How many of you began the journey of parenthood even before pregnancy either assuming all will be fine and you will have that sweet, cuddly Gerber baby and be a great parent or going at it with fervor and determination that you will never do to your kids what was done to you—so therefore your children will be happy and loving? And you certainly won’t have kids like the ones you see acting out in the supermarket.
Most moms fit somewhere in this picture of hopes and expectations and end up finding themselves in very foreign territory. I certainly did. My first child allowed me to hold up the banner of “best mother in the world”. He was a peace of cake. It was my second child, my daughter who pulled me up short and turned, no snapped, my head around, but only after many years of power struggles and feeling like a terrible mother.
For Melissa Hood, my friend and colleague, it was the same. She too was lulled by an easy first and then… I’ll let her speak for herself. And then we’re going to give away one of her new books, Real Parenting, for Real Kids, hot off the British press.
Before I had children I thought all you needed to be a good parent was to love your kids. I did love my kids but when it came to it I found I needed a whole lot more than that. Parenting turned out to quite different from what I’d expected.
My son, Christian, tested all my parenting abilities–and they were found wanting. He was rough and mean with his brother, he irritated his sister, he got into scrapes at preschool, he broke things and didn’t do as he was told. He was like a whirlwind, getting into everything, especially anything sharp or dangerous. He got lost in busy places as he wandered off and anything forbidden was like a magnet. He did the opposite of what he was asked to do. Not all the time, but enough for me to not always like being with him much, which made me feel sad and guilty. His early childhood was characterised by him doing one thing or another that got him into trouble, both at home and at school.
I can remember wondering what I’d done to deserve this. My instinct was to be loving, which I could be. But then he’d do something awful, and I’d think he needs to be punished. So I’d do that. That didn’t work either and the behaviour continued. When he was little we’d tried ignoring and distracting only to be met with greater persistence. We sent him to his room, we withdrew privileges–sometimes quite big treats that we’d all been looking forward to for a long time ¬¬–and he got told off, lectured and scolded. I tried cajoling, pleading and bribing too. None of it worked. We felt powerless.
Parenting Christian provided the crisis that set me off on the adventure where I discovered the skills, strategies and insights set out in Real Parenting for Real Kids, often by seeing what didn’t work. Bonnie’s book When Your Kids Push Your Buttons, And What You Can Do About It really made a profound difference to me as this provided the missing piece about why I’d get upset sometimes and not be able to access the skills I knew about. This book really helped me understand myself. I met Bonnie and we began collaborating to share what we know with parents.
I met Melissa the first time I ran a workshop in London, not long after she had started The Parent Practice, a similar parent education organization to the one I had started here at home. I have been going back to London almost every year since and teaching at The Parent Practice where I feel right at home as our parenting principles are so aligned.
Our stories are so similar, and what we have come to believe as the most effective way to raise all our children is so similar, that I am thrilled and honored to offer you the opportunity to get a free copy of her terrific new book just in time for Mother’s Day. (And for the rest of you, go onto amazon and buy one. You won’t be sorry.)
In order to win a copy, all you need to do is make a comment below. Tell us anything you want to about what you thought parenting would be like BC (before children). A week from Mother’s Day, about 9:00pm EST on Sunday May 15, I will use a random number generator to determine the winner. I will let you know, send Melissa your email address, and she will send you a copy of Real Parents, for Real Kids.