My One and Only Parenting Tip: The Law of Mummy

Image: Flickr/Pyro.Muse Flea and I were at soft play this week when I saw a woman ask her toddler to come out of the football nets to go home. Half an hour later, when I called Flea to come and put her shoes on, the woman was still there.

"Oh, please, Henry, come on, we have to go. I'm not kidding," she wheedled.

"No offence love, but you're SO obviously kidding. I know it, Henry knows it, the whole world knows it," I said.

Not really. But I did think it.

I’m not big on parenting ‘tips’ as a rule. My theory is that children learn to adapt to the family they’re in. I’m really not a person who shouts or argues, and so neither is Flea – she’s learned that saying, “I’m not happy and I’m going to my room until I calm down,” while doing her very best evil stare gets her a lot further than making a lot of fuss and noise.

My sister-in-law comes from a more emotional and volatile family and her kids shout and sass in a way that I can guarantee Flea never would – but then my niece and nephew have to make themselves heard in a much livelier household. If my niece said, “I’m not happy,” her family would assume she didn’t mean it. Also, my sister-in-law is a big believer in "No means no, but only the first 499 times, after which it will probably turn into a yes."

Despite all that, I was sorely, sorely tempted to share my one SOLID gold parenting tip with the poor Mum at soft play. It’s called The Law of Mummy. Here’s how it goes:

Me: Flea, what's rule number one?

Flea: You're the boss of me.

Me: And what's rule number two?

Flea: There are no other rules.

I taught Flea this mantra when she was about 12 months old. It means that if you’re in soft play and Mummy says it’s time to go, it’s time to go. You might get to choose whether to walk out on your own two feet or whether you get carried out under my arm, but that's where your choice starts and ends. Similarly, you might get to choose whether to put pyjamas on and have a story or go to bed in your clothes without a story, but the 'going to bed' bit? Not optional.

So there you have it. We laugh in the face of star charts, time outs and naughty steps. We don’t need such things (or at least not while I'm still able to carry Flea under one arm). We have The Law of Mummy. I think I might copyright it, and write a best-selling parenting manual.


Sally is a full-time blogger and founder of the Tots100, Trips100, Foodies100 and HIBS100 communities, along with the MAD Blog Awards. She spends a bit too much time on the Internet. She’s also a very happy Mum to Flea, the world’s coolest ten year old.

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  1. Muummmeeeee!
    30th November 2009 / 5:09 am

    I LOVE that law! Does it work on husbands and dogs too?

  2. Wife of bold
    30th November 2009 / 9:05 am

    I’m with Brits in Bosina, i was fine with the one but now i have four they tag team me 🙁

  3. Sally
    30th November 2009 / 9:26 am

    @Muummeeee – it’s actually based on puppy school! What we learned with our dog is that every time you tell a dog to do something more than once you’re actually teaching them “It’s totally okay to ignore me the first few times I say anything”. I apply the same principles to children 😉
    @Brit/Wife of Bold – so, providing I don’t have any more kids, my illusion of control remains intact? I’m not sure my world view would survive if Flea were to laugh at the law of Mummy. I might just cry and turn to gin.

  4. 30th November 2009 / 9:46 am

    Yep agree with one – great, but with two…. Well doesnt work for me. It is easy to be judgey when we dont know all the circumstances. I would notmally just pick mine up and carry them if they were not doing as told, but no I physically cant, I would split stictches etc and I have to try and talk them down.

  5. Sally
    30th November 2009 / 10:08 am

    @TheMadHouse – you’re quite right of course, there could have been all sorts of reasons why she didn’t just pick him up. I feel a bit bad now. Sorry for thinking mean thoughts about the lady. But God, it just went on for SO LONG.
    But I genuinely, genuinely don’t get people who plead with toddlers. Goodness knows, they’ll be ignoring you soon enough, you might as well make the most of of those few short years of wielding any kind of authority!

  6. 30th November 2009 / 10:50 am

    I’m liking your style, and I agree. The softly-softly approach just doesn’t work and kids actually like boundaries. If IJ was at soft play I’d give her a five minute warning that we were going, she’d protest and make a fuss, but she knows we well enough to understand that I mean what I say, so when her five minutes is up she will reluctantly grab her coat. Job done.

  7. 30th November 2009 / 11:22 am

    1. Ask nicely.
    2. Tell them what to do.
    3. Physically intervene.
    I hardly ever get to number three.

  8. 30th November 2009 / 11:33 am

    I think the Law of Mummy is definitley one to adopt; my one rule is that what I say goes and I always get my say. Poor boys still run me ragged but at the end of the day there’s always bedtime!

  9. 30th November 2009 / 2:17 pm

    I love this idea. I’m just worried it’s a bit late for us… we’ve gone down the acceding to negotiation route with no 1 daughter. suspect 2 and 3 may get introduced to the law of mummy pretty quickly though!

  10. 30th November 2009 / 2:18 pm

    ps although on reading everyone else’s comments I’m wondering whether with 3 under 3 I just don’t stand a chance…

  11. 30th November 2009 / 4:08 pm

    I had a light bulb moment when my oldest was about 4. Up till then, there’d been lots of negotiation, and trying to make everything fair (eg I know you don’t want to come shopping, but if you do, you can have a lolly, then that’s fair). Then a friend of mine pointed out that life isn’t fair. You are the parent, the child is the child. It’s not a question of fairness. It’s a question of different roles.
    So the negotiation was replaced with “… because I’m the parent. When you’re a parent, you can make rules and choose how to do things, but at the moment, that’s my job.”
    It made life a whole lot easier. I honestly think children are MUCH happier that way. They might make a show of testing the boundaries, but they need them to be there. I can’t imagine how scary it must be as a small child to have the responsibility of ordering your own life as you want. It must feel much safer to have Mummy/Daddy in control.
    Having said all that, I must say that with 3, I do end up seeming to do endless amounts of negotiation. I hope, at least, that they are learning a useful life skill…

  12. Liz (LivingwithKids)
    30th November 2009 / 6:39 pm

    Yep this is pretty much my parenting style – I loathe the whole concept of a naughty step and it only works while they’re small anyway. I do have a ‘look’ which I give while Man of the House, who hardly ever shouts, has a ‘voice’. Someone (OK, my mother) told me ages ago that you don’t reason, you just explain and it does work. Reasoning just leads to more why-sssss. Never ending why-ssss.

  13. 30th November 2009 / 8:36 pm

    I have got my 3 and a half year old grandson to the stage where, on the incredibly rare occasions when he tries to say “no”, a raised eyebrow and a gentle “Do you say no to Grandma?” brings him running saying, “No, I don’t. I forgot for a minute.”

  14. 30th November 2009 / 9:28 pm

    I’m with you on that one! It’s quite funny though as i can hear my eldest (Daisy, 4) saying to her sister (Poppy, 2 and a half) “Now Poppy, You will do as I say. I am the boss. Now come with me to the kitchen and we’ll empty out the cereal boxes all over the floor”
    Mmm. She’s getting SO bossy – wonder where she gets it from!

  15. angelsandurchinsblog
    30th November 2009 / 9:36 pm

    I am with Brit in Bosnia on this one. All three boys can now walk/toddle, and take great delight in doing so in completely different directions. Leaving me doing a mad scoop, and realising I need one more arm. Saying that, a little bribery with a ‘Smartie for the anywho comes here NOW’ usually works a trick (and yes, I know that means sugar, but sometimes a mum has to do what a mum has to do!)

  16. 30th November 2009 / 9:47 pm

    I’m also with Brit in Bosnia; two going in different directions is impossible. I’ve had some nightmares at soft play too – eg. going off to find one of them, losing the other and eventually finding him going round and round the carousel on his own, crying his little eyes out….So I can sympathise with that mother. Mind you, you have to be prepared to go in there and retrieve them if all else fails.

  17. Vic
    1st December 2009 / 12:13 pm

    I love the approach, but the boy’s too heavy and strong to be carried anywhere kicking and screaming now. Maybe I should hire a bodybuilder to accompany me in all my parenting interractions.

  18. Sally
    1st December 2009 / 12:20 pm

    I think the secret is to train ’em young – it’s actually been almost 2 years since I had to physically intervene but I did used to absolutely follow Mwa’s three steps.
    And I genuinely think Flea learned that I meant what I said and that we WOULD leave places if she didn’t behave.
    For older kids or Mums with more than one, I am now utterly convinced that there’s a gap in the market for some kind of kid lassoo…

  19. 4th December 2009 / 8:21 am

    I hope that I will be strong enough to do this! I have seen so many of my friends with children that run rings around them. One couple say things like “if you don’t behave you will go in the car”. Stupid because they are never going to put their child in the car alone on the street and their child just runs about destroying my house and being shouted at occasionally. Drives me insane. I do try not to judge however, because in a couple of years that could be me.

  20. 7th December 2009 / 7:01 pm

    I so need to start being tough with my daughters. They walk all over me..Everyone says it. My daughter is 2 1/2 yrs old and if u ask her who runs the house she said she does. I need to start laying down the law but it is so hard listening to her scream sometimes.

  21. 3rd January 2010 / 12:18 pm

    I am a big believer in giving them a warning that the time is coming to move on, it gives them time to adjust to the change and be ready when you then say, “Ok, let’s go.” If that doesn’t work then I use the choice, “We are going now and you can walk or I will carry you.” My toddler usually chooses the walk option!