A few days ago I was travelling on a train from Scotland to London. I ended up having to move to another seat away from my daughter and husband, as another woman came to claim her reserved seat. A few hours into the journey another woman who’d been sitting opposite us, came up to me, and started gushing, ”I just wanted to tell you that you have the most adorable daughter. I hope she doesn’t feel embarrassed because I just can’t stop looking at her. She’s just so well behaved. In fact she is the most well-behaved child I’ve ever seen!”
I felt incredibly proud. Like all parents I get tired, I have grumpy days, and I can’t always be the parent I want to be. So it was really nice that someone recognised that I am doing a good job.
And it was also interesting that I noticed the flip side of the comment. We were only half-way through the journey. I suddenly felt like we had a reputation to live up to! As the train became an hour late due to ‘hot tracks’ (I haven’t missed the classic British late train excuses!) my daughter did start to get bored and bounce around the carriage, and I began to notice how self-conscious I became.
I wanted to write this blog post for a few reasons. One simply to show just how amazing these Hand in Hand Parenting tools are. When we listen to our children’s feelings, it is reflected in their behaviour. This is the secret formula for getting comments like that by strangers!
The second reason is this. We as parents can often feel like we are being judged when we go out in public. Our fellow passengers want a few hours of quiet to read a book, or use their Ipad. Our society is adult-centric, and it can feel like it’s our job to keep our children behaving well in public, so that other adults can retain their sense of peace.
Our society focuses on parenting approaches that control behaviour. Time out, consequences, rewards, and punishments, are all parenting methods that focus on fixing our child’s behaviour. A lot of these methods come with the implicit method that our child is to ‘blame’ for their misbehaviour, and must be punished, fixed or taught a lesson.
This ‘blame’ culture is also implicit in how parents are judged for their parenting skills and their child’s behaviour. We feel bad when our children behave ‘badly’ when in actual fact it’s rarely our fault, but more to do with difficult and challenging life experiences that our child has or is experiencing. In reality whether we are in moments where are children are behaving well, or not so well we are all doing the absolute best we can as parents, figuring things out as much as we can with the information we have available to us.
When an adult comments on your child behaving ‘well,’ or behaving ‘badly,’ what that actually means is that your child feels good, or feels bad. Children naturally regulate their emotions, and their behaviour, by expressing feelings, but our cultural attitudes towards crying, or other expressions of emotion, make it doubly hard to parent. Our society expects good behaviour from our children, while often judging us when our children have the big meltdowns or wild play they need to feel better! It’s no wonder parenting is so challenging!
Children do need the chance to get giggly and run wild, to be ‘naughty’ in a controlled environment and to release all the feelings that cause their ‘off-track’ behaviour. We can do a lot of this work in our own homes, so that when our children go out into the world, they feel well-connected and their behaviour is more likely to stay on track.
Want to learn more? Check Out