Eventually, no matter how hard you try to avoid them, most marriages are 'blessed' with little ones - tiny bundles of 'joy' that will turn your lives upside down (assuming they were the right way up to begin with). Before you know it, you will have completely forgotten what it's like to have a proper night's sleep, a peaceful car journey and crayon-free walls. Fortunately, being married to Stephen, I was already well used to all of these things.
As any almost perfect mother knows, your offspring's childhood is marked by distinctly different periods. The first of these is known as 'the terrible twos', when your child first begins to develop a sense of their place in the world and begins to push boundaries, often refusing to do as they are told. This is followed by the thoroughly unpleasant threes, the frightful fours, the forgettable fives, the soul-destroying sixes, the simply dreadful sevens, the excruciating eights, the nightmarish nines, the tiresome tens, the egregious elevens and the traumatic twelves. Then they're into their teens and things start to go downhill. My advice is just to sit tight and wait for it to pass. In another room. With a nice cup of tea. Or a bottle of gin.
When it comes to your children's behaviour, teamwork is all-important. Whether rewarding or disciplining a child, the key is consistency - otherwise they will never learn right from wrong. In order to ensure this, it's important that both you and your partner work together. Some couples adopt a good cop/bad cop approach - Stephen prefers good cop/Robocop. I smile benignly whenever our children misbehave and he walks around in a metal suit shooting things. It seems to work. It's inherent in youngsters to want to push the boundaries you impose on them - it's all part of growing up but it can lead to confrontation, tantrums and tears.
My answer to this is simple - if you don't give your children any boundaries, they will have nothing to push!
Many so-called childcare expects claim that you should regularly praise your children but I disagree. This can lead to over-confidence and possibly arrogance when they grow older, plus there's nothing more unbearable than a mother relentlessly extolling their child's virtues against all evidence to the contrary. Even if your son or daughter should do something you deem praiseworthy, such as painting a pretty picture or composing a symphony, just carry on as if nothing has happened and before long, not only will they develop a true sense of their self-worth but they'll stop pestering you when you're trying to watch Countdown. Ignore some sense into them - that's what I say, dears.
Having said all this, you may find that, despite all of your best efforts, your little ones' behaviour may still be a cause for concern. Should this be the case, you may actually need to impose some kind of punishment. One popular sanction among child psychologists is the naughty step. This is where a child who has failed to meet your expectations for behaviour is forced to sit alone for a period of time on the staircase, the idea being that solitude allows them the opportunity to calm down and reflect on their behaviour, thereby leading to an improvement.
There are pluses and minuses to this type of sanction - on the plus side, it saves you all that tedious telling them off and having to explain what they've done wrong but on the minus side, when you have a family of six or seven quite badly behaved children (plus an equally badly behaved husband) it can become unmanageable and quite difficult to get to the bathroom. Regardless of its drawbacks, I do find that this system can be successful up to a point so I've drawn up this step-by-naughty-step guide, or twelve-step programme, beginning on the bottom step (which I have called step 1) for a minor offence and moving upwards according to the level of misdemeanour.
- Not doing homework
- Refusing to go to bed
- Saying a naughty word
- Saying a very naughty word
- Saying one of Daddy's naughty words
- Drawing on the wall
- Third degree murder
- Criticising their mother's cooking
- Stephen's step
I hope this brief guide has proved invaluable to you. If, however, you feel in need of further childcare tips or advice on any other area of married life, please take a look at my indispensable new book, How To Have An Almost Perfect Marriage here, dears.
'Happy' Mother's Day, dears!
Edna Fry (Mrs) x
Mrs. Stephen Fry will be logging on to this blog to answer your questions below about her life, children and parenting methods from 12-2pm Friday 16 March. If you'd like to speak with her, leave a comment below.