I am currently reading my children Enid Blyton's Faraway Tree triology. I have to confess that the Faraway Tree books were my absolute favourites for years and years and years - way longer than it was acceptable for them to be really. So I am thrilled that my children are now old enough to listen to a story being read without the need for pictures (although pictures would be useful for the three year old who tends to get ants in his pants after about five minutes). When I was a child, we had a hard back full colour beautifully illustrated version of the books. I've searched the interweb far and wide but have yet to find it or something approaching it.
Anyway, that was not the point of this post. Re-reading Enid after all these years makes me realise that parents were a LOT stricter back then. And children were FAR better behaved than they are today. Jo, Bessie and Fanny seem to spend days and days toiling in the garden, darning worn clothes, ironing, doing laundry, making beds and taking care of their mother when she was poorly. They do this without a single gripe or groan. Neery a whinge nor a whine.
And then at last, when they are released for a day of freedom from toil, they're sent off on their way with a fabulous picnic of bread and butter and some fresh peaches. Not a cheese string, Innocent smoothie or packet of pom bear crisps in sight. Not even lashings of gingerbeer, because that was reserved for the Famous Five and possibly the Secret Seven. The Faraway Tree bunch never had anything quite as outrageous as fizzy pop. However, they did scoff down inordinate quantities of pop biscuits, google buns and toffee shocks, all of which I'd still like to try before I die.
So how exactly did Jo, Bessie and Fanny's mum get it so right? She was certainly fierce and when Curious Connie came to stay, told her in no uncertain terms that crying will get her nowhere and that if she didn't do as she was told she'd go to bed without any supper, a fate worse than death by all accounts. And she certainly wasn't shy of doling out the odd spanking. On the one occasion the children wanted to wear party clothes to a tea at Moonface's she insisted that they wear their old clothes, which they griped about, but she put her foot down and said it was old clothes or they weren't going. So the children dutifully donned their shabby chic attire and skipped merrily off.
That wouldn't have happened in our house. In our house it would have resulted in several screaming tantrums from all parties before they finally left the house in their old clothes but with some fuck you nod to the long arm of the law like wearing underpants on their heads.
If I could employ Mrs Jo, Bessie and Fanny (not sure of their surname) to take charge of my sons I would. Having started out my parenting journey with such good intentions about behaviour and being consistent and instilling good values and having angelic children, it all seems to have gone tits up.
Behaviour is a constant battle. My children seem to think it's ok to hit their mother and give a huge amount of cheek and fling things about in a fit of pique despite me having tried reward boards, positive parenting, time out, naughty step, buddy charts, sending to bed without supper, shouting, out and out bribery and even smacks (aplogies to the anti-smacking brigade). Obviously I didn't do this all at once. That would have confused even me. And possibly the lack of consistency has been my downfall, but I challenge any parent to keep on and on and on with the same method if it just doesn't seem to work.
I'm starting to think that the more military style of parenting of the Enid Blyton days had a place. Children were more courteous and had good manners and cleared their plates and were grateful for boiled onion skin soup and dry bread. Are today's children just too spoilt?
I'm beginning to think so. My children are not given masses of anything, but they do seem to think it's fine to break brand new toys, walk around the garden in socks with the express purpose of destroying them, take one bite of an apple and put the rest in the bin and demand whatever they see advertised on tv as though it is their god given right to have Lellie Kelly shoes and make up set (yes, the five year old wants those despite being a boy). And they are called out on all of these things, but it's as though whatever lesson was learnt yesterday is forgotten today and so the craziness continues.
I've seen very fierce parents in action and think that they are being too mean to their children, they are people after all with their own minds. I've seen parents who are horizontal about disciplining children and I want to give them a good shake and say "Children need boundaries!!" I like to think I'm somewhere in between. But inbetweenville seems to be have little effect at all.
Do I need to return to the Enid Blyton school of parenting - perhaps send them off to Dame Slap's school for a while? I'm sure by today's standards it would be viewed as tyranical parenting but I'm beginning to think that that's what is needed. How do you instil that old-fashioned respect that children used to have for adults? How do you get your children to respect you as a parent? I know it's earned, but HOW DO YOU EARN IT? I'd like to think that what I've been doing as a parent should rustle up a smidgeon of respect, but it doesn't seem to have.
For some reason if I threaten them with 'telling your father what you just did' they beg me not to, not because he's in any way fierce, but because they don't want their father to think less of them. So why don't they feel that way about their mother? Sigh.
All suggestions to be sent by a squirrel in a tatty red jumper please.