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Crossing the Tees.

Byline: By Sue Woolmore

I can recall the moment so clearly.

It was about three in the morning.

My tiny baby Kate was crying loudly and non-stop. I had terrible mastitis and felt utterly miserable.

The sense of complete exhaustion and sleep deprivation was overwhelming; it felt like torture.

Then I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and the sight just made me burst into tears.

I have another vivid memory of an experience a couple of years later that was almost as bad.

I was with my mum and dad when three-year-old Kate threw the mother of all tantrums (in a cafA, of all places)!

I took her outside to reason and argue over her screaming. Bystanders must have thought it was an attempted abduction, except we weren't going anywhere!

It would have been so easy to smack her, and I guess that most of the passers by thought I should do, but that would have been exactly the wrong thing to do.

The reality is that parenthood isn't the blissful, glossy-magazine bed of roses we would love it to be.

Children of all ages can be demanding and challenging and parenting must be the hardest, but potentially most rewarding, job on earth.

Although I was smacked myself as a child, the one thing I have never done is smack my children.

My working life in the caring profession, first as a nurse then as a social worker at the sharp end of child protection, has convinced me that hitting children is a bad thing.

And my own experience as a mum-of-two has proved to me that the alternatives work better.

So what is positive parenting - the alternative to smack? And how does it work?

My top tip is to notice and praise the good things your child does. Children are almost "programmed" to seek attention and if they get praise and attention for good behaviour they will keep up that kind of behaviour so that they keep getting attention.

I am also a great believer in tone of voice.

When my children were little and started to misbehave I would often ask them: - "Do you want to hear my angry voice?"

I don't advocate shouting or screaming, but the trick is to use a tone of voice that conveys seriousness and authority and then use it at times of disobedience.

I believe children need discipline, consistency, routines and lots of affection.

Set clear and fair boundaries and as they get older allow them the chance to negotiate with you.

This can involve allowing treats for good behaviour and sanctions for bad, always ensuring that you remain fair and consistent in these negotiations.

No one could argue that parenting is easy and there are times when all parents of young children reach the end of their tether.

But what has helped me to pull back from physical punishment is the understanding I have as a professional that babies' crying and toddler tantrums are a normal part of child development.

At the NSPCC, we understand that loving and caring parents who occasionally resort to smacking are a world away from these terrible scenarios.

But if we all contribute to creating a society where it's no longer acceptable to hit a child, we will all be helping to protect those children who's parents go too far.

Positive parenting is best for children and definitely best for parents.

Sue Woolmore, policy advisor for the NSPCC in Middlesbrough.

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Copyright 2005 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Column Crossing The Tees
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Feb 24, 2005
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