Parenting tips from a mum of 7

I hesitate to write this but I have had a few people this week comment on how well behaved my children are, especially when they are out in public. I am very proud of the fact that on the whole they are quite good and thought I could share some of my golden rules which I believe contributed to how they are turning out.

A few years ago....

Now I am not saying I am a perfect parent, or that my children are angels. But I do expect a level of obedience, politeness and manners which some people claim to find hard to achieve.

I am lucky that I am happily married with a husband who works alongside me creating a united parenting team, and have no real issues with children with difficult medical needs but I still think my tips might work to some degree in less than ideal circumstances.

A neighbour once complemented the children's behaviour and I said I was lucky. He told me he didn't believe luck came into it - parenting is all about hard work! It is hard and I break my own rules from time to time but on the whole I try and stick to them.

So without intending to come across as some horrific smug mother here is what worked for me.

1. Never make empty threats. Difficult especially in the heat of the moment but telling a child misbehaving in the car on the M25 that you will stop the car and chuck them out is pointless. You won't do it and they will learn to ignore your threatened punishments.

If you've made a threat which you regret or can't carry out (like grounded them just before a big party) you can wriggle out of it by giving them opportunities to make amends. Try :"If you load/unload the dishwasher all week you can go to that party after all." Result happy child and parent who can relax after dinner!

2. Work out what is causing the tantrum. Often with the terrible twos (or even teens!) it's about control. They feel controlled by you and rebel in frustration. So instead of insisting they put their coat/shoes/hat on, whenever possible give them choices and therefore a perception of control in their own life. Try asking:"Which of these two hats are you going to wear?" or: "Would you like ham or cheese on your sandwich for lunch?"

Teenager won't wear a coat? -Stuff em! I am convinced teens have a bizarre internal temperature control which allows them to wear winter clothes in August heat waves and T-shirts in snow. They'll learn. I just warn them that my sympathy will be zero if they get sick and there will be no bunking off school for colds resulting in poor outfit choices.

3. Be consistent. It's tempting after a tiring day to relax the rules but if you don't normally allow TV before homework or crisps before dinner don't be tempted to give in "just once" for an easy life. Same with pushchairs, car seats and where in the car they will sit. I hear so many people say "they won't go in the buggy." Err - who's in charge here? YOU ARE!

When all else fails and you have a toddler arching his or her back to avoid being seated in car seat, shopping trolley, high chair or buggy try a trick taught me by a racing jockey. Apparently when a horse doesn't want to wear a saddle it will puff its belly out. A swift jab to the stomach deflates this and allows straps to be fastened. The child version is that they arch their backs making strapping in almost impossible! Think horse - plonk them in as best you can then tickle or gently poke tummy so they curl slightly then get busy with the straps.  After a while they realise they are going in and you won't let them out and they will accept it.

4. Reward good behaviour. For example on long sessions in the car, shopping trolley or pushchair reward and occupy them with snacks, small toys, books and drinks. I always loaded my baby bag with things like little cars, books and mini figures to allay boredom on long trips and for coffee/lunch stops. Nowadays I am guilty of handing my 6-year-old a tablet computer!

Accept that they might not find two hours being pushed round a hypermarket as exciting as you and prepare distractions. Rewards don't have to be cash or treats. My children love to hear us tell them that they made us proud. Equally, the start of misbaving can often be stopped with a stern look and the question:"Are you making me proud right now?"

4. Never give in to pester-power or whining. This is a buggy and the cause of most bad behaviour I see in children. If it works once they will whine or tantrum longer and louder next time because they know eventually you will give in. You will thank me for this in the long run! Luckily my husband has cottoned on to applying this to me which is why I have seven children and three cats.

5. Don't read parenting books or worry about what other people do. Well of course that gives you the right to completely ignore my advice too. But that is the point. I don't know your circumstances or your children. Only you know what works in your home and with your children so go with your gut feeling.

All growing up (note the addition of a new face on the right - eldest's lovely GF)
If your children's behaviour is acceptable to you then that's your choice. One of my best friend hardly ever used a buggy - I learned to not worry about her child roaming about the shops whilst she was fine with me keeping my son in his pushchair. The children amazingly accepted this arrangement! Vive le difference!

Last tip? Think dog training - use facial expressions, body language and tone of voice to show your child you are happy or sad about their behaviour. Eventually a frown across a crowded room should be enough to stop them in their tracks. Never say they are naughty - tell them you love them but hate the behaviour.   Reward good behaviour with treats - see? it's dog training!

Of course after writing all of this you will see me at the next PR event red-faced and flustered whispering growly threats to my horribly misbehaving children. Feel free to laugh and point!