Category Archives: Behaviour and Etiquette

Well done darling, have this award for existing

In which the Wartime Housewife discusses the modern need for constant approbation.

There was a news article recently which reported on a couple of teenagers who found £5,000 at a bus stop and handed it in to the police.  The owner was delighted to have had the money returned (obviously) and thanked the boys for their honesty.  However, he didn’t give them a reward.  The newspapers picked up on this and were ‘outraged’ that the man didn’t offer a financial reward and suggested that the boys had learned that honesty doesn’t pay.  To their credit, the boys weren’t in the least concerned.

Why does absolutely everything we do have to be rewarded?  Was it not enough for the boys to know that they had done the decent thing without having to have an outside agent confirming their decency with a material reward?

Many modern parents have got into the habit of praising their children to the skies for every tiny little thing that they do.  Everything must have a positive affirmation or they will grow up feeling negative about themselves and lacking in support. Children practically receive a round of applause for breathing in and then out again.

Bringing up children is a difficult business and there is no perfect way of doing it.  We are all different and our children are different; sanctions that work with one child may not work with another.  One parent’s childrearing technique may work for their family but not necessarily for yours.  We just have to get on with it the best we can.

One thing I do know is that our job is unequivocally to equip our children for the rigours of adult life and the key word, as in law, is ‘reasonable’.  We must teach them to have a reasonable degree of self esteem and confidence and yet show compassion and empathy for others.  We need them to stand on their own feet and fight their own battles.  They must learn that failure is not the end of the world and can sometimes teach us more about life than success and that we can’t be good at everything.  Sometimes they may not be invited to the party or picked for the team and they have to learn to take it on the chin and move on.

As parents, the teaching of these things means that we are sometimes going to be unpopular.  If your child has never, at any point, turned round to you and said “I hate you, you never let me do anything!” then you’re doing something wrong and that something may be that you’re spending too much time trying to be popular.

A parent should not be a child’s best friend.  They’ve got mates, your job is to be their parent and that means doing things that, sometimes, they’re not going to like.  It also means not jumping in and rescuing them at every turn, not fighting their battles and not intervening every time they face a difficulty.

My sisters and I were brought up in a family with no guidance or support of any kind and I know that I have sometimes had to fight the urge to jump in and ‘save’ my boys from difficulties or unpleasantness.  I wouldn’t wish my childhood on anyone and neglect of a young people is a difficult thing to forgive, but by God, we three girls are tough and there’s not much that life throws at us that we can’t cope with, each in our different way.

Young people have to learn to cope and that sometimes means letting them fail, helping them to overcome difficulties on their own and giving them the freedom to make mistakes.  Let them fall out of trees, fall out with their friends, fall in love with unsuitable people.  They will never manage risk if they don’t take risks. My sister talks about ‘Slopey Shoulder Syndrome’ where people are too feeble to tackle anything for themselves and constantly plead for others to do things for them.

In real life, everyone you meet is not going to tell you you’re great. Your boss at work is not going to hand you a certificate for doing the job you’re paid to do and you are not going to receive constant reassurance from every colleague, tutor, manager, client, lover, that you are a super human being.  If your every childhood move has been praised to the skies with a burst of fireworks, this is going to come as one hell of a shock.

If your kids fuck up you have to tell them so they can make better decisions.  If they behave badly, you have a responsibility to punish them to teach them consequences.  Don’t let them do everything they want to do, just because you have the resources to make it happen, it devalues what they chose to do and tells them nothing about the assessment of choices.

I read an interesting article recently about a psychologist who, as well as the normal parade of those with unhappy backgrounds,  has started seeing a lot of 20 to 30-somethings who feel a lack of purpose, anxious, confused and empty inside.  On further questioning, these young people have had fabulous parents, who were their ‘best friends’, supported them at every turn, talked through their feelings, always helped them with their homework, were attuned to their every need.

Now, is it possible that these wondrous parents had simply done too much, had actually disabled their children through their constant support and intervention.  I am always deeply suspicious of people who hero worship their parents, because cynical me can’t help feeling that somehow those parents have tried too hard to be popular and I find that those people are often not as empathetic or sympathetic to the difficulties of others.

Don’t make your children’s lives too perfect, if you really love your children don’t shield them from the things they need to learn.  Teach them to do their best, not yours.

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Star Charts – hit them where it hurts

Don't know why BTY has crossed his stars out - an investigation is underway

My children are unbearably untidy, intermittently violent and vile to each other and sporadically lazy.  They only do their apportioned chores if I’m waving a metaphorical big stick at them, Boy the Younger spends his evenings trying to sleep in Boy the Elder’s bed and keep him awake and both boys are genuinely frightened that they will melt if touched by water unless it is a full moon or a Friday in May.

Although I can’t help feeling that Boy the Elder, at 14, is too old for star charts, he is definitely not too old if said star chart is index linked to his pocket money.  Boy the Younger spends his money on random Lego figures and Kinder Eggs, whilst Boy the Elder spends his on books and film magazines.  Either way, pocket money matters, so I have to hit them where it hurts.

I am determined that, seeing as they have bedrooms, it is not unreasonable to ban toys and mess from the sitting room as I have to have at least one place into which I could bring another adult without  bursting into a volley of excuses – I’ve been ill, the vacuum’s broken down, we were burgled, we were raided by immigration – you know, the usual.

Firstly, I cancelled their pocket money and removed all privileges.  For privileges read TV, DSs, computer access, iPods and the portable DVD.  Then I re-vamped their childhood star charts and called them Achievement Charts which has a more adult and positive edge.

They can earn stars for being tidy, doing chores, staying in bed at night, washing, cleaning teeth, leaving me alone to work, playing nicely, being kind etc.  They get black spots for fighting, disobedience, laziness, lack of hygiene, failure to do chores, shouting and screaming, looking at me in a funny way etc.

The key thing though, is that stars represent 50p pocket money earned and black spots represent 50p pocket money lost. They can also earn privileges back for not getting any black spots in a day – yesterday they re-gained their DSs which is a bummer for BTY as he can’t find his. Unlucky – he should look after it better.

The other problem is, that in the past, I have been unable to remember exactly what I’ve banned and why and things start to slip back without my noticing.  To rectify this, I have purchased a notice board which is half whiteboard and half cork board.  The Achievement Charts are pinned to the cork board and I can write sanctions and returns on the whiteboard. Problem solved, consistency maintained.

When they were younger, they would happily wash and stay in bed for small treats such as sweets, but money is a whole different ball game.  They crave independent spending power and the realisation this morning that, after ten days, they are each only 50p up is starting to hit home.  The end of the month draws nigh and BTE can see his copy of Total Film slipping from his grasp.  BTY may actually expire if he doesn’t get his hands on another piece of preformed plastic shite.

It’s in their hands.

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Harvest Festival

Foodscape photograph by the wonderful Carl Warner

Aha!  I am back amongst you!

However, I am in such bad humour about so many things today, that it’s hard to know quite where to start.

I will begin with Harvest Festival because I attended the Harvest service at Boy the Younger’s school today.  As we went in, I said to my friend “what do you think the chances are of us singing ‘We plough the fields and scatter’ or ‘Come ye thankful people come’.? “Zero,” she said, laughing.

Well it was worse than zero.  I realise that in some aspects of life, I am an unspeakable old fuddy-duddy, but why does everything that involves children have to be turned into an entertainment?  In a moment of desperation, I fed my programme to the beaming baby in the pew in front so I am unable to delight you with the nauseating detail of the ‘service’.

The children sang several feeble pop songs with the word ‘Jesus’ in them, most of which had stupid actions with which the parents were encouraged to join in.  When we were asked to clap our hand to our heart, I’m sorry to tell you that I quietly intoned “I pledge allegiance to the United States of America…” followed by a hand-jive, which had the parents on the row behind dissolving into nervous giggles.

Then there was a really good bit where it all stopped and young and delightfully handsome young man from the nearby CARE village stood up and thanked us all for the donations of food which would be given to the residents.

After this, the Reverend Blodwyn stood up and began the ‘It’s behind you’ section of the service where all the children were encouraged to shout out stuff about vegetables, after which she delivered a lecture about the environment.  Just in case the children hadn’t worked out what rain was, she put up a handy Powerpoint presentation with a character from a ‘Peanuts’ cartoon in which the character gets rained on. Ha bloody ha.

There is absolutely no need for church to be boring.  A good minister can deliver a sermon which will not only uplift and encourage, but will leave the congregation with something to think about for the rest of the week.  Hymns can be joyful and spirit raising, a reading in the hands of a decent reader is a lovely thing to listen to.

But Church, among many other things, is one really good opportunity to teach your children that there are times in life when they have to be quiet and behave with decorum.  There is an unending stream of complaints about how children can never sit still, can’t concentrate, can’t keep quiet.

A large part of the problem is that children are not taught to be quiet and behave with decorum.  Everything they do has to be entertaining.  Well life isn’t always entertaining, in fact, quite large chunks of life can be a bit boring and require us to keep our gobs shut when we’d rather not.  Sometimes we have to be quiet for the comfort of others.

Children need to be taught that there are times to have fun and times to be quiet and still.  How can they learn to think and reason if their minds are being swamped with a constant and unrelenting cacophony of sounds and sights and ‘stimulation’?  How can they learn to appreciate the small and simple things with which they’re surrounded if they never have a moment’s peace in which to do it?

I love Harvest Festival; whatever one’s spiritual pathway, it is completely reasonable to be grateful that we have enough food and that we still have farmers out there producing it.  It is a gratifying experience to share some of that produce with those who have less than us. I personally thanked the farmers in the next pew for growing our milk.  They did the narrowed eyes thing and left.

When I was at school, the Harvest service was a beautiful thing.  The girls doing cookery baked fabulous loaves to look like sheaves of corn, flowers graced every windowsill and the joyful Harvest hymns rocked the rafters as the organ thundered and the choir sang descants that could have lifted the tiles off the roof.

The last ‘hymn’ was called ‘Harvest Hoe Down’ accompanied by a tinny recorded sound track and a bazooka solo from some invisible children – I don’t need to draw you a picture of how awful that was.  I left Boy the Younger’s service with my teeth ground down to powder.   I accosted a teacher in the playground and pleaded that, just once before I BTY leaves, could we sing ‘We plough the fields and scatter’? Just once. “Why?” she answered.

It all makes ‘Cauliflowers fluffy…’ seem positively Wesleyan.

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Filed under Behaviour and Etiquette, Children, Education, Life in general, Religion

Shire Books of the Month: ‘Royal Weddings’ and ‘Discovering the Folklore & Traditions of Marriage’

William & Kate - clearly in love

Weddings being all the rage at the moment, it seems fitting to review these fascinating books on Royal Weddings and the Traditions of Marriage  Whether one is a Royalist or not, there is something tremendously hopeful about a marriage, in the belief that no matter what else is happening, people fall in love and decide  to get married.  Months of preparation ensue as couples opt for the full blown ‘fairytale’ bash or a quiet ceremony in the Register Office

Henry V & Kate de Valois - clearly strangers

Marriage between the high born and the low born historically served different purposes.  Up until the last hundred years, marriage between royalty existed to consolidate the power of the monarch and stabilise the relationships between countries who might otherwise have posed a threat.  Love was not even considered and young aristocrats were often betrothed when they were little children and even underwent a ceremony to cement that commitment.  That is not to say, however, that love didn’t sometimes develop in spite of the business-like arrangements.

Nowadays, we expect our royal families to be in love with their chosen partners (let’s forget Charles and Diana who appear to have conformed to the ‘stability’ model) and we expect the wedding to be a spectacle in which the whole nation takes part.  But looking back through the centuries royal weddings have taken place at venues as different as York Minster to hurried late night ceremonies in locked rooms.

Henry I was the first Norman king to marry on British soil and married Edith of Scotland in 1100 at Westminster Abbey to both demonstrate his claim to the English throne and to endear himself to the downtrodden masses.

In 1464, the youthful Edward IV married Elizabeth Woodville in a secret ceremony at her father’s manor.  Henry only mentioned it to his advisors when they announced plans to secure a more politically profitable match.

George V sweeping away German title & tradition. Cartoon from 'Punch' by L Raven-Hill, my great grandfather as it happens

Royal Weddings’ charts the social and political backdrop to a thousand years of matrimonial monarchs and gives a fascinating perspective on the changing ideals and interdependency of royalty and the people they ultimately serve.

“But what about we ordinary mortals?” I hear you cry.  In many ways our story is more rich and juicy than anything the royals can cook up because tradition and folklore varies so widely from region to region.

Many people have been absorbed by the recent TV series ‘My Big, Fat Gypsy Wedding’ and whatever one’s views about that community, their traditions and expression of their culture serve as a perfect example of the different roles marriage has to play in communities with different needs and expectations.

Discovering the Folklore and Traditions of Marriage’ takes us through love and courtship, preparation for the big day, the wedding day itself and the celebrations, as well as the social implications of being obliged to be together forever.  I wonder if the marriage ceremony would include the words “’ till death us do part” if they had known that future couples might live to be 90 or more?

After the Stag Night. Great bunch of lads...

Fleet Weddings, Gretna Green, Besom Weddings, Penny Weddings, Wife Selling – it’s all in here.  Throwing stockings was the forerunner of throwing bouquets and it was done when the newly married couple were actually in their marriage bed.  Who would consider having a ‘Rough Band’ banging saucepans to be a lucky thing and yet Chimney Sweeps still advertise their services to appear at weddings.

The Wartime Housewife never married (but lived ‘o’er t’brush’ with two bastard children), but after reading this book, she might just consider it.  But only if she can re-enact the scene from the Mayor of Castorbridge and, having got drunk on ‘furmity’, her husband promises to sell her and her children to a passing sailor.

If you want your wedding to stand out, you will find everything you need in here to make your day a truly historic occasion.

Seriously interesting - even if you're not the marrying kind

Royal Weddings is also available as an e-book

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Filed under Behaviour and Etiquette, Family and Friends, History, Life in general, Slider

Landfill

Forgive the lack of articles for the last two days.  We have just spent 8 hours tidying Boy the Elder’s bedroom.  A room, I might add, that is a mere 8 feet square.   1 hour per square foot.  I have been completely bewildered by the fact that Boy the Younger’s clothes and underwear have been going missing over the last couple of months and now I know why.  They were all stuffed under Boy the Elder’s bed, chest of drawers, desk and radiator.  As were nearly 30 DVDs with and without boxes, 3 saucers, 4 spoons, 3 mugs, 2 plates and 1 broken egg cup.  3 pairs of pyjamas have turned up which BTE claimed to have lost on various Scout camps… and 37 odd socks.

On the bright side, at least I haven’t had an asthma attack yet.
Yet being the operative word.
Tomorrow we are tackling Boy the Younger’s room.
Our Father, who art in heaven………

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Bad mannered children

Send them out to work

Just another quick rant about manners to start off February.  Yesterday morning, I was approaching the main entrance at Boy the Elder’s school, and was about to open the door when a 12-year old pushed straight past me, opened the door and let it slam in my face. I collared him, pointed out his error and acknowledged his mumbled “Sorry” and let him go.  Bugger me if, less than two minutes later, another child did exactly the same thing going in the other direction.

I’ve also noticed that on the rare occasions when the Head Teacher is standing at the school gates, I have never yet seen anyone say good morning to her as they walk past.  To be fair, I’ve never seen the hatched-faced cow greet any of the children either.  Disgraceful.  However, my increasingly low opinion of the school means that I’m not surprised that those at the top are not setting standards.

But I nearly reached boiling point in Sainsbury’s this afternoon when several children crashed into or pushed me with no apology.  Then a young girl of about 10 marched straight out of a side aisle and pushed me out of the way.  I instinctively said “Oh, I’m so sorry” and then turned on my heel and said very loudly to no-one in particular “Why the bloody hell am I apologising to exceptionally rude children for crashing into ME!”  The girl turned round, looking startled and I pointed at her and said “Yes You – you’re a very rude little girl”. 

She darted off into the crowd and there followed a general discussion with other shoppers about how lacking in deference many children are.  I’ve taught the boys that you always stand back for a grown-up, always hold the door open and let them go first, say good morning, treat them with deference, particularly much older people, offer to help, apologise if you bump into someone, smile and say thank you when someone gives you something or pays you a compliment, say ‘may I please’ not ‘can I ‘ave’.

I recognise that you can only teach what you know, but how can schools expect any level of order when basic courtesies and respect are neither encouraged nor demonstrated? Gggrrrrrrrrr…

Signed:
Livid of Leicestershire

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Hiking it up – or should that be camping?

I have to be up at a disgustingly early hour in the morning because Boy the Elder has decided, at the last minute, that he is going for a day’s hiking in Wales tomorrow.  This activity was offered by The Scouts last month and he initially declined because he was worried that it would be too demanding, but then a friend rang and said “Oh go on!” I also suspect an added incentive is the presence of a certain Girl Scout who is much admired by BTE and his chum.

My sons love being outside and are very active – show them a tree and they’ll be up it like a squirrel after his nuts, but they are not sporty.  Boy the Younger has attained a greater degree of mastery over his limbs than BTE, which helps, and he approaches sport with rather more vim and vigour than his brother, but they are both devoid of any competitive edge whatsoever.

One of my favourite examples is when BTE had his first Sports Day and one of the races was a Fancy Dress Relay.  The children ran along, stopping every so often to put on a hat, then a waistcoat then some trousers etc.  My son ran to the first pile and put on a hat.  He sauntered nonchalantly along the track to the pile of waistcoats, decided that the one on his pile didn’t co-ordinate with the hat, so he went to the pile in the next lane and took that waistcoat instead.  The same happened with the trousers and the scarves.  He arrived at the finishing line looking like a 5-year old Beau Brummell, but he was not popular with his team mates.  I ignored the smugly sympathetic looks on the faces of the fathers in running shoes. 

I had high hopes that he might be gay, but his earlier, fastidious approach to personal grooming has vanished into the mist.  His Scottish cousins call him Swampy. Q.E.D.  I offer him plenty of motherly advice to guide him safely into the world of mutual attraction, for example:-

You’ll never get a girlfriend/boyfriend if you don’t:-
 keep your knob clean and fragrant
clean your teeth
change your socks / pants / ways
spray something on your hair to make it look as though it’s deliberate
stop walking/running like a tangled marionette

A male contemporary of mine once said that he wished his mother had told him things like that, but he seems to have turned out perfectly fragrant and upright without her help.  BTY is a far cleaner child in that he will spontaneously wash on a weekly basis without any threats or growling from me.

Still, at 06.30 on Saturday I will be depositing BTE in the Minibus of Hope for a journey to savour the delights of  “the famous Pistyll Rhaeadr waterfall in the Welsh borders for a demanding day hike in the Berwyn Mountains, to the summits of Cadair Berwyn (830m) and Moel Sych.  Scouts will walk in accompanied groups, with the opportunity to practise navigation skills and work towards the Hillwalking Activity Badge.”  

I confess that I’m slightly worried that he won’t be able to manage it and will end up holding the others up  but I hope I’m proved wrong.  The Girl Scout may well prove to be the incentive he needs to build up his stamina.  Let’s hope he’s washed his……….

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