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Friday, 01 August 2014

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Lessons to learn when it comes to parenting skills

My kids have been a crushing disappointment – but unless they read this column they will never know!

And chances are that they will not read it because one of the disappointments is that they really just don’t care.

A man this week suggested that if your kids were “a disappointment” you should tell them.

My hackles rose. I still feel the wording is wrong.

You can tell a kid that he/she is disappointing you at any given moment. For instance: “I am disappointed that you shoplifted.”

But to say “You are a disappointment” suggests that this is the natural state of affairs and this is what the kid is, was and ever shall be.

We were always taught that you should not label a child, or the label will stick.

May I quickly add that this only seems to work in the negative.

Call a child “stupid” or an “idiot” often enough and they will rise to the occasion.

I haven’t found the opposite to be entirely true. You can call the child a genius or a millionaire all you want, but it doesn’t quite follow that they will become one.

I truly don’t think you should label a child and you should certainly never let them feel that you are disenchanted with them, rather than just their current behaviour.

Certainly a child must feel loved above all else. Love and security are their basic human rights.

I have had two moments in my life when I have felt so proud of my parenting skills that if I had died at that moment, I would have died with pride.

The first was when my wanderlust daughter was off on yet another trip to somewhere exotic, slightly unsafe and exceptionally worrying. My husband and I planted fake smiles on our face and wished her well.

Ian, my husband, gave her the advice he always gives/gave our children when embarking on something new: “Eat as much as you can, do as little as you can and if you don’t like it just come home.”

Anyway, my daughter said she was leaving with confidence because she knew that we would allow her to fly (figuratively and literally, I suppose) and that we would always be there, not judging, if she needed to come home.

The second time I felt we had done well as parents was when the first of the second generation of Star Wars films came out.

My son, an ardent fan, told me he had booked tickets for the first showing and told me about everyone who was going with him.

I enthused and was then surprised when he asked if I would be able to get the time off work.

He was going with his friends. I hadn’t imagined I was going too.

“I wouldn’t see it without you. You’ve been there for all the others!” he said.

You never, ever feel as wanted as when your kids actually wants you to go to the pictures with them – and not just because you are the only one who can drive.

Those, then, are the highlights.

I could probably write a book on being a good parent, although I couldn’t follow the instructions.

Instruction number one is to never tell your children that it doesn’t matter what they do as long as they’re happy.

In hindsight, tell them to train as lawyers, accountants and doctors to keep their options open.

Although, my multi-talented son who had so many options and now drives a bus for a New Zealand bungee jumping company is as happy as he will ever be.

Never believe your children. I was so besotted with mine that I thought they were wise beyond their years. They were children and what they said was not necessarily so.

Don’t worry overly about their feelings. I was always concerned about hurting my children – except when I threw a temper tantrum to get some action. I would yell at them and then, in pure guilt, take them to the pictures.

The book I would write would paint a picture of a parent who was calm, loving, tough when necessary and always consistent in both punishment and rewards.

My children would be the Stepford children – no funny hairstyles, no teenage tantrums and always polite, honest and ambitious. Yeah, I wish!

No, I don’t. My kids have disappointed me often but they have never in their lives been a disappointment – and there is a big difference.

One of the most disappointing things about my kids is that I have no grandchildren. But I have been given three adopted ones – and the chance to prove that while I may have been an inconsistent mother, I am going to be the very model of a perfect grandma!

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