I recently wrote about how I wanted to use more positive language with my kids and stop constantly using words like No, Stop or Don’t. I called it a Positive Parenting Challenge and I passed this on to other parents to see who felt the same and wanted to change too.

Enda Sheppard has kindly agreed to take part and answer a few of my random questions.

Hello, who are you?

Hi I’m Enda, a stay-at-home Dad for three years, now part-time worker and at home a lot of the time Dad! I worked full-time as a newspaper sub-editor, and have had to go back doing it on a part-time, freelance basis. I also write irregularly for the Irish Times, going under Being Dad, on the trials and tribulations of dealing with our 12-year-old son and 14-year-old daughter. I also blog under http://endastories.com — a new post up every Monday, folks!

Thank you for agreeing to take part in this positive parenting challenge. In my post I talked about how I was tired of being cross and shouty with my kids. What do your kids do that infuriates you, and how do you deal with it?

I have to be honest I commented on your original post because I found it refreshing to read someone not putting out a somewhat idealised version of thermselves. I could relate to the cross and shouty bit because I am often guilty of that. And I have been trying to work on that, including doing a short parenting course in my local secondary school.

How many Incredible Hulks are you out of five?

I’m not scary or violent! But I do raise my voice easily. So a three, maybe! And of course I get guilty and talk out of that guilt afterwards. Which is not a strong position, as kids, as we know, they’re great manipulators, will seize on that!

It’s perfectly normal to get cross or feel angry, but what is the most ridiculous thing you’ve lost your shit about?

Not to be sexist, but to be sexist, you know that predominantly female thing where the row is never about what is really bugging them? Well I have found myself doing that, getting angry over stupid things that were only really the straw that broke the Daddy Camel’s back. Unbelievably trivial stuff that only other parents would understand, like empty smoothie glasses left in my home office — again — and crumbs on my keyboard! And snarky complaints from my teenage daughter about my the things I cook, how I cook them, and how I present them. Grrr!

In my post, I wrote about the impact of negative language on my kids and that sometimes the first thing I say to them in the morning is a criticism. Apart from the usual hellos/good mornings, what was the first thing you said to your kids this morning?

Well I have been trying hard because our daughter has brought us into a cycle of her criticising us all the time, and complaining, and her constantly flouting our house rules about phone use, and all sorts of things. I have made an effort to ignore a lot of her daily aggressions and negative outbursts, and only intervene when she pulls something particularly outrageous. The result has been a lot more positive moments, but it really does depend on her mood. After a good week or two, we found ourselves at it all yesterday evening!

This morning, I arrived into her room to offer her the dog for a cuddle before she got up, and her immediate angry “WHAT?” when I called her gently … well I just had to say nothing and walk straight out …

What words are you planning on saying more of?

I don’t know what exact words, more trying to not use the negative ones! She is impulsive and will say things on the spur of the moment, and what we take as outrageous, is sometimes just her way of dealing with frustrations and anxieties. She is a night owl who often has negative thoughts about dying and not waking up which can stop her getting a good night’s sleep. And then she is tired and crabby the next day, and blah, blah

Now for the challenge – tomorrow, try to listen to how you talk to your kids. Be honest – how far into the day did you manage to get before you shouted, or said ‘No’, ‘Stop’, ‘Don’t’, or something else negative?

Well that’s a loaded question. Now I am self-justifying here, but whenever our daughter interacts positively with us, we engage positively with her. But when someone constantly flouts — or really doesn’t respect house rules — I find it hard not to come in with the “Stop” and “I would prefer you not to talk to me in that aggressive tone” parent stuff we all hated as kids ourselves!

I note in all this I have not mentioned our son, but my relationship is very different with him. He has his issues, and it’s not always roses, but he’s generally easy enough to deal with. Up to now our interactions are much more positive with him. Probably the stage he is at. Wait till he hits the terrible teens!


Be sure to check out Enda’s blog here.

Want to take part in this challenge? Enter your details below and I’ll be in touch.

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