Dear Parenting Guru,
I’m having a nightmare potty training my son.
For the last two months I’ve done nothing but mop up his ‘little accidents’ and we still seem absolutely nowhere nearer to dry-pants Heaven.
Can you offer ANY advice to help me through this horrendous, messy stage??
I don’t want to live in a house that smells like a French ski resort any more.
Susan, in Bristol.
There is no such thing as potty training.
There is only what I call the Extreme Bum Discomfort and Shame method of bladder-control education.
The problems all started with disposable nappies;
while very useful when you’re off camping for a week in Norfolk and need something to absorb your tears, they have been the death of potty training, removing, as they do, all incentive for your child not to empty his bowels into his best M&S Y-fronts before CBeebies even starts.
A child can have the same disposable nappy on for a week and fill it with more urine than you’ll find on the side of the average English pub after closing time, and still feel as dry as a nun’s crotch.
Truly, disposables are to potty training as pubs are to alcoholics.
I suggest you switch to re-usables immediately.
Even the best ones are akin to having a horsehair mattress wedged between your thighs, and a single drop of liquid swells it up so much that your child has to walk with his legs three feet apart;
this is especially challenging when each leg is only six inches long.
The humiliation in the local ball pit is such that I give it 24 hours until he’s in superdry Superman pants.
Dear Parenting Guru,
Our 18-month-old daughter has recently started to talk.
We were so happy about passing this huge milestone, until it turned out that she has a thick Welsh accent.
What can we do?!
Jane and Peter, Peterborough.
Dear Jane and Peter,
I’m sorry to hear your devastating news. Sadly, this does occasionally happen.
My nephew, born to my sister who has lived her entire life in Oxfordshire, speaks only in broad Glaswegian.
She daren’t let him out on a Friday night in case he gets into a fight, and it was a nightmare explaining to the health visitor why he would only take Irn Bru in his bottle.
(Accents are not genetic, so I wouldn’t worry if you’ve had a Welsh plumber in the last few years, Peter.)
I would suggest moving to Surrey, or sending her to Bedales immediately.
The world can never have too many plummy girls in thick eye-liner, loafers and alice-bands, working in PR.
Or take her to a rugby match in Cardiff and leave her there. She is sure to be well looked after by those who can understand her.
Pob lwc! (Ask your daughter to translate this, if you’re having trouble…)
My 15-year-old daughter wants to be allowed to start drinking alcohol.
I’m not sure how to introduce her to it in a safe, mature way.
What would your advice be?
When a 15-year-old child tells her parents she ‘wants to be allowed to start drinking alcohol’ it’s a sure sign that she’s been necking vodka in her bedroom for the last three years.
When I was growing up the accepted method of alcohol introduction was to beat children with a large leather slipper the moment they mentioned it, while quaffing copious quantities of ale oneself.
This worked perfectly well until some do-gooder mentioned children’s ‘Rights’, whatever they are, and it’s been a social disaster since then.
Thankfully all responsibility was taken out of our hands with the invention of alcopops, which are basically fermented Slush Puppies and contain at least one of our children’s 5-a-day, so their degree of Badness is very hard to quantify.
I suggest you send your daughter out with a twenty pound note to buy as much alcohol as she can and don’t let her back in the house until all of the beer/wine/ /vodka/cider/rum/gin/Cava/sherry has been pumped out of her stomach by the nearest A&E unit.
Then offer her a nice glass of Malibu for breakfast.
That should do the trick.
My two-year-old son cries a lot at night, and it’s exhausting us all.
There is a lot of conflicting advice about controlled crying, comforting, never leaving children to cry, and so on;
what would you advise?
I would suggest you make a quick trip to B&Q this weekend and staple-gun about three feet of the thickest loft insulation you can buy to the floor, walls, door and ceiling of the room in which your son sleeps – or doesn’t, as seems to be the problem.
I can almost guarantee that the moment you do this his night-time crying will cease.
Truly, it’s miraculous. It must be something clever they put in the foam these days.
This method should see you through nicely until he’s tall enough to reach the door handle, at which point you could invest in a soothing bolt on the outside of the door.
Anyway, by this stage he’ll be able to make himself a cheese toastie and play on the X-Box all night, leaving you to your much-needed shut-eye.
Good luck with it.
I have recently learned that I am to become a newspaper column, starting in September.
This is excellent news, as I do so LOVE a good column, especially if it has enough inches.
Thank you for all your beautiful, kind words; especially the ones I made up.
I couldn’t have got here without you, or my good friend Mr P Grigio.
Do keep your letters and questions coming, to
From September I shall be answering them all, and continuing to give you my most excellent advice on how not to kill your children too quickly.
I love you all, but especially those of you who love me back and send me Valium in the post.
Dear Parenting Guru,
My husband and I have a problem with our sex life;
our teenage daughter’s bedroom is next to ours, and we have recently learned that she can hear us having sex late at night.
She has expressed her deepest displeasure about ‘all those DISGUSTING noises; God, it’s like someone’s dying in there or something’.
This is, of course, rather embarrassing for us all, but an active sex life is an important part of a marriage and I don’t see why we should stop just because our children are old enough to know what’s going on, and find it awkward.
Can you advise please?
I’m afraid you lost me at ‘sex life’.
What is this thing, of which you speak?
I haven’t had a sex life for fifteen years; twenty if you count my first marriage as well as this one.
When we did indulge in some early sex death, the only noises were those of me sobbing and my ex-husband shouting ‘Oh Sarah!’, whoever she was.
The only sex life married people with children should have is with themselves, in front of a mirror, preferably after a bottle of Chablis.
As for ‘active sex life’, these days the buzz is all about being ‘pro-active’.
Where ‘pro’ means ‘not’.
Carry on as you are, but I would advise you not tell anyone else about your ecstasy dilemma.
You may end up with no friends at all.
Dear Parenting Guru,
My 6-year-old daughter always complains that I don’t cook exciting enough food.
But by the time I get home from work, all I have the time or energy to make is pasta.
Can you suggest any quick solutions that might keep her happy, and me sane?
Your daughter has clearly been watching far too much Masterchef.
Truly, I think the programme is sponsored by the makers of Valium, and those responsible for reducing the International Raspberry Coulis Lake.
The stress it causes in kitchens up and down the Land, where people were previously perfectly happy on jacket potatoes and Angel Delight, thank you very much, is immeasurable.
This kind of la-di-dah culinary snobbery needs to be snuffed out as soon as possible if she is to survive her college years, where pasta is considered an exotic departure from Pot Noodle.
It might also be worth pointing out to her that pasta comes from Italy, the Land that brought us romance, most modern languages, Isabella Rossellini, the Romans, Gucci and Cornettos.
Thus, there is nothing whatsoever wrong with pasta.
The myriad variations of pasta dishes are nothing short of mind-blowing. Here is a small selection, that has kept my children going for fifteen years;
Pasta and cheese
Pasta and beans
Pasta and beans and cheese.
Pasta and ham.
Pasta and ham and cheese.
Pasta and peas.
Pasta and ketchup.
Pasta and cheese and ketchup.
Pasta and Pesto.
Pasta and butter.
Pasta and cheese and ham and beans and ketchup and Pesto and butter and Nutella.
The above represents almost two weeks of taste bud partying.
At the end of a fortnight, just start again from the top.
If she complains, shout ‘WHODOYOUTHINKYOUARE, DARLING? JAMIE BLOODY OLIVER??’ at her.
Speaking to Childline will be far more interesting than arguing over the pasta.
All the best,
Dear Parenting Guru,
I have a hard situation that I hope you can help me with.
In the last year or so it has not escaped my notice that my daughter’s sixteen-year-old friends have become….more adult-like in their physical appearance.
I find it increasingly difficult to conceal my awareness of this when they come round for sleepovers and loll about the kitchen dressed in nothing but a see-through T-shirt and pants.
I don’t want to ask them to wear more clothes, lest I make anyone feel awkward, but short of wearing steel underpants or carrying a tray in front of my crotch the whole time I don’t think I can be in their presence any more.
I am, after all, just a male animal and there is little I can do about my body’s natural reactions.
What should I do?
You clearly have a very strong sexual side to your nature.
My phone number is attached.
Call me any time.
Dear Parenting Guru,
My children are all incredibly fussy eaters.
I have to cook three different meals every day to suit each child’s eating requirements, and even then they leave half of it untouched if it has ‘lumps’ in.
I’m at my wits’ end. Can you help, before I boil over?
‘Fussy eater’ is a term invented by the writers of parenting manuals for children who have never known the true meaning of ‘starvation to the point of near-death hallucinations.’
True, it’s hard to tell the difference between near-death hallucinations and watching In The Night Garden, but if you waft a sizzling 12-ounce steak under your child’s nose when the Pontipines come out and she bites your hand off, you can identify the ones who have gone beyond peckish, and are ready to eat properly.
I strongly suggest you help your children not to screw up all future dinner-dates, by starving them out now so they learn how to eat properly.
I’ve done the test myself on my own brood, and I can assure you that when a child is ravenous enough it WILL eat broccoli.
And lumps. And ‘stuff with yucky sauce on’.
This method also prevents the embarrassing situation of having to explain why your child has scurvy.
If any of them pulls the Human Rights card, just roll your eyes and say ‘Human Rights, Schuman Rights, love’.
That always goes down a treat, and it’s a vague nod to their musical education as well.