Good cop, bad cop in parenting

This is the story that I was trying to relate to my daughter’s father about not taking things personally when you had to be an authority figure at home, but he wasn’t in the right frame of mind*.

When something goes wrong at home, when a child is naughty etc, you can act in one of two ways:

You can be the kind of police officer who when they spot a driver who has just committed a crime, can either pull them over, yell at them to get out of the car, slam them against the bonnet and rage in what seems to be a justified rant;
or, you can pull the person over, ask for their details, give them a fine and then get on with your night.

When it’s your job to be the police officer you can’t afford to take it personally. Expending all that energy and having to deal with the aftermath of the stress hormones and the upsetedness of the little child with whom your angry is just not sustainable.

You choose the type of enforcement that goes on in your family life. I do my best to be police officer that does her job and moves on. I try not to take it personally even when my child slaps me across the face and laughs and laughs. Whether I succeed or not, this is always my intention.


*Our daughter was getting manic and wanted a bath and someone had to chase after her.

How not to f*** them up, Oliver James

Oliver James discusses parenting, or mostly mothering, styles of under-three year olds in order to help parents to do their best in raising children. He references many studies and notes his biases as he describes three types of mothering-styles: organisers, huggers and flexis.

I found this book really helpful. It gave me a context about parenting and children and validated a lot of what I thought and encouraged me to do more of it. I have taken note of bits of pieces of the book and will post those to give readers a taste of what he writes.

The most important things I took away from the book were that under-threes are satiable and you cannot spoil them, they do not have control over their behaviours and so anything wrong they do must be the parent’s responsibility. This does not mean that they don’t need to learn how to behave socially.

Parents need to be healthy and happy in order to take care of their children but this does not mean that they don’t have to sacrifice in order that their children are raised in a healthy and helpful manner. Selfish behaviour is not the same as making sure you are giving yourself enough space to be healthy, mentally and physically.

Under threes do not need socialisation or education. The most important thing for them is loving and responsive care from an adult.

It really does matter enormously how you care for under-threes. (3)
For the vast majority of children it is not true that their mental abilities – language, reading, number skills – will be helped by early education. (22) What counts with under-3s is responsiveness from a familiar adult who understands needs that cannot yet be conveyed by words. (41)

Babies and toddlers are satiable (56) Babies and small toddlers are largely interested in the company of one responsive adult and get little from other children. (67)


On the whole, babies whose mothers go to them when they cry in the night or who co-sleep are less likely to sleep through the night. However, there is also good evidence that strict sleep routines do lead to more insecure, and to more irritable and fussy, babies. While you may be scared that ‘indulging’ them will be just the first step towards a clingy, greedy, needy, selfish toddler and to a child who cannot obey rules at school, the very opposite is the case. It is the babies whose needs have been met who become the secure, calm, satisfied children and productive schoolchildren, and adults- the ones you might say were spoilt and indulged as babies. (103)

The longer a child was cared for by substitutes, the greater the risk of the child becoming aggressive and disobedient.(104)

There is a lot of discussion about daycare which I recommend you read so I don’t misquote.

There is a massive advertising and marketing industry, backed up by implicit role models portrayed all over the media, which suggests that being selfish is a good thing. Making sure that you create a life which truly reflects your wishes and needs is not the same as that – it would take a large account of your child and partner’s needs too, in order for you to feel yours are being met.(257)

Putting your happiness ahead of that of everyone else is not what is meant by balance.

Since 1950 when 30% of all adult women had a paid job, the increase to more women than men in employment has been entirely in part-time workers. This is true even in Scandinavia.(269) 77% of women have low-paid, low-skill jobs which most say are not stimulating or fulfilling in themselves.(271)


Thus far, results from Britain’s Sure Start programme have been desperately disappointing. A possible explanation is that, although it was originally intended to be more than just day care, Sure Start rapidly turned into a method for cheaply enabling low-income mothers to discard their under-threes and return to work (even its apologists admit this – see Sinclair, 2009, p44: with the expansion of the Sure Start programme ‘came a reduction in spend per child and an increased emphasis on day care to help women, particularly single mothers, get back to work) (277)

There seems little doubt that day care raises cortisol levels. While disrupted cortisol levels may be associated with many problems, including depression and fearfulness, there is considerable evidence they also affect aggression and good conduct. If so, when children raised in day care are compared with ones raised at home, they should be more aggressive.(283)

Studies found that the more time a child spent in non-maternal care (most of it day care), the more disharmonious was its relationship with its mother when with her. Equally true at six to 36 months as at five years old.

The greater difficulties were in –
• assertiveness: they talked too much, bragged or boasted and argued a lot
• disobedience: they talked out of turn, were disobedient at school, defiantly talked back at school stuff and disrupted school discipline
• aggression: they got into many fights, were prone to cruelty, bullying or meanness, they physically attacked others and they destroyed their own possessions.

Scientific studies prove that we are made insecure if the care we receive between six months and three years of age is not responsive and reliable. The insecurity takes three main forms: clinging, avoidance or a confusing mixture of the two (known as ‘disorganised’).

Rates of insecurity are easily highest among children cared for by unresponsive mothers. (288)

Only 9% of daycare in the US and UK is of high quality.(292)

The NIHCD study found that when mothers said they believed it was beneficial for their child if they worked, their infants were more likely to be insecure. For example, such mothers strongly agreed with the statement ‘children whose mothers work are more independent and able to do things for themselves ‘. Mothers with these views were less sensitive or responsive.

it is well established that insecure parents are less sensitive than secure ones.(293)

It should be clear by now that it seems very likely that day care, in and of itself, increases the risk of three problems for children: cortisol dysregulation, aggression and insecurity.

Also, there is evidence that extremely neglectful care causes children to develop indiscriminate friendliness in which the child acts with equal niceness to strangers and people it knows, possibly in an attempt to attract love and attention, and because it has not learnt the most basic elements of intimacy.(294)

other findings indicate that extended or repeated separation from the mother in itself causes long-term emotional problems in adulthood, in particular borderline personality disorder.(295)

Assuming that your child’s attributes are an unchangeable, genetically determined destiny tends to be accompanied by the feeling that you have little control in the relationship. Mothers who attribute a lot of power to their children are at greater risk of maltreating them.(314)

perceiving children as wilful and intentionally bad, the ‘oh they can be little devils’ way of thinking, is associated with abusive parenting and adverse outcomes.(315)

believing that personality and intelligence is malleable means people / children perform better.(319)

Caring for an infant in the earliest months produces dysphoria, a state of low-grade, depressed mood allied to total exhaustion.(323)

These quotations are taken out of context so do read the book for a better understanding. I am very glad I read it.

Oliver James, How Not to F*** Them Up

Nurture shock, parenting book

I think Nurture Shock is a parenting book. It arrived today from Amazon after I bought it from my mobile phone yesterday after reading mention of it in Carolyn Hax’s advice column. I barely know what it’s about really. I almost downloaded it instantly on my Kindle app but wanted to loan it to my daughter’s father in case it turns out to be any good.

I suspect it will be brilliant but I’ll wait and see.

The front cover says ‘why everything we think about raising our children is wrong’. The back says:

‘What if we told you …

  • Dishonesty in children is a positive trait
  • Arguing in front of your kids can make you a good role model
  • If you praise your children you risk making them fail

And it was all true?

I’ll keep you updated.

Nurtureshock: Why Everything We Thought About Children is Wrong by Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman

P.s. For Bristolians, the first two words in the book, right under the heading Preface, are Cary Grant. The following four are ‘is at the door’.

No rioting for this single mum’s kid

Single parent? Check. Two adults intended to raise a family? No. A present father? No and then yes. Interesting characteristics, no?

I tick nearly all the boxes on David Lammy’s statement last week about the rioters but I am pretty sure it’s not me he’s talking about.

He said:

David Lammy, MP for Tottenham,

“In areas like mine, we know that 59% of black Caribbean children are looked after by a lone parent. There is none of the basic starting presumption of two adults who want to start a family, raise children together, love them, nourish them and lead them to full independence. The parents are not married and the child has come, frankly, out of casual sex; the father isn’t present, and isn’t expected to be. There aren’t the networks of extended families to make up for it. We are seeing huge consequences of the lack of male role models in young men’s lives..”

Apart from the black Caribbean ethnicity, he could have been talking about my situation. I am a single parent. The father is now part of my daughter’s life but we didn’t start our trip into parenthood wanting to be a family, nor to raise our child together.

So what’s the difference between me and the people Lammy is describing? It’s primarily a socio-economic one. I have been to university, more than once, I have a good non-manual job as a statistical analyst and I have the support of my friends and family. I am also in my 30s.

Knowing that someone is black Caribbean may make it easy to guess that they will be a single parent. However, knowing that I am a single parent says nothing about whether my child will be out there rioting in a couple of decades time.

I’ve been trying to find some redeeming quality to the way our daughter was conceived and born but I can’t. Most importantly, though, I no longer care. I refuse to feel guilty about the way this little miracle of a child was brought into the world and there’s no minister or columnist out there who can make me.

I don’t feel guilty because the bulk of evidence suggests that being a lone parent is not what causes children to behave badly. In fact “[b]ehavioural problems were less likely among children living in families with higher levels of parental qualifications” (source).

Other factors include the mother’s age, economic security, attention and guidance that were provided and the likelihood of living in a deprived area. In fact all these factors are what the government can have direct influence such as with schooling, maternity leave, austerity cuts that increase the chances of a recession and decrease economic security.

David Lammy will be more successful in reducing rioting in the future if he brings to task the government rather than point his finger at us single parents. I know he was, on this occasion, pointing at the areas with high levels of ethnic minorities but I don’t believe that race on its own makes up the difference.

Further sources.

A series of firsts for me and the baby

I visited my GP on Monday and little M became very hungry and vocal while the nurse drew my blood. I said that she was hungry and was offered a chance of a place to breastfeed. First time I fed the baby in public was in the surgery’s common area / kitchenette / staff room. I was even given a glass of water.

First time I cut her fingernails, Thursday 17 February. I was terrified. Her fingers are so small and I am scared of hurting her.

First time my housemate took her out for a walk was 27 February. He was very stressed and spent most of the time pushing her around Park St and the Clifton Triangle so that she wouldn’t cry while I shopped.

March 2, first time I tried to put on the baby pouch. It didn’t happen, it all looks more complicated than even opening up the pram.

March 2, baby’s first publication in the Venue magazine with a lovely photo of her sleeping. My parents are convinced she will be the next journalist addition to the family as she looks very intelligent. Now I need to give her the perfect middle name in case it’s needed for a byline.

February 14, the first time I held her was in the operating room at St Michael’s hospital and they put her straight on my chest after she was delivered. I was so used to carrying her that it all felt very normal. I was lying flat and the doctors were still doing things so I didn’t dare move although thinking back I probably wasn’t able to move because of the anesthetic. I kept asking my birthing partner whether she was ok because I couldn’t see her face.

Teaser Tuesday: Parenting From The Inside Out

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading and I found it from Carly Bennett’s blog. Anyone can join by doing the following:

* Grab the book you are currently reading
* Open to a random page
* Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
* Please avoid SPOILERS (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away so you don’t ruin the book for others)
* Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers.

The book I’m reading right now is Parenting from the Inside Out by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., and Mary Hartzell, M.Ed. and the sentences are as follows:

Teaser sentences (p.108): ‘Secure attachment, the baby is hungry and starts to cry. Her father hears her crying, puts down his newspaper, and goes to her playpen to see what might be causing her distress.’

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