Why this workshop?
There is no sure-fire way to be a good parent. But there are good parenting techniques. The way we parent our children directly affects their emotional, physical and mental health – not just now, but for the rest of their lives.
So, I think we’d all agree that it’s pretty important to do the best we can. I didn’t have any particular parenting woes when I first went to a Positive Parenting workshop about four years ago – just a curiosity about the topic and an interest in picking up some good tips.
However, by the end of the first session, I had learnt so much about the way I parent and had recognised traps I had fallen in to, but wasn’t even aware of (“No, you can’t have another biscuit. No, I said no. No, I just said no. Oh, OK then, but no more.”). It all seemed so obvious, so simple, yet I had been completely blind to it. I was immediately sold on it and have been a full convert ever since.
What’s it all about?
At a basic level, positive parenting is about celebrating your child’s good behaviour, so that they associate being good with getting lots of attention. This doesn’t mean you should just ignore bad behaviour – but it does offer suggestions of good ways to deal with it.
For example, having a ‘time out’ process in place to deal with tantrums and having clear-cut rules and boundaries that you stick to so they know where they stand (for example, is it always OK to jump on the sofa, or is it always not OK – it should be one or the other). The great thing about it is that it really is easier than you think and it really does work.
Australian parenting educator Therese Sequeira is Mrs Triple P (Positive Parenting Programme). She lives and breathes the stuff in a very down-to-earth, honest way. “There’s nothing groundbreaking about it,” she says. “Setting clear boundaries gets children respecting parents and builds strong bonds. I think it’s effective because it doesn’t actually require a lot of changes... it’s easy to catch your children being good.”
I joined an eight-week Group Triple P workshop, which involved one group session a week for four weeks, followed by a weekly phone call from Therese for three weeks, and then a final group session in the last week. In the weekly sessions, Therese talked to us about the guiding principles of Triple P, parenting strategies, how to encourage good behaviour and how to handle particular situations we were all dealing with at home.
The sessions were really interactive and informal – there were four sets of parents in the group and we all spoke openly about what we struggled with, what we thought we did well, what we thought we could improve on.
It was mainly conversation-based, but we also had course material workbooks, videos and homework. There was no judgement, or pride, just a shared desire to learn and improve where possible. Over the weeks, we shared tales of how the new strategies were going down at home.
Did it really work?
Instantly. And four years on, I am still using the same strategies (“I like it when you guys play well together and share your toys,” and, “When you have calmed down, you can come back downstairs and play.”). Every now and then, I’ll go back to Therese for advice on a new situation that has arisen – and it always makes sense. She says, “I’m not telling parents what values they should have – it’s about working out your own values and boundaries for your own family, and finding ways to stick to them.”
For me, one of the best things about doing Triple P is feeling more confident about how I will deal with a parenting crisis – so it doesn’t stress me out anymore. If my child goes into a meltdown in the middle of The Dubai Mall because he can’t have any more chocolate-covered strawberries, it’s OK – I know what to do.
When this happened recently, I sat him down on the floor next to a shop and stood next to him looking away, waiting for him to calm down and stop crying. It didn’t stress me out. I didn’t fight with him on the topic. I didn’t back down. I didn’t try to placate him and stop him from making a scene.
People were looking at me like I was a witch of a mother, but I didn’t care. I knew my system and knew it would work. And, more importantly, my son knew the system and knew that he could cry if he wanted – I wasn’t going to try to stop him – but as long as he was crying, he would be removed from the group.
He yelled for a few minutes until he was red and snotty. And then, just as quickly as it had started, it stopped. I waited until he was fully calm and then bent down to his level and said, “There’s my lovely little boy. Are you ready to go back to our shopping trip now?” He nodded and off we went. Simple.
And when my children (recently) hit the ‘let’s fight with each other all day long’ stage, I talked to them about our family values – our golden value being that we respect other people. Now when the fighting is getting out of hand, or is turning mean, instead of telling them off I just revert back to the rule. “What’s our family rule? How is that making your brother, or your sister, feel?” It generally diffuses the situation and brings their awareness back to their behaviour.
I’m not the perfect parent, but who is? And my children aren’t perfectly behaved, but I wouldn’t want them to be. But when I catch myself falling back into bad parenting habits, such as giving attention to whining, or repeating my instructions five times (“This is the last time I will tell you to turn the TV off”), dropping in to one of Therese’s weekly seminars, or a flick back to the Triple P strategies, normally holds the answer.
At the very least, it lets you know you’re on the right track. Now when I go to one of Therese’s sessions, I feel like the class swot – but Triple P is something I truly believe in. It really works.