Introduction: It's a Jungle – A Parent's Guide to Emotions and Behaviour

It's a Jungle A Parent's Guide book cover

I remember being a kid…

… play, play and lots of fun but there were also times when it seemed so unfair. ‘Parents have it easy,’ I grumbled. ‘They don’t have to go to bed at 7.30. It’s hard being a kid!’

Thirty years later and I’m a parent. Wow doesn’t that change things?! Now I see it from the other side of the story. Parenting has all those wonderful moments like hugs and laughter but there are also all those complicated dilemmas. Should I be more strict or less? Do I do it for her or let her make her own mistakes? Surely he can clean his own room by now, can’t he? I still believe being a child is hard but now I’m convinced being a parent is even harder.

Like most people, I had some warning that having children would change my life. Someone told me I’d be ready to be a parent if I could put a nappy on a wriggling squid or take a goat to the supermarket and pay for everything it eats. I laughed at the time, thinking it was a joke, but it turned out to be true.

When I became a mother, I knew I had no experience at raising a child and I wanted to learn how. As adults we learn new skills by watching, reading, getting advice or enduring trial and error. With parenting I found the whole process confusing.

One book told me to Do it this way while a friend’s advice was to Do the opposite. Not sure who to follow, I read another book only to find yet more conflicting advice. In the end, I stumbled through trial and error. If advice made sense, I gave it a try to see if it worked. Some experiments were disasters and some worked out okay. If a technique showed a bit of promise, I’d add in a bit of common sense or minor variation and off we’d go.

If you’ve picked up this book it means you understand just how complicated parenting can be. You know the stakes are high and you want to get it right. You’re trying to learn more, but raising a child is not like anything else that we learn to do. There’s no clear method that’s accepted as the best way. If you ask for instructions from three different people, they’ll give you three different opinions. You’ll even get advice from people you didn’t ask like that lady glaring at you in the supermarket while your child throws his tantrum.

So which advice do you follow?

I’m a mother and a child psychiatrist. As a mother, I’ve done my share of trial and error. I’ve also studied medicine, the mind and emotions. Professionally, I’ve met thousands of children and parents who have come for support and advice and, over time, I’ve noticed a pattern. Children struggle with their emotions and then parents struggle with their behaviour. It’s all about BIG EMOTIONS.

Children need to learn how to cope with their emotional world but their emotions are swirling so wildly that they can’t work it out by themselves. It’s our job, as parents, to teach them how. It’s a tough job but an important one. Our working conditions may include getting yelled at and insulted because our children’s instincts are to ‘come out fighting’. That’s the LAW OF THE JUNGLE but it’s not how the real world works. Children have a lot to learn.

Consider this book like an instruction manual for parents. You might wonder why I don’t just write a book of instructions for children. It’s my job as a child psychiatrist to help children understand their emotions, so why don’t I just write it down for them? The simple answer is that it won’t work. When it comes to emotions, children don’t learn so well through words. They learn better through experience.

Have you ever given teenagers perfectly good advice, only to find that they ignored it and made their own mistakes anyway?

When it comes to learning about emotions and behaviour, it’s more powerful to learn from experience than from words.

Our children need to learn from experience about how to handle their emotions. This book will help you provide the framework for that to happen.

This book will help you to:

  • understand the link between emotions and behaviour
  • recognise the jungle in your children
  • stay out of the jungle yourself
  • teach your children the ways of a civilised world

It might even give you a chuckle when you start to recognise the jungle in other adults … maybe even your boss!


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