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Parenting A to Z

X is (sort of) for expert or experience or exterminate

Let’s start with the tricky one. Am I the only mum who has rued the day her children/ husband were born? The feeling didn’t last but it was as intense as my more usual and much longer lasting feelings of love and devotion to them. I had other people around who listened and laughed and cried with me until I recovered my balance and sense of proportion.  Let us wish - as our wishes are made at the beginning of 2008 - that no parent who sinks to such despair and sense of hopelessness is without someone on the end of a line or next door or in her circle of family and friends who can stay with her whilst she works through those feelings and let us all be ready to offer that support to others.

To more cheerful things; when working with parents I often start by saying that they are the experts on their children and will make the decision about how to apply the principles we are discussing to their family. However expert one is on one level, there is so much to be learnt from others about managing our children which may be at odds to our gut instincts. So where do our “instincts” come from? This question could bring us to the nature-nurture debate but I would raise one important issue with you. Many of our parental “instincts” come from the way we were raised ourselves as children and have been incorporated into our thinking at a very deep level without ever having been evaluated and questioned.  It is good practice to compare our “instincts”  with other peoples, particularly people whose judgement we trust in other matters, people who have worked with many families, who have written about it or made TV programmes.

This leads nicely onto experience.  I learnt a lot about managing children from watching first class nursery teachers and infant school teachers. They were generally hugely experienced in managing and relating to hundreds of children from all sorts of families.  I also learnt from my children and their friends. Schools usually welcome mother/father helpers in the classrooms where - with your mouth closed and your eyes and ears in overdrive  - you can gain great experiences in relationships. One more thing; many of you have vast experiences in some realm of your work life but many of us are reluctant to apply those skills in our home life. I wonder why? I once knew a father who successfully managed a multi-national team of highly skilled people, getting the best from them and making them feel valued. When it came to the children, he could not really organise three boys for a picnic on a dry day. He began to see that he had transferable skills and started to use them at home much to the relief of the boys and his wife. Win – win.

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