Saturday, 16 August 2014

Dealing with strong-willed parents

In the wake of what I now call the Cardiff fandango, I have been having a summer of hardline parenting, research into Manipulative and Strong-Willed Children, and experimentation.

Here's what happened and what I learnt:

1. Getting the kids to do chores I don't want to do, but need to get done (aka washing the car, weeding the path), and paying them for it, can be incredibly good fun.

Learning: if it costs a bob or two, don't sweat it. They did the work, they earnt it.

2. Always seize the opportunity to pick blackberries when out and about. A sure sign that the summer holidays are coming to an end, and absolutely free.

Learning: take a hat, you never know when you'll need extra storage.

3. Put up a tent in the garden, and let the children stay out overnight. The first night son was back in twenty minutes, afraid of foxes. But once daughter had made it, he screwed his courage to his sticking plaster, and stayed put, even in the rain.

Learning: sibling rivalry ensures progress.

4. Visit cats you have catsat. Introduce your children to friend who does not have children, via peace dove of their mutual love of the cats. Strategically whisk children away before they can inflict any damage on friend's possessions. Thusly delude friend into thinking that your children are well-behaved. Build bridge to further sightings of friend in park, while children knock unripe conkers off trees, and argue about who needs to push whom on the swing, in the background. Thank lucky stars it's not raining. Laugh at shared knowledge that cat is now so overweight (thanks to combined feeding) that he is, and I quote, "too fat for his harness". Go home feeling guilty about cat.

Learning: don't express your love through overfeeding cats.

5. Buy boring mince. Make burgers, fries and milkshakes and eat them in front of Pitch Perfect with children, while husband away in untimely fashion. Try not to explain the rude words to eight-year-old son, who is very keen to know what a 'dickhead' is.

Learning: Film Nights are fantastic for defusing the tension and reminding you that you once had a life.

6. Force your mother to babysit while you go out and do back to back dance classes. Return home in very good mood to find children at each other's throats and your mother under a heap of your ironing.  Reactivate no. 2.

Learning: Blackberries need a lot of sugar.

7. Have a mother who loves you enough to want to take you out for sushi.

Learning: I am blessed.

8. Go for a run with a much fitter friend, in the absolute pouring rain, then have a raucous coffee at local favourite cafe. Talk about the floodgates opening. Best conversation I've had in years. I was just explaining in a stage whisper how I felt about my husband's newly sprouted handlebar moustache, when the man at the next table turned around, sporting a beard and 'tache so bushy that he looked like a illustration of an Edward Lear poem. Strengthened by Iron Mother run in wet woods, I was utterly unrepentant. He looked like a throttled spider by the end of the conversation. Arrived home to find husband shaving off moustache. Feel the Karma.

Learning: don't hold back when you feel strongly about something.

9. Ask mother to sew on cloth name labels to daughter's school uniform, cloth name labels you bought when daughter was born, and which you have never used. Spend delightful afternoon repairing second-hand uniform skirts, squabbling over the scissors, and teaching daughter to sew. Everybody happy.

Learning: tempus fugit. But even though the cloth name label company has now gone out of business, it has brought pleasure to three generations.

10. Go out for drink with husband. Sit head in hands wondering how we are going to pay the school fees. Go home after one hour. Feel marginally better.

Learning: even if all you've got to talk about is how expensive life is going to be for the next decade, it's really nice to go out with your partner.

11. Get husband to look after children for the day while you go into town and interview people for Motherload, bump into old friend and have long coffee, then have more sushi with another old friend, and talk loudly about the decline of standards at Oxbridge, just to annoy the people either side of you.

Learning: being a dirty stopout is absolutely compulsory.

12. Take children into central London to see Horrible Histories. Accidentally arrive with too much time to spare and force children to walk to Trafalgar Square. Horrible Histories, meh, Trafalgar Square, brilliant:

The force is just to the right of him

The blue cock
Learning: I think it speaks for itself.

13. Have several days where you work, and do absolutely nothing to entertain the children. Well, ok, husband took them to the park, and son had a friend round.

Learning: it's crucial to your mental health to get the chance to do your own work in the summer holidays.

14. Insist that eleven-year-old takes bus home by herself. She will start secondary school in under 3 weeks, and will be travelling to and from school on her own. Resist all her attempts to get out of travelling on her own. Watch child succeed.

Learning: tough it out.

15. Make daughter chop potatoes into fries. Soak chicken in buttermilk all day then shallow fry in breadcrumbs, and finish in the oven with the fries. Sit back and watch children scrape plates.

Learning: tough it out, but in the name of yumminess.

16. Melt two Snickers bars with some butter and milk. Pour over vanilla ice-cream and chopped bananas. Sit back and watch children scrape plates. See 5. above.

Learning: cook fast food at home and add a salad. Your children will eat. 

17. Buy books about manipulative and strong-willed children off 'tinternet. Read them in bed and feel rising anger at yourself and your sloppy parenting methods. Ask son to wash his hands after doing a wee. Do not give in when he whines, throws himself on the floor, shouts at you, hits you.

Learning: I'm not sure what to say. 

18. Go downstairs and have argument with husband about going on a Family Outing to the National Gallery. Husband's POV: it'll be a fibrous muesli-eating nightmare and isn't worth it. Personal POV: husband is lazy and this is why son is a pain in the backside. Husband's rhetorical strategy: tell wife she's dogmatic, bossy, and "strong-willed". Wife's strategy: agree with everything, and then point out that husband is completely irrational. Walk out and make coffee without resolving argument.

Learning: coffee is more important than the National Gallery.

19. Go upstairs and make son get up and survey the three mouldering apple cores you found behind the radiator last night. Tell him you're taking away his new Lego sticker book for the weekend, bought with his own money, unless he clears up and apologises. Sit back with husband and watch for ten minutes as son blows raspberries, refuses to do anything, screams, swears, hits. Up the withdrawal of the new book to a week. Watch as child scrapes apples into recycling.

Learning: coldly hold the line.

20. Use Talking Spoon to reiterate your view that an educational family trip to the National Gallery, even if it only lasts 20 minutes, is better than sitting around, which we've already done for the last few days anyway. Plus if it doesn't work, you can go outside and look at the blue cock again. Be astonished as husband agrees with you, daughter agrees with you, and son doesn't put up much resistance. Be even more astonished when husband hangs up washing, and repairs shed window, a job you have been looking at for about six months.

Learning: say what you have to say and stick to it.

21. Feel faintly smug for two minutes, until the next behaviour crisis. Keep tight hold of parenting book on strong-willed children, with sweaty palms. 

Learning: dealing with strong wills starts at home. 

2 comments:

Ruth Morrison said...

What a great post! Made me laugh out loud at some of the bits - especially the thwarted trip to the National Gallery! One other thing I would have added was Stand in front of xBox asking kids to walk dog. No answer. Switch off xBox to their exclamations. Take memory stick into custody. Watch kids take dog out for walk. Learning: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction...

Kirkegaard said...

Hi Ruth, ABSOLUTELY! Love this, love the vision of you standing in front of the Xbox, and receiving no response. They may think their world is all about quantum mechanics, but we know that newtonian physics still rules the memory stick.