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.