you.

The problem comes with situation. That's the thing, you have to keep calm and deliver the lessons (when you remember them) in the same way, even if your child has taken to your curtains with scissors whilst bleaching the carpet. You have to be a deliverer of calm, which we all are of course. The good news is, How to Talk so Kids Will Listen & Listen so Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish actually makes you feel calmer, by virtue of the fact, that, if your parenting skills are anything like mine, you'll immediately see how virtually everything you've ever done with your children is irrelevant and by changing a few things your children might like and respect you again, it's worth a shot. 

Anyhoo, the point is, we can evolve and so can our children. we can get through this, it's not forever, we hope, and if a book can give you that little feeling of hope and have your children perhaps doing at least one thing you ask of them per day, it's got to be a goer, hasn't it?