This Morning’s agony aunt, Denise Robertson, has been offering advice for those in trouble for over two decades.
We chatted to her to get some tips and advice on parenting, in light of the release of Parental Guidance on DVD and Blu-Ray this week.
She gave us some top tips on handing the little ones over to the in-laws, after a study conducted to mark the release of the film revealed that four out of ten Mums are ‘run-ragged’ when kids are returned from their grandparents.
Hi Denise! So, the film Parental Guidance shows how much children get spoilt by their grandparents, as well as showing the difference in parenting methods. Do you think it’s a true representation?
“As well as being extremely funny, the film also made me sit up and think. The thing that stood out to me is the enormous pressure that parents are under. They’re paranoid about what their children eat, because they won’t get any E-numbers or whatever. I see young mums in the super markets scanning the ingredients with agony on their faces, asking ‘am I feeding my child the right thing’.
“There’s a really funny scene on the DVD where the children have never been allowed to have cake. The grandmother makes a huge cake, and the mother comes home and sees the daughter with chocolate all over her face, and the child looks up and says ‘you lied to me! Cake is better than yoghurt’. I could see that happening all over the country.”
Why do you think grandparents and parents parent children so differently?
“I think the key word is responsibility. When you’re a parent you are fearing responsibility in the back of your mind all the time. You think ‘it’s up to me. It’s up to me for them to do well at school.’
"When you’re a grandparent you still have those desires, you want them to be healthy, you want them to do well at school, but it’s not your responsibility. The difference is that you are allowed a degree of freedom that parents don’t have.
“I’m wondering if the parents in the study, especially working mums, resent the fact that gran gets to do the fun things with the children, while they’re constantly battling to get them to school and get the supermarket run done. They’re thinking of all the leisure time the grandparents get with the children.
“I do believe that the love and loyalty between the generations is there but it’s just that we’re all a bit pressured.”
What would you say the main differences you have seen are?
“The enormous pressure on parents, which was not there in my day. All the emphasis on things like SATs at school, they’ve got to do well. I don’t remember it being like that, so it’s a huge difference.
“And probably the fact that grandparents have got a bit more clout, they’re healthier they’re living longer, and they’re economically sounder. Both of the generations are changing and rubbing up against each other, but I don’t think the underlying love and affection has changed.”
The statistics for how much time children spend with their grandparents are quite high, do you think it’s fair for parents to rely on grandparents so much for childcare?
“I do get letters about this. Some say ‘I did my parenting, why am I being pushed to do it all again?’, and ‘I thought this was going to be my time of life when I would be free’.
“But on the whole those letters disturb me less than letters from grandparents that don’t get to see children because of family disputes. They make me really sad.”
What tips would you give for parents who are having trouble with their in-laws when it comes to the way they look after their children?
“The secret is that you have to tackle it, because if you think your children are being harmed then you have no option but to tackle it.
“But it depends how you tackle it. Don’t, at the end of a long tiring day, say ‘I hope you haven’t given them cake today’.
“Take your time, perhaps at the weekend, and just say ‘the children love coming to you but if you could ease up on the cake and sweets because I’m worried about their teeth.’ You have to be very careful about how you handle it, particularly if you need them for childcare.”
Everyone has different parenting methods but is there anything parents should definitely be doing, or definitely not be doing?
“I think the parents should definitely be making their children feel that they approve of them.
“I get a lot of letters from children, and quite often you get the feeling that parents are cross at children. The children should evolve to be what they are going to be, and not what you want.
“We do have a tendency nowadays to have an idea of their perfect child, when in fact what you should want, is that your child achieves it potential whatever that potential is. Don’t have preconceived conceptions of what you want your child to be. Make them feel valued, and above all enjoy them.”
Parental Guidance is available on Blu-ray and DVD from 27 May from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.
By Emma Cocker