I am not a perfect parent and as much as I adore my four sons they aren’t perfect either; come to think of it neither is my husband although he might have a problem admitting it in public.

I believe that good parenting is the key to our future, the future of our children is at stake and to me that’s about the greatest stake there is.

Sadly there is no easy recipe for parenting but John and I recognise our failings and are committed to being great parents to our children.

Today there is a wide choice of resources available to support parents; whether they are parenting workshops, seminars, books and now this fabulous new website.

Over the years, John and I have attended many parenting courses in our community. The early favourites were the presentations with Ian and Mary Grant from Parenting with Confidence and latterly as our sons advance into the dreaded teenage years we have enjoyed the pearls of wisdom from Celia Lashlie. At one stage in a real panic we went for one-on-one counselling with Dianne Levy.

Generally these occasions start with John furiously nodding his head in agreement to the eventual poking in the ribs which translated means “I told you so”!

The messages are always the same; boys need routines, boundaries and consequences.

I often come away defeated, understanding the theory but struggling to effectively put it into practise.

As a couple, determining a shared philosophy on parenting is a challenge for John and I. Virtually all of our arguments are about our differing views on parenting and in particular, discipline. Perhaps I should quantify that by saying our views are similar; the implementation is where things come unstuck.

Recently our two eldest were scheduled to play each other in a squash tournament. As you might expect they are by nature extremely competitive; but they are also great sportsmen (except when playing against their siblings) and this was sibling rivalry at it’s best.

Someone was going to lose, that’s a fact of life we carefully explained before the match. We also told them that no matter how hard it was going to be, there would be adverse consequences if someone spat the dummy.

Yep, you guessed it! The inevitable happened.

Facing the defeat and humiliation of losing to his brother was too much to bear for Son X and the young fella disappeared off down the road. John suggested to me that a cool-off walk home was just desserts for his behaviour.

I drove off just as the clouds opened and (yes, you guessed it) I relented and picked him up. I immediately knew I should have let him walk home – rain never killed anyone.

End result; I was in serious hot water. I received the biggest bollicking from my beloved for undermining the decision, not supporting him and so the tirade went on and on.

The rest of the weekend resulted in the most awesome demonstration of sulking on my part; in fact I am still smarting. Ironically, in no time at all the boys (being boys) had completely forgotten about the incident and moved on.

Benjamin Spock once wrote that the maim source of discipline is growing up in a loving family; being loved and learning to love in return .

Often we need to remind ourselves that discipline is not just about punishment. Whilst I admire John’s resolve to follow through I often ask him when he’s thinking of a consequence, is he trying to punish or discipline?

I define punishment as doing something to a child when the child behaves in a way that we deem to be inappropriate. Discipline on the other hand shows children what they have done wrong, helps them take responsibility for their actions and helps them solve the problem.

Always easier said than done. John has much more success because he says what he means and means what he says and always follows through.

Early to bed is just that; as is no television. Whereas I am full of empty threats open to negotiation and given to taking the path of least resistance.

You can imagine that a house filled with four young males fuelled on testosterone at times resembles a war zone; trying to maintain composure when it’s madness and mayhem is damn right difficult.

I don’t mind admitting this “Super Mum” often loses the plot; especially when John is away on business, which occurs on a regular basis.

I am surprised the neighbours haven’t alerted CYPs cause it’s pretty scary when I am in full flight! …. but can someone please tell me why I have to ask ten times for them to put their schoolshoes on!



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Dame Susan Devoy is New Zealand's Race Relations Commissioner, and a World Open champion squash player. She's the former CEO of Sport Bay of Plenty and super-mum to four boys.

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