Wrong: all you need for good parenting is to love your kids

At the time I had my first child I was a solicitor, a job for which I’d studied and trained and got qualifications.

You’d think that those negotiating and persuasion skills I’d acquired on the job would have equipped me for parenting.

Have you ever tried negotiating with a toddler? It becomes very clear who’s in charge pretty quickly.

I thought all you needed to be a good parent was to love your kids, and I could do that. I did love my kids but that didn’t help me with the nitty gritty detail of family life. I needed many more skills and strategies.

My middle son Christian came into the world in a dramatic way with the umbilical cord round his neck, blue and needing to be rushed away for resuscitation.

Although he was alright, nothing was quiet in our family after that.

Christian tested all my parenting abilities – and they were found wanting.

He was rough and mean with his brother, he irritated his sister, he got into scrapes with other kids, he broke things and didn’t do as he was told.

His early childhood was characterised by him doing one thing or another that got him into trouble, both at home and at school.

Once he started “big school” my husband and I spent quite a bit of time in the principal’s office.

We sat on the sofa and were made to feel like we had a uniquely awful child, and we thought we were uniquely deficient parents.

When Christian did something terrible I’d think, I’m supposed to punish now. So I’d do that.

But the behaviour continued.

We tried all the things that parents were “supposed to do”. We tried ignoring and distracting only to be met with greater persistence.

We sent him to his room, we withdrew privileges and he got told off, lectured and scolded.

A few times, when my buttons had really been pushed, I smacked.

I certainly tried cajoling, pleading and bribing too.

None of it worked. We felt quite powerless. Continue reading

  • Melissa Hood is a former lawyer turned parenting class facilitator who works in both London and Sydney. She is the author of Real Parenting for Real Kids.
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