Anne Hailes: 'Because I say so' doesn't work says parenting expert Cai Graham
THERE'S one thing that amazes me – there is no manual for parenting. Did you study being a parent before your children were born? If you are fortunate enough to have a family you'll know that it's really a bit hit and miss – leave out the hit, though – you tend to rely on your own parents' methods – ‘do as I say', ‘don't argue with me', ‘go to your room'.
Then came the naughty step, which is popular at a certain age, but I've heard of some schools where an erring pupil is sent to sit in with a junior class, I suppose to humiliate and learn a lesson. Not good.
According Cai Graham, parenting and teen coach and author of The Teen Toolbox, all that is history. She's a woman on a mission and her online video chats and her books are a huge help to parents – and, I would add, grandparents as well, who she thinks should make a point of learning modern technology to keep up with 21st century life.
Apart from all that has gone before, Cai Graham's most recent free chats, entitled 5 Golden Rules for Modern Parenting, have come at just the right time; with lockdown and shielding, many parents continue to get frazzled and in danger of loosing the rag and children are just mega frustrated, her advice is basic and sensible.
:: It's pretty strong stuff
“If you want to see an improvement in your child's behaviour, first look at yourself."
This lady is the fist in the velvet glove; she tells it like it is and thanks to her training and her own parenting experiences, she makes you think. She believes that threatening with the naughty corner doesn't work after a certain age because into the teenage years our children begin to develop a mind of their own – there would be something wrong if that were not the case – but it can lead to friction.
‘My house, my rules' doesn't hold water she says.
“For the first seven years our children are sponges and they take on our values, likes and dislikes but after that they start looking around and taking values and beliefs from their peers and celebrities.
"‘Because I said so' doesn't work. ‘Because I said so', I believe, is like saying I've run out of ideas, I've no idea what I'm doing so just get on with what I say because I'm the boss.”
Cai considers that this approach is rather lazy. We cannot live our child's life they must fly on their own with the support of their family under their wings.
She discusses the parental dilemma between developing a healthy attitude where you want to keep them safe but if you try to control every thing they do, in a misguided attempt to protect them, this only leads to disconnection, conflicts, secrecy and resentment – who wants that? It's important to foster growing and flourishing relationships.
“There is no such thing as a perfect family." Well, that's reassuring. “In today's society we have blended families, we have bonus kids, same-sex marriages, mixed-race families, single mothers and single dads, a whole host of situations all thrown into the mix.”
A rainbow culture which can present difficulties for some but Cai's thought is that we should celebrate the difference; certainly to learn of other cultures and backgrounds is fascinating, although sometimes you have to bite your tongue in case interest is seen as prying.
Sadly our leaders have an ability to show dreadful examples, most recently Gregory Campbell making hurtful schoolboy jokes about the Irish language. How clever does he think he is? And what an appalling, snide example to our young people.
:: Home schooling
With home schooling the relationship between parent and ‘pupil' can be difficult at times and I'm sure tempers are shorted when the question ‘Why?' doesn't get the right answer.
So patience is a virtue; recognise that the goal posts of your own growing up have changed and you should change with them. It's not easy but all that's going on at the moment – Covid-19 putting stress on young and old, whether to wear a mask or not, the talk of children having to wear a face covering when school resumes – puts additional strains on relationships.
Cai, who was a Childline volunteer and has studied her subject, looks at relationships with a calm, clear eye – stress, loss, mental health issues, discipline and coping strategies are all covered in her 5 Golden Rules to Modern Parenting.
“Lead by example, become a role model rather than a manager, recognise that your child knows best and be open to their points of view, listen to their thoughts and engage with them and their passions, understand how they tick.”
I find Cai's regular lessons on life really interesting, I wish I'd had them when I was growing up as a parent!
I always found a sense of humour was important. I'd a horrible way of listening to requests for new branded trainers or a new something else that was out of the question and then going to the kitchen window, hands folded in prayer and after a new moments with eyes closed, I turned to the relevant child and told them "God says no". You can't argue with that. I suppose today I'd say ‘The computer says no'!
Really what I should have been saying was, can't afford it at the moment, let's look at the budget, can you save your pocket money and teach them that some things are just not possible and why that is.
Having said that, though it's not a good idea to indulge your child or spoil them with possessions, do remember that you can't spoil your child with your love.
:: You will find Cai Graham at www.caigraham.com/5gr-video2