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The biggest mistake all parents make.

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You come home from a long day at work. Every single light is on in the house. There are wet towels on the floor. Your kids are sitting in filth, glued to their screens, no one has lifted a finger. And you take one look at the mess, take one large breath in, and say..

Nothing.

Stop. Just smile. Stay CALM.

And think of a nice thing to say.

That’s right. Something to praise your little snotbags for.

That’s the advice from a parenting expert that we had on This Glorious Mess podcast this week. You can hear her rationale, here:

Melissa Hood is a lawyer-turned-parenting-educator who says the biggest mistake parents make is constantly complaining, and punishing, and that instead, we need to find ways of using “descriptive praise” and positive discipline instead.

She speaks from experience; with almost 20 years of working with frazzled parents, she says every one of them makes the mistake of going postal when they should stay practical.

Yelling and screaming and having the same rant over and over again, Melissa says, loses its power very quickly, and your frustration becomes wallpaper, background noise.

This Glorious Mess hosts - and parents who could use some help - Andrew Daddo and Holly Wainwright.

If you're a parent, this is most likely making you wince in recognition. It's probably also infuriating you.

Because what kind of super-human can remain calm in the face of a defiant teenager, or a wilful toddler?

Well, as Melissa would say: "You're the adult here."

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She also says that the most common mistake parents make is swinging wildly between two different approaches; wanting to be sunshiny and positive, but then when something happens, swinging into Supernannybitchfacemcgee.

It doesn't work, she says, because it's so inconsistent. The holy grail of parenting, she says, is to remain calm and to know the difference between discipline and punishment.

This would never have happened if Holly had gone to parenting classes.

Discipline involves problem-solving. It's delivered calmly. Its purpose is to teach and help your child to behave differently next time. It's based on respect and it leads to self-discipline, improved behaviour and a distinct Brady-Bunch feel to your parenting style.

Punishment involves something that hurts, it's delivered in anger, it's purpose is to be right and to exact revenge, it's based on fear and humiliation and it leads to resentment, rebelliousness, furtiveness, and loss of self esteem.

It's too bad that it feels good at the time.

So mindful parenting, eh? That's the goal.

She says Australian parents should all attend parenting classes, and that we, as a nation, need to make them as common as antenatal classes.

What do you think?

The full episode of This Glorious Mess is here, including Holly Wainwright and Andrew Daddo answering a reader question about how you know when you're done with babies, and a whole lot more:

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