EMMA HOLLINGWORTH: No, no, no to child-rule, but while parenting rules are vital it has to be about give and take

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My youngest may only be a year old but she is very clear about what she wants. In particular she is very clear about saying “no” – and mostly to everything.

She says “no” when I try and feed her something she doesn’t like. She says “no” when I try and put clothes on her and she most vociferously says “no” when I try to change her nappy – which she has recently decided she hates. And not only does she say “no”, she also shakes her head from side to side in an over the top way just to make sure I have most clearly got the message, despite her limited language skills.

There is a phrase “Don’t let the kids rule the roost” and ever since embarking on our marathon journey of having children, we have tried to stick to this mantra.

Before they came along we were clear about the fact we were going to be the ones who set the rules – no child was going to tell us what to do. We would be setting out clear boundaries and would stick to these. We had heard horror stories of children gone to seed when no firm boundaries had been set.

We had seen the results of hippy dippy upbringing when a child was never told “no” (“It’s such a negative term” our friend said, “I don’t want him growing up with negative vibes.”)

As a result this boy had been boisterous, bullying and aggressive - particularly towards his long suffering mother. Think Horrid Henry and you have a picture. And the word he loves to shout the most? “No.”

But the day the children arrived our way of handling them seemed to vary somewhat from the rule book we had written.

Whether it’s the oldest one’s winning smile, the middle one’s over exaggerated pouting bottom lip or the littlest one’s head shaking, we seem to be under their thumbs.

The other half says I am too soft on the boy and I say he is too soft on the girls. Maybe we are tougher on our own sex, but either way the kids still manage to pretty much get their own way most of the time. Or so it seems.

So what went wrong? Actually nothing. All we did was parent like our parents did with us. Boundaries and saying no to the right thing are there. But it does have to be a bit of give and take. No to a biscuit just before tea but yes to it afterwards seems to work.

And despite the fact we feel the children rule us and not the other way round, the reality is we are still the ones in charge. After all it is not a fluke they are all in bed at the same time each night and not wandering the house.

They all sit down nicely at the table to eat at the right times. Nor do they leave until they have all finished eating. And they say please and thank you (to everyone but us!) so we must have got it right somewhere along the line.

But help is out there if you feel your kids are not conforming to the rules. Sheffield City Council have produced a very helpful handbook. For more information, visit: http://www.sheffield.gov.uk/education/services-to-schools/eyecs/parenting-matters