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

Misery needs company

Reading the 10 secrets of happy people, or some such, I came across:

  • “Misery loves company, stay away from negative people if you want to be happy.”

I couldn’t disagree more. Sad and ‘negative’ people need love and support, not to be shunned like lepers (once were). If your positivity is genuine and strong, you will be able to be around sad people and stay supportive, giving them hope and comfort.

Positive thinking and the laws of attraction get the full thumbs up in my mind, absolutely. But I think it’s a bit of a sickness to equate that philosophy with only socialising with people that seem happy, upbeat and sorted. Really.

Next time your harassed mum-with-3-kids friend (…ahem…) needs to let off steam, will you listen and let her sound off, no advice, just staying still and emitting good vibes of peace and love towards her? Or think, I don’t want to be tainted with negativity, and cut it short.

If you know of someone ‘negative’ in need, reach out and support, don’t recoil.

Misery needs company

Judging me, judging you

I’ve realised that having a View (note: capital V) on parenting practices is often just jazzed up judgmentalism. Saying certain parenting practices are “right/wrong” is judging, like it or not.

Even though I’ve always thought of myself as what I call a right-on parent (cue two finger peace sign), I’ve had many, many Views. They are mostly “progressive” “peaceful” views (against cry it out, pro breast-feeding and what have you), but nevertheless they are Views.

I’m here to unravel and undo that. We need to come together fellow parent folks, and I want to support not divide.

Back to the beginning…

I remember seeing a family in the airport while I was pregnant for the first time, not yet a mum but feeling very righteous in the place of mum to be. They were towering over their child, shouting at her, telling her things like “oh it’s always about you isn’t it, why don’t you behave, you spoil everything” etc etc. They seemed like evil monsters, I would never, ever speak to my child that way. Their children would turn out BAD and it would be THEIR fault.

Years pass, more kids come along.

At some point patience wears, you find yourself losing it. More than once. In times of extremis losing it becomes daily. Then somehow you find a gap, maybe an understanding comment gives you a ‘lightbulb’ moment, something you read (a blog post, perhaps!). You get a moment to think, and with that tiny space you change something, remove a stressor or two, life balances, you lose it less, or deal with it better, or best of all use those moments as modelling good behaviour moments.

You don’t get it right all the time, just most of the time. You learn humility, that good enough is good enough. You learn that all parents are doing a bloody hard job, doing it well most of the time, and need understanding, not judgment and blame.

You learn that there are many ways of doing this thing called parenting, that the outcomes depend on so many factors, that there is no perfect, and that is ok.

If I could rewind and say a few words to those parents I would like to say “this too shall pass, you are doing a good job, we have all been there.” I don’t judge them anymore, and actually writing this has lifted another layer of judgment: judging myself for judging them…we all deserve another day, another chance to get it (almost) right.

Judging me, judging you

Inclusive parenting

There are so many ways to be a good parent, so many ways to get it “right” (or right enough), and while many of these ways may be different, even contradictory, they are all equally valid.

I want to focus on this point of view rather than the usual ‘this way is the right way’ rhetoric. I feel that we have got to a point where there is a standoff between what may be called ‘routine’ or ‘traditional’ parenting, and ‘alternative’ or ‘attachment’ parenting. When did we start to put ourselves on one side of the parenting fence or another? Is there really a need for there to be a ‘fence’ at all?

I think parents as a community could think much more about the ‘many ways to be right theory’. After all, we want to live in a society were we can all be different but equal, and equally accepted. Why shouldn’t it be thus whilst raising our kids?

Therefore I propose that whether you birthed at home or at hospital, bottle, or breastfed, cried it out or bed-shared, made the baby food or bought it, carried your baby in a sling or a buggy, wherever the hell you schooled your kids, whatever childcare arrangements you made, whatever you do and did was simply one of the many right ways to do it. Enough with the polarised views, up with supporting the myriad of choices.

Far from being stressful, it can be an exciting and enriching exercise to look at all these different perspectives and ways of doing things. We don’t need to have to the upper hand, to compare against our own experiences, in actual fact there is no competition, just observed difference. We can all be happy knowing that we ‘did it right’ even when we did it differently to someone else, because there are so many right ways to do it right.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be concerned about your children and how you raise them. I’m saying that most parents are concerned, very much so, just concerned in different ways about different things…and that is ok. Kids can turn out pretty much ok in pretty much most circumstances. So let’s take a journey looking at life through the lens of inclusiveness, observing even celebrating different approaches, and creating a compassionate view of our own and others’ parenting journey.

Inclusive parenting


This blog is mainly as a portal through which to express my creativity, thoughts and ideas. It’s mostly about parenting, maybe a specific a style of parenting which I’m coming to recognise as something I could call ‘inclusive’ parenting… I will probably add my own personal musings, recipes, links, ideas or whatever else springs to mind…

And btw, thanks very much to Sarah P, who inspired the name of this blog with her comments.


Note: December 2014. A place to evolve. When I started this blog I was a SAHM, most of my posts were about tiredness and parenting. Now, I work and most of my blogs are about tiredness and feminism. Go figure 😉