Mum Canute

This week I was lucky enough to have one of my visual ideas pique the interest of Momtimes4, with the result of our collabo here.

My original idea was entitled ‘Mum Canute’. Thought I’d do a little text here to go with her marvelous cartoon.

You know the story of King Canute, right? The king so arrogant with power that he sat on the beach and ordered the waves to stop…which of course they didn’t.

Well, I feel like Mum Canute sometimes, not the arrogant part, but the misguided part that believes that if I order the kids to “stop fighting/pulling hair/destroying things/kicking/drawing on the wall/cutting your hair or clothes/strewing bits all round the house/eating on the couch etc, etc” that they will stop. The orders are often as futile as ordering the lapping waves to desist!

In fact, if my recent research has any weight, ordering, shouting, pleading , even breaking down into tears of futile exasperation have the opposite effect: they actually fuel the behaviour and do nothing to ‘train’ (teach) the children to stop.

So what does work?

Not entering into conflict.

Any situation where conflict arises, where even a slight battle of wills happens is doomed. Because children’s wills are stronger and they have less social norms (they don’t care if you are late for work, or eat at 12 midnight, or the neighbours think you are nuts, or that anyone thinks they are spoiled unruly brats). Because entering into a power battle leaves everyone injured.

You can step back, for now, asses the situation, and act differently next time. Usually there is no urgency to most situations, and usually there is something we can do to troubleshoot in advance.

These skills can be learned by reading books like Children: the challenge or (my all time fave) Talk so your kids will listen, and listen so your kids will talk. Then getting on the same page with your partner (no mean feat for most…) and implementing the strategies. It works, it really does.

It doesn’t for one instant mean letting them do whatever they want, it means working together to create a democratic, respectful and more harmonious family environment (and, sorry if I’m getting a bit loquacious, but a world full of people who are used to dialogue and negotiation of their rights, rather than being ordered around).

We are the rulers, the kings and queens of our homes, and our children wouldn’t want it any other way. But unlike the royalty of old, our job is not to order our kids to do things, it’s to inspire cooperation with great leadership skills.

PS. King Canute (or more accurately, Cnut) of Denmark has been misrepresented in popular culture. He did order the waves to stop, but when he realised that he did not have this godly power, he threw down his crown forever more saying “Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings, for there is none worthy of the name, but He whom heaven, earth, and sea obey by eternal laws.” Nuff said!

Mum Canute

5 thoughts on “Mum Canute

  1. Rose says:

    “childrens’ wills are stronger and they have less social norms”.
    This is exactly the sentence I have been looking for to repeat to myself to remind me why ordering them around and expecting them to understand my frustration is futile. Thank you! 🙂


  2. The next step is recognizing that its “great” that they have strong wills, and not trying to bash and bend it out of them…all while staying sane 😉 I talking the talk and trying to walk the walk every day!


  3. Great post. You must be a wonderful mum! When my kids were little we used to watch Super Nanny together and be horrified at how bad the kids were before they had some structure and input into the way the household was run. It takes work to develop the leadership skills that parenting requires! It was fun to discuss how the changes made everyone in the family happier.


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