Parenting - Mhairi Canning, Relationships Scotland

I had wanted to be a mother for as long as I can remember. I found (and still do!) babies irresistible. The feeling of a baby's head nestling on my shoulder is one of my most favourite feelings in the world. It took on a whole other dimension when those little heads belonged to my own babies. I have three grown up children, two girls and a boy, 28, 25, and 22. And I am a grandmother to a three and a half year old grandson.

When I first became a mother my daughter was a great baby - slept all night from an early age and grew into a good natured and biddable child. I thought I had this mothering malarkey into a cocked hat! I felt quite self congratulatory!

Then I had daughter number 2! She hardly slept and liked to make her presence felt! So my theory of I know how to do this went right out of the window.  And actually that was a good thing -  it led to me being more considered and reflective as a parent. I was more questioning of my own motives and behaviours and attempted - not always successfully - to be aware that it is not about exercising my will over theirs, but being prepared to listen to and understand what they are trying to say. So, by the time number 3 came along my self reflective process was well underway. However, parenting always remains a challenge!

I was considering what top tips I would give to prospective parents and it's tricky. We are all products of our own experience and influences and what works for me may not work for others. However, that is the name of the game, so here they are.

  • Through my experience of relationship counselling I would say that one of the most difficult things for people to recover from is not having felt loved by their parents. It's a fundamental need. So let them know you love them - you can't spoil them by loving them too much!
  • Encourage them to talk to you about their lives when they are little and they will continue to do it once they are older.
  • It was always important to me that when any of the kids were 'in trouble' they understood why that was and why they should make better choices next time. I wasn't looking for "I better not do that because mum will be mad"  Rather, "I had better not do that because it's a bad idea"
  • If they find a way to say sorry, always find a way to accept it.
  • Be consistent.

I realise that none of these are ground breaking ideas. But, they worked for me - with admittedly a few mistakes along the way! I have close relationships with all my adult children and they are the joy of my life. Now I have a wonderful grandson and the pride I feel in watching my daughter parent him so beautifully is immeasurable.

So I would say, invest in your children early. It pays off for everyone in the end!

Mhairi Canning
Mhairi is Supervision and CPD Manager at Relationships Scotland, one of PAS's partners. Her role includes the support of supervisors of counsellors and mediators.