Mummy Social Meets … Philippa Perry

Philippa is a well known psychotherapist, working for Red Magazine as an agony aunt, contributing to The Guardian newspaper and has presented several documentaries for the BBC and Channel 4. Most recently, Philippa featured in the highly popular dating show Celebs Go Dating for E4, where she used her expertise to give the celebrity singles some much needed love advice. Mummy Social team member Victoria recently caught up with Philippa to see if she could help answer some of your parenting quandaries.

Philippa, you have had such a varied career that is based on the workings of the mind, what inspired you to begin your career? What have been the highs and lows?

I’ve never really thought in terms of a career. I’ve just had jobs. All my life, I have however, always read loads of psychology textbooks even when I was working at McDonald’s. And McDonald’s was not a low. My co-workers came from all round the world from a variety of backgrounds so I found it interesting.

You’ve just written a book called ‘The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read (and Your Children Will Be Glad That You Did)’. Could you summarise what the book is about and what has inspired you to look at this topic?

Other parenting books are usually about children’s external behaviour and how to manipulate that. My book is about the relationship you have with each of your children. A relationship with your parents is one of the most important and most profound influences on your life. This is the relationship we need to concentrate on.

We asked our Mummy Social audience to submit any questions that they would like to ask you regarding parenting and their children. To be honest we were inundated with questions, so we’ve tried to combine them into a selection below if you wouldn’t mind sharing your advice.

My 4-year-old has the sass and attitude of a teenager. The screaming, the tantrums and the attitude is really taking a toll on family life. I’m getting to the point where I do not know what to do, there is no reasoning! What would you suggest I try to help stop (or at least curb) this behaviour?

If you have what you perceive to be a problem with your child do not concentrate your focus on that child but look to your relationship because that is where you will find your answer. All behaviour is communication. You need to try and understand what is frustrating your child so much, and help them find more convenient ways of expressing themselves. So often, we as parents, are not open or willing to really hear what our child is trying to tell us.

To behave conveniently we need to develop a tolerance for frustration, flexibility, and problem-solving skills, together with empathy for other people. We all learn the skills in different timeframes. Be optimistic that your child will pick up the skills from you in time.

I have this overwhelming sense of disappointment in my parenting skills and often feel like a complete failure. Is this natural? Can you please offer some advice to help me cope with this feeling?

Judging yourself will not help your relationship with your child. Our children tend to pick up on our inner critical voice that we use against ourselves. So berating yourself is doing no one any favours. None of us, and I mean not one of us, is a perfect parent. No one can be attuned 100% of the time to our children. There are bound to be misunderstandings and mis-attunements in any relationship and the relationships we have with each other and our children are no different. What we can do is be honest with ourselves about the areas where we think we can do better and we can improve. It is putting too much pressure on ourselves to think we can get everything right first time. Remember a child is not a project to perfect, but a person to relate to.

What is your advice when it comes to introducing a new sibling into a household? What is the best way to approach this to ensure our other children do not feel left out?

Be authentic and real about it. Ask them how they feel about it. Every child will probably have different feelings about the situation. One thing is you will be less available for them. They will probably have feelings about this. It is important to listen to these feelings and validate them and not to pretend they are trivial.

Philippa’s #1 Sunday Times best seller book, ‘The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read (and Your Children Will Be Glad That You Did)’ is available to buy from Amazon and all good book shops.

You can also follow Philippa on Twitter, @Philippa_Perry

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