IT’S been called the most difficult job in the world yet there are no entry requirements.

While parenting can be rewarding, it can also be maddening, relentless and lonely.

In an exclusive Sun survey, more than half of all couples admitted they argue more since having kids, and at least one in five parents do not feel they get enough support from their partner.

The biggest rows between mums and dads are over discipline, money, education and table manners.

When it comes to primary-aged children, parents are most concerned with bullying, education, confidence, social skills and friendships, and mental health.

In day one of our new Dear Deidre Parenting Series, we look at readers’ parenting dilemmas as our advice columnist offers some straight-talking tips on how to grow as a mum and dad.


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Today we look at the big issues facing those looking after pre-teen youngsters.

1. TAKE HEART: And be assured there is no such thing as a perfect parent. And putting anyone under that much pressure to perform is the best way to ensure they fail.

It’s the same with the “good dad” and “bad dad” labels — these are about extremes and no one is always perfectly attuned to their child’s needs.

So let’s start off by being more realistic — most parents are pedalling like mad trying to take the best care of their children.

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2. TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS: There is so much judgment, and the daily examples of mum-shaming on social media show how vicious the critics can be.

The problem is that the more we worry about how the public gallery will judge us, the less attuned to our children and their needs we become.

So look to your child and your relationship with them. You know them better than anyone.

Start to let that confidence grow.

3. IT’S NEVER TOO LATE: If you ever start to wish you had parented differently, please be assured it is never too late to strengthen those relationships.

Whether your child is a toddler, teenager or even an adult, nothing is set in stone.

So if you regret pushing your child too hard at school, or dismissing their fears, don’t feel you can never change.

The best thing here is that you want to strengthen your parent/child bond, and that can start at any age.

4. THE GREATEST GIFT IS TIME: Of course we all know it’s important to spend quality time with our children, away from distractions.

But what I’m really talking about here is mundane, day-to-day time.
So give your children much more time than you would need to get out the door, ready for bed, or to tidy toys away.

Children take a lot longer to process information, get easily distracted and tired, and take longer to transition between activities, so carve out enough time for gentle and firm reminders to keep them on track.

No one enjoys a day that starts or ends with yelling and frayed tempers. And a child whose parent is constantly yelling at them is likely to feel confused and lack confidence.

5. ACKNOWLEDGE THEIR FEELINGS: If your child tells you they are scared of the dark, feel rejected by their friends or feel uncomfortable around a particular person, resist the urge to dismiss them.

It’s OK to simply repeat what they are telling you and to recognise their emotions as valid.

By telling them, “Don’t be silly”, “Don’t make a fuss” or
“Don’t be ridiculous”, you undermine them and leave them feeling isolated and less inclined to open up to you.

6. SUPPORT, DON’T FIX: You don’t always have to solve your children’s problems.

By simply being there to listen to their worries and pain, you accompany them and help them through their issues.

By being with them, you are showing them loving support — the base that we all need for stability.

It’s always tempting to offer solutions but children will become more resilient if you can hear them and encourage them to find their own answers.

7. BE KIND TO YOURSELF: Our children learn from what we do, not just what we say.

So if you were brought up to value being “tough” — even when upset or emotional, or if being skinny meant “being pretty” — you are likely to still hold those attitudes.

If you catch yourself skipping meals or brushing aside emotions, not only are you being unkind to yourself, you are also passing on those same hurtful standards to your children.

Try to take a step back and unpack your own childhood. Were there any old attitudes that you’d now like to part company with?

8. HOW TO ARGUE: Most families have disagreements and it’s not the differences that are themselves problematic, it’s how we deal with them.

When we hurl accusations and try to score points, the issues quickly turn into conflict.

Better to work out what the disagreements are about — their roots — and explain how this makes you feel.

And ask your partner to work with you to find compromises and solutions.

9. STEP AWAY FROM YOUR PHONE: We know that alcoholics don’t form positive relationships with their children because their priority will always be booze.

Think about any time you have been with a friend who ignores you because they are constantly on their phone.

It no doubt left you feeling undervalued. Well, that’s exactly what you are doing with your children.

Start off by making mealtimes a phone-free zone and gradually build up so you are properly engaging with your kids.

10. BE CLEAR AND CONSISTENT ABOUT BOUNDARIES: Children need to know exactly where your boundaries are and what the repercussions are for crossing them, because just beyond your boundaries lie frayed tempers and your limit.

Make sure you clearly tell them what the boundary is and make it about you — not them.

So say, “I cannot have you bouncing a ball inside the house because it stresses me out that something may get broken” rather than, “You are the most selfish, careless child and I don’t want you playing with balls in the house”.

If they break those boundaries, calmly carry through the threat, otherwise they will quickly learn not to take you seriously.

  •  The free Dear Deidre podcast on parenting is out now and features JLS’s Aston Merrygold and parenting expert Alicia Drummond. Listen wherever you get your podcasts.

Get in touch with Deidre

Every problem gets a personal reply, usually within 24 hours weekdays.

Send an email to [email protected]

You can also send a private message on the DearDeidreOfficial Facebook page.


DEAR DEIDRE: MY five-year-old daughter has been a nightmare during lockdown with her endless strops and whingeing.

She had only just settled in at her school when classes were closed.

That said, she has been through a lot. I split up with her dad when she was a baby and went to live with my mum.

My mum then got divorced from my stepdad, so she had to downsize and we had to move again — and then again six months later.

My boyfriend moved in with me for lockdown. I am 27 and he is 26.

He is wonderful with my daughter and has his own son to stay with us at weekends.

He is three and gets on OK with my daughter but she often acts like a two-year-old with her moods and tantrums.

I feel at the end of my tether.

DEIDRE SAYS: She’s feeling insecure.

It takes enormous patience but try to stay calm when she acts up.

Don’t shout and don’t show irritation.

Hold her, if she will let you, and soothe her until she calms down. If you feel your temper rising, walk away and count to ten.

She will take her lead from you and react more calmly if you do.


DEAR DEIDRE: I’M really worried about how my son’s half-brother is treating him. My boy is six and the other lad is 13.

His half-brother is allowed to rule the roost by my ex-girlfriend. She doesn’t stand up to him when he is aggressive.

My son lives with my ex, because I work erratic shifts. I’m 37 and visit him regularly. We have a lovely relationship.

My ex and I get on otherwise well, for the sake of our son.

But the last time I visited, this half-brother kept pushing my boy and nearly trapped his fingers in a door.

I saw red and grabbed him, shouting: “Am I allowed to hit you? No. So don’t hit my son.”

My ex intervened and said I was over-reacting.

DEIDRE SAYS: This is difficult.

You are not the teenager’s father but want to protect your boy.

Sit down with your ex and agree on some boundaries.

You can also speak to, for support.

Siblings do squabble, so make sure you are aware of what your son might be doing to possibly exacerbate the problem.

But if you still feel concerned that your son may be on the receiving end of seriously abusive treatment, you should phone social services immediately.


DEAR DEIDRE: MY mum doesn’t care about me. I live with my dad and barely see her.

When I visit, she plonks me in front of the TV and talks on her phone to her friends or scrolls through social media.

I’m a 12-year-old boy and feel she has abandoned me.

She’s broken all her promises, such as taking me to buy some clothes and paying my mobile phone bill, yet she always has money to spend on things she likes.

I don’t think I’m in her thoughts at all.

DEIDRE SAYS: Your mum’s behaviour is so hurtful, but it’s not your fault.

Sadly, some parents don’t understand how upsetting their behaviour is.

Try talking to her and asking her to spend more time with you.

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Explain that you feel ignored when she is on her phone. And talk to your dad too about your concerns.

My support pack Young And Worried will help you.

Listen to the NEW Dear Deidre podcast

Resident agony aunt Sally Land is taking The Sun’s legendary advice column from the page to podcast.

Each week, Sally will be joined by an expert and some of your favourite celebs to give helpful, entertaining advice to listener problems.

A brand new episode will be available every THURSDAY.

Listen HERE, or wherever you get your podcasts.

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