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July 2016

September 2016

Soft love or tough love?

What are your strengths and weaknesses as a parent?

I think there are some things I am (usually) 'good' at - both as a parent and a person - and some things I've been struggling with all my life.

 In Steve Biddulph's amazingly comprehensive book, The Complete Secrets of Happy Children he talks about the two kinds of love necessary in parenting: what he calls 'softlove' and 'firmlove'.

 Softlove is the nurturing, cuddly kind of love, and... 


...Firmlove is the firm, boundary-setting, 'disciplining' kind of love..

Mother carrying kitten



He suggests that people tend to be better at one or other type of 'love'.

How about you? Which do you think you are best at?


'Discipline' is a sensitive word, no? Some people shudder at the sound of it; others are sure the world would be a much more orderly place if only there were more discipline. When parents are having troubles with their children's behaviours, discipline will undoubtedly raise its head as a proffered solution. Which of us hasn't looked at some child behaving obnoxiously whilst the parents stood by, apparently indifferent, or indulgent, and thought: what that child really needs is a good *&!^..??? Who hasn't judged those parents for their lack of discipline, or their ineffective discipline?

I know I have.

And I know that I've also BEEN that parent.

Because I really struggle with tough love, and I always have done.

I remember watching, with some amazement, friends setting up firm boundaries around sleep, feeding, crying etc. when their children were tiny babies, because, as they said, they 'wanted to set up good habits now', and thinking: but, surely, all this little baby needs is LOVE??? Cuddles, feeding, and whispered sweet nothings. Surely DISCIPLINE is irrelevant at this stage?

You know what? Maybe it was, at that stage. But newborn babies turn into crawling one-year-old explorers, who turn into terrific two-year-old tantrum throwers, and so on it goes. At each stage they smash the preconceptions from the stage before, they push you to uncover - or quickly develop - new sets of parenting skills. If you are lucky, or well supported, you manage it, but if you don't... well, that's when the troubles begin. :-)



Now, were you to hear me yelling at my kids about their mess, about being late, being rude or whatever, you might think: she doesn't have a problem being tough with her kids. But the wisest parents will, of course, recognise in my shouting the desperation that cries: I don't know how to do this! I don't know how to do it any better than with shouting, and threats, and RESENTMENT AT THEM FOR MAKING ME DO IT.

That is something I've realised. Please don't tell me I am the only crazy parent who feels this way, but often, when I am telling my kids off for something, there is an extra shot of scathing anger and bile in there at them for MAKING ME HAVE TO DO IT.

Because I don't want to be that mum. I want to tell them once how to tidy their rooms - and then they'll just do it. I want to remind them once about their homework - and then they'll just do it. I want to remind them once, or maybe twice, about their 'pleases' and 'thank yous' and 'sorry I hurt yous' - and then they'll just do it!!!

I don't want to yell, I don't want to criticise, I don't want to punish or tell them off. I want all of us to cuddle on the sofa together, brushing each other's hair and whispering 'I love you'. That's how I thought parenting would be. 


And that's how I know I have a problem with discipline, boundary-setting and implementing rules.



The thing about boundaries is: you've got to get them just right. There's a goldilocks zone. Too loose, and they don't work; too tight, and they don't work -  or they cause other kinds of damage.

 So my technique is to swing wildly from one extreme to the other: patient, patient, patient... ROOOOOAAAAAAARRRRR!



How about you? Where you do sit on the soft love v. tough love fence? Do you find it easier to establish firm boundaries and rules, or to do the cuddly, nurturing stuff?

Or maybe you find it easy to do both?

Bravo, if so. Well done. Can you teach me your secrets?


Love Elizabeth

aka The Writing Parent


NB. I am now moving into a different context - teacher training. But lessons in parenting are Lessons in Life, and the same questions will follow me into this new role. I hope I will learn some helpful techniques that I can transfer across... By the by, this blog will have to go on hiatus for a year while I tackle my new professional challenge. But I hope to be back later, bigger and better! Until then, thanks SO much for reading! x.