The Church Look

The head of Ofsted, Sir Michael Wishaw, had a word or two to say yesterday about those he feels are at the root of Britains biggest social problems.  Parents, along with town-planners, did not escape his criticism partcularly those families where parents were seen to no longer “take responsibility” for teaching their children “right and wrong.” You can read more about this here.

In principle I agree with him but now, as a Mother of a feisty toddler, whilst I recognise the importance of discipline and guidance, I also understand the extreme difficulty in carrying this out 100% of the time.  We all know children need consistency but I confess that I have been THAT mother, the one at playgroup struggling to placate a screaming, wriggling boy mid-tantrum and, although knowing there  is bound to be a ‘correct method’ of dealing with this, and horribly aware that every other parent in the room probably knows the ‘correct method’, find myself threatening threats I cannot possibly carry out or bribing him with the promise of things I cannot possibly give him.  And when that fails…weeping with despair.

I think as parents we are constantly overloaded with opinions on the right ways to discipline our children, and these opinions are often conflicting and confusing.  It is a massive industry since, at the end of the day, we are all generally striving to do the best by them and inspire them to grow up as well-rounded, good, happy and stable people aren’t we?

In light of this Mr B and I tried to think back to how our parents approached this and my answer was quite simple.

“The church look.”

“Your parents disciplined you with ‘a church look?’  Right.  And that worked?”

At which point, I gave him the church look.

He sat a little straighter.

But I meant it.  The church look was that intense, silent, burning stare that my Mother would fix myself and my sister with when caught doing something we shouldn’t. Often this involved giggling in church hence the name. There is nothing like a quiet, solemn occasion to give me the giggles still. Completely inappropriate I know but this is a curse I still carry. I am a scream at funerals.

Anyway, it worked. A quick blast of ‘the church look’ from my Mum and we would sit down, shut-up and behave. No words required yet that look said so much. “You are really going to get it when we get home, just you wait, you are in so much trouble.” all without uttering a single syllable.

Then yesterday, without warning, I was on the receiving end of it again.  It was the first day I had left both of the littlies at home with Mr B for the day while I went to work.  I couldn’t wait to get home, though unsure of what chaos  may greet me, but instead returned to a scene of domestic bliss.  The boy was playing nicely on the floor and Mr B was curled up on the sofa, Little Miss feeding happily in his arms.

After greeting the boy, to which I got a brief flicker of a smile in response  before returning to pulling the wheels off a truck, I turned to greet Mr B and Little Miss.

And she hit me with it.

The church look.

“And where the hell have you been eh?  ALL DAY? And now you waltz in here with your smiles and hellos and what, you think we are just going to be ok with that? Do you? DO YOU?  Well, just you wait.  There is a WHOLE NIGHT to get through yet.  Think you’re going to sleep?  Do you? Pah.”

At which point she slowly turned her head to Mr B, gave him an almost imperceptible nod of the head before turning away from me completely.

So that told me.

The really annoying thing though is I have been trying the church look myself on the boy.

It seems to have skipped a generation.

So, how about you?  How do you discipline your kids?  All and any advice welcome.


  1. says

    Oh my God, I can so relate. Aaron threw a wobbly in Kiddicare the other day. We looked at one of his Xmas presents on the way in. Then clothes, then paid for them [the clothes] and then went to the cafe. To get him out of the store I said let’s go and look at what Santa’s getting you (bearing in mind that doing so was pleasant on the way in). He had a full tummy and wasn’t tired [the 2 triggers] so I was confident. He threw a STELLA meltdown that he wanted his Santa present there and then. In fact he took it off the shelf and ran around the store with it for 10 minutes – I have never been so embarrassed – he was screaming and I was shouting. I didn’t think of ever calling it the Church Look, but yes indeed, THAT was ALL that was required from MY Mum when I was little – it certainly has skipped a generation. This post had me nodding all the way through – in fact I wish I had written it. A great story well told. Liska xxxxx

    • says

      You just want the ground to swallow you up don’t you? Why doesn’t the look work for us??? Thanks for commenting and hope you are spared any more public meltdowns x

  2. says

    That really made me laugh as I have a ‘church look’ which has helped me to survive my teaching career to date as well as parenting although I never went to church so I’m not sure where it came from. It is difficult to be a super parent all the time and even those that appear to be can’t possibly be. Follow your instincts, accept that none of us are perfect and keep a nice bottle of wine in the fridge and you will be fine

  3. says

    Haha! Love it. We call it the death stare in my family. I’m still perfecting it tbh, with many hours in front of the mirror. I think there has to be an almost imperceptible flare of the nostrils for the look to deliver suitable terror, but when I try it just looks like Im doing my pelvic floor excersizes. One day though, one day I’ll stop those pesky kids in their tracks with a glare. Maybe Gove will suggest they teach it in schools.

Leave a Reply