Picking Apples

Uncategorized May 27, 2020

"I've not seen you like this before", commented my friend as I struggled to defuse an escalating situation with my 3 year old in the garden over whether I should go fetch him a pair of dry socks.


You know how it goes: he'd walked to his trampoline over wet grass despite my requests that he put shoes on or go barefoot. Now he was stuck in a loop, and I wasn't helping. She was right. I'm usually better at this, usually able to remain compassionate, usually able to effectively engage my executive 'problem-solving' brain systems. "He's been hard work all day", I toss back as way of an explanation. Although she'd come over to my place to crowd-share the child entertaining, my friend very kindly steps in and starts interacting with my son and her two kids, allowing me to start finishing (yes I did just write "start finishing") the grass-laying project I had been neglecting all week. Adrian instantly appreciated a calm and responsive adult presence and more or less...

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Do You Identify With This?

Uncategorized May 27, 2020

If I start by saying, "I was listening to Radio 4 this morning", instantly I will have influenced some of my readers to mentally switch off (perhaps even stop reading?) because they don't identify with listening to BBC Radio 4. There might also be some who think "ooooh, I like Radio 4!", who will then read on enthusiastically. There'll also be a fair few international readers who think, "What's Radio 4?" and feel alienated or intrigued by the Britishness of my statement.


Anyway, the person being interviewed was explaining, "Identities go wrong when people are using them when they are scared, puzzled, confused or threatened". The interviewee explained that in these situations, people will retreat into 'armour-plated' versions of their identities. By comparison, when they're doing well and are happy, they tend to be more relaxed and those identities are more flexible, with 'soft edges'. "Furthermore", said the interviewee, "there are two ways that...

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How Not To Distract Your Kid With A New Toy

Uncategorized May 27, 2020

Yesterday, a toy arrived for Adrian in the post. It was a cheap, impulse buy that I'd seen in a Facebook ad and I knew that he'd love it.

It was in a tin (always a winner!), it had numbers (he's very interested in numbers at the moment, noticing them everywhere, asking me to read them out, trying to work out what 2 and 2 makes, etc) and it had coloured sticks. So while I was busy in the garden, I told him that there was a parcel for him and let him open it.


Five minutes later, he's throwing a tantrum surrounded by numbers and coloured sticks, insisting that he doesn't like his present and that I should "throw it away".

While my inner voice was thinking "brat" and I tried to explain to him why I wouldn't be throwing it away (as I retrieved 3 coloured sticks from the bin - "hey, at least he's learning to tidy up after himself!"), I was also mentally berating myself for not being with him to support him while he explored his new toy. The frustration of not knowing how to play...

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My New Morning Routine

Uncategorized May 27, 2020

It's 08:30 Feeling positive!

Bikes ready: Check!

Child fed: Check!

Child wearing clothes: Check! 

Still time to get to school: Check! 



08:32 Now to get child out the door...  

Extraction from living room: Check! 

Shoes on: Check! 

Helmet on! Check 

Adrian: "Penguin needs one too!": Doh!

Me: "OK, what can we use?"

Adrian: "How 'bout my other shoe?... No too big..."


08:37 Feeling anxious!

Me: "I know!" (opens cupboard of a million plastic cups and lids that don't match each other, selects an Ikea lid and hands it over)

Adrian: "Perfect!" (Phew!)

Me: "I'll just add an elastic band" (finds elastic band instantly! Woo hoo!)

Me: "Let's go show your teacher"


08:44 Starting to feel more relaxed.

Arrive at school before bell: Check! (by 1 minute!)
TA dutifully admires penguin's helmet: Check!


08:53 Morning Drop Off Complete. Only 12 or 14 more years to go!


So, what parenting wins or struggles have you...

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In A Bind At IKEA

Uncategorized May 27, 2020

I went to IKEA yesterday early evening having arranged to meet someone (who incidentally doesn't have kids) to buy a binding machine from them for the 'How to Talk So Kids Will Listen' course materials. After putting the machine into the car, I invited her up for a coffee while Adrian had a ice-cream. 

As we got to the lift, the doors were closing so we nipped inside where someone else had already pressed THE BUTTON. Adrian looked panicked. He had wanted to press the button. As we got out of the lift he started having a meltdown. I explained to him that we were going to get ice-cream and that we'd come back later and play with the lift. Conscious that we were with a stranger (to whom I had stupidly just divulged what I do for a living!), I lifted him up and tried to get him into the building so we could get the coffee and ice-cream and hopefully moved on!

By the counter, Adrian was rolling around the floor trying to bite my ankles. Fabulous! Finally, having met my own...

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Bunny The Biting Bear

Uncategorized May 27, 2020

As usual, this blog starts with a tantrum. This particular tantrum is occurring 5 metres off the ground in the local climbing wall, where a 'HALTed'* Adrian is furiously crying that he can't unclip the quickdraw preventing him from climbing higher. For the sake of the other climbers in the hall, we lower him down and attempt to console and calm him down.


After a couple of minutes of Adrian screaming to be winched back up, we decide to untie him from the 70 metre umbilical cord that is tethering him to the wall. As I am undoing the knot on his harness, Adrian clamps his teeth down hard on Jur's bare forearm. As I finish untying him, I have tears in my eyes that my son has bitten his father so hard he's drawn blood. Jur, careful not to escalate the situation, has remained cool and calm. I carry a crying and angry Adrian out of the hall.

We sit amongst the bike racks, me on the floor and Adrian on my lap. Adrian is quiet. He's shocked. "You bit your dad so hard that you made...

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Rage Triggers and Sleep

Uncategorized May 27, 2020

This morning I had the pleasure of meeting Vicki Dawson, the founder of the Children's Sleep Charity, during one of her workshops to local foster-care professionals.

During the break she and I chatted about the difficulty parents have when discussing sleep on social media because of the highly emotive responses that can be generated.


I brought up the relevance of L.I.F.E.M.O.R.T.S as an explanation of the rage and other amygdala-based responses (i.e. fight, flight or freeze) that can be triggered.

This mnemonic, proposed by neuroscientist R Douglas Fields in his book 'Why We Snap', is discussed in the Understanding Preschoolers course I run, but as you'll see below, it very much applies to adults too.

So, you may experience a 'rage' response if someone else's actions or words trigger (conscious or unconscious) thoughts related to one of more of the following categories:

  • L - Life or Limb / Survival (basically self-defence)
  • I - Insult (Verbal or...
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Telling On Another Kid

Uncategorized May 27, 2020

My 4 year old likes things done the 'right' way (whatever that happens to be from his point of view!).

He doesn't like things done incorrectly and he will sometimes tells me if other kids are transgressing whatever rules he has in his head while in the playground etc. 


Personally, I'd prefer not to get involved in conflict resolution between friends, but similarly, I don't want to encourage him never to tell me things since his head isn't yet able to filter what does and doesn't need to be shared with an adult.

Instead, I'm following How2Talk suggestions by making eye-contact, nodding and saying "un huh", "oh" and repeating back to him what he's saying to show I've heard him, but not offering advice beyond that. Sometimes he needs a sympathetic cuddle too.

Most often though, once he has relayed the information to me and feels listened to, he runs off again to carry on playing. No further action or response required.

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The Gift of Unsolicited Advice

Uncategorized May 27, 2020

We parents receive more than just presents at Christmas. Many of us are also generously showered by the wisdom and judgements of our nearest and dearest. Those parents with newborns are especially lucky in the variety and quantity of advice on offer.

At my last 4T Drop In session before Christmas, we discussed the receiving of unsolicited advice. Interestingly, it isn't always the advice itself which drives our emotional responses. It is how it is delivered.

For example, as a couple, if one of you tells the other what to do (e.g. how to do the washing up, or how to wash the baby) then no matter how accurate the information, the receiver unconsciously thinks "you're not the boss of me" and then wants to do the complete opposite, just to prove that they can.

The reason for this is because we all move through life slipping in and out of 3 'egostates':

  • Parent mode,
  • Adult mode,
  • Child mode.

When couples are getting on with each other, they have Adult-Adult interactions. When...

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