I am very happy to welcome Janey Fraser to Romaniac HQ. With the James household one month into teenagerdom, this is a timely post. Thank you so much, Janey.
“OK,” said the kindly looking man at the front of the class with baby gunk on his left-hand shoulder. “Let’s start by finding out exactly what you want.”
A woman next to me, with lipstick on (where did she find the time?) put up her hand. “I’d like to be able to get my twelve year old son to bed on time”
There was a murmur of agreement. “When would you like him to go to sleep?” said our leader sympathetically.
There was a pursing of glossy lips. “Nine o’clock at the latest.”
Again, there was a wave of enthusiastic nodding from every direction except mine. That’s because my jaw had dropped.
“I’d like my daughter to do more jobs round the house,” chirped up someone else.
Another chorus of ‘me too’s’ followed.
Then, without meaning to, I put up my hand. “I’d like my fifteen year old to turn off his laptop before midnight; to do his homework without swearing at me; to promise faithfully not to have his hair dyed by his friends again – or sheared; and never, ever, to get another tattoo.”
There was an appalled silence. “Please tell me,” said the woman next to me, “that you are joking.”
Actually I wasn’t. In fact it was why I was here at a parenting class, hoping for some tips. Unfortunately, within the first five minutes, I had sent myself to the bottom of the class.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m proud of my children. They have character. But there are times when – in the absence of grandparent support – I need an extra hand. That’s why parenting classes seemed such a good idea. In fact, as the course progressed, I did pick up some good tips. Reflective listening was one. The idea is that when your children say something to you (or yell), you repeat back their words to show you have listened and add a dollop of empathy at the same time. Here’s an example.
“I’ll bl….. well do my homework later.” (teenager).
“I see. So you’ll bl…. well do your homework later? I understand you don’t want to do it now because you’d rather be playing video games. But if you do it now, I won’t need to nag you any more and you won’t get into trouble at school.”
It worked – up to a point – although my teenager did, after a while, question me. “Why do you keep repeating back what I’m saying?” he asked.
“Because someone told me to,” I retorted.
“Mum, I’ve told you enough times. It’s not cool to listen to others. You need to do what’s right for you.”
He has a point.
Then there was the three card trick. The idea was that if your child did something wrong, you gave them a playing card as a warning. Two things wrong meant two cards with a firmer warning. Three cards was a disciplinary (no pocket money).
No. It didn’t work for us either.
On the plus side, I did in fact make some friends – including one mum who said she admired my frankness and she wished she’d summoned up enough courage to confess that her daughter was so addicted to her laptop that my new friend had to hide the rooter in her boot.
I’d like to say that the parenting class brought peace and calm to our house but I can’t bring myself to fib. Not even for the sake of an article. What it did do, however, was to give me an idea for a novel about a mother, her brother in law and a young gran. They all meet up at a parenting class and get embroiled in a complex plot of love, lust and lies (not necessarily in that order). It’s been described as humorous family comedy with a dark streak.
Just like my lot really.
HAPPY FAMILIES by JANEY FRASER. ARROW 6.99
http://www.janeyfraser.co.uk/ (visit my website to win a free stay at Champneys for two).
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vg7VJbSp1xg. This will give you a taste of the book.