Tuesday, 26 January 2010

The cost of having strong values

So I like a challenge which is why I have committed to write an entry for Josie's writing workshop despite the fact that it feels as if our house is falling down around our ears! The focus is on what is it that I refuse to compromise on and what is the impact on me.

This topic drew me in because as a Taurean, I am reknown for my tenacity which when overplayed becomes being bloody-minded to those around me. I am passionate about life and the importance of having values and therefore helping others to articulate what gives their life meaning and therefore find happiness in their choices. Before I go off into coach speak let's get into specifics.

One of the things that is important to me and my husband is that our children display good manners. On many occasions, often completely unexpectedly, we have total strangers come up to us in restaurants and comment on how well behaved our girls are and what a delight it is to see such young children behaving so well - they are 3 and 2. This of course gives one a glow and for me makes me feel that I may get some things wrong but at least I am getting something right.

That is the preamble for what comes next. Last Friday we were round at a friend of mine's house. She has two boys pretty much the same age as the girls so it is great to get the children together as it usually works well on a number of levels. Not last week. First off her youngest spent much of the afternoon crying for no apparent reason. My friend, whom I shall refer to as N, explained how he had had a swine flu jab earlier in the week - something which I can't understand anyone doing unless their child has severe asthma or a similar condition which means the effects of swine flu could be much more serious. I mentioned my view but managed, for me, to be quite diplomatic so I did avoid one potential hazard. So far so good. N then went on later to explain that her son was not usually like this to which I agreed but that due to the jab and other factors she felt that it was his way of punishing her. She felt therefore that she had to respond by cuddling him etc. At this point I happened to mention that if either of my two turn on the tears they get short shrift and I tend to say that I am going to count to three and I expect them to stop. Yes perhaps that was the moment I should have kept silent on my views as it all came home to roost not long after.

The four children sat down for supper. It was a delicious chicken risotto but my eldest did not eat much because she did not like the lemon flavour in the rice. In the end I finished hers and against my better judgement said she could have pudding as I really did not want her getting hungry later. When everyone had finished she wanted to get down. So I said casually what do you say to N? My expectation was that she would say please may I get down. She refused to say anything, wanted a cuddle and went all shy. I said that she needed to sit at the table until she was willing to say anything. Everyone else got down and played and I went to the toilet before we started getting ready to leave. I came back in and went over to have a quiet word explaining what I expected her to say. She then agreed to speak to N who came over and tried to be encouraging. No dice and by this time I felt that I could not drag the whole thing out any longer so I said to her either she said it or she could get down but there would be no treats the next day. She claimed she did not want any treats the next day, got down and the three of us got ready to leave. N was very reassuring and said that they had the same thing at times with the boys etc. etc. but after all that I had implied and said before, I did feel a bit of a plonker.

So would I take the same course of action again? I was reading someone's blog about disciplining children the other day and his view was that it is the child's decision whether they heed what you say when you explain that you do not like their behaviour. They may do what you want the next time, they may not. All that said the best thing to do according to him is to be consistent in terms of one's expectations each time so that the message given is unambiguous. Perhaps what I do regret is my attitude to her child which could be seen as smug so I may be more circumspect in terms of what I say in a similar situation another time. What is has shown me is that it is for all these reasons that I never claim to be an expert on parenting or to give advice for which I expect to be paid on this subject!


  1. Risotto? Your children eat Risotto?! I am at once in awe and ashamed of the appallingly narrow range of foods that mine will endure.

    A thought-inspiring post....

    My personal opinion is there is advice (good and bad) and there are certain scenarios where an objective opinion is helpful, but mainly we're all just muddling along, making our own mistakes and however clearly we might think we see a situation involving OPCs, the likelihood is that we're missing out on at least 50% of vital information.

    After 3 children (all different!) I still often get it wrong and, when I do, I stop and apologise. What I have learned is to choose my battles and not expect too much from them- their reactions are not always what I want or expect them to be, but part of my job is to give them the confidence to be their own person and if that means that they sometimes disagree with me then that's something I have to (grudgingly) swallow!


  2. Hmm. I agree with P. What I would add is not to forget that at 3 and 2 your girls are very young. I have the same (Capricorn in my case) stubbornness, which my children have inherited, with a good infusion from their father as well. Sometimes in a battle of wills like that I find it easier to drop the issue and come back to it later, even if I'm secretly gritting my teeth and fuming!

    There are no right answers with parenting. It's nearly ten years since I started down the road, and I torture myself constantly with all the things I've done wrong over the years.

    Have a glass of wine, relax, and remember two things: tomorrow is another day, and just by *trying* to be a good parent you're doing a better job than lots of other people.


  3. I admire you for having values and convictions which you stick to.

    We're struggling with discipline right now, no matter how consistent and hard we try. I think the important thing is not to be too quick to judge others for their techniques or attitudes. Every family is different, every child is different - the important thing is thinking about it and finding what suits you.

    Children aren't always going to play by the rules, and good friends and other good parents will understand that.

    A thought provoking post - thank you.