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Jenny’s story – the impact of negative labels….

As a child I found my emotions difficult to manage. I had a lot of them, and they all seemed quite intense! They often led me to behave in ways that my parents, friends and teachers found inconvenient. Over my childhood, whilst I did well at school and in extra-curricular activities, I collected a number of not so positive labels including headstrong, stubborn, bossy and Miss Answer Back. This had a negative impact on my self-esteem.

I would tell myself again and again, not to feel so strongly, not to react, but somehow, in the heat of the moment, strong language or behaviour would erupt from me. This lack of control further eroded my self-image.

This is perhaps partly why I decided to go to Bristol University to do a psychology degree, to understand how brains work and why we behave the way we do, both as individuals and at a group level. My thesis was in an area of child development – the Theory of Mind. I realised that many of the more challenging attributes I displayed as a child were now seen as useful character traits – assertive, confident, determined, passionate, curious and solution-focussed. They sound much better than the list above!

So, I took these traits with me into the world of finance and worked for Barclays and Credit Suisse in London and Hong Kong. It was a stimulating and exciting environment but also ultra-competitive, stressful and tiring and I found that work had to be prioritised over all other life matters.

It meant my husband and I were quite late to start a family but within five years, we had three girls and a boy, and our home was noisy and chaotic. We wanted to raise resilient, confident, helpful, happy and emotionally literate children but we didn’t feel we had the understanding or skills to do this.

The lack of knowledge, anxiety and tiredness made it hard for me to stay calm – my strong emotions were out in force and family life felt more like a chore than something to be enjoyed. With this in mind, I went back to psychology and trained with The Parent Practice, first to learn the skills and then to become a parenting educator. Since then, I’ve done extensive additional training with many other parenting educators such as Steve Biddulph, Bonnie Harris and Professor Steve Peters.

I have a particular interest in understanding brain development and how neuroscience can help us understand behaviour. I now know that our brains don’t finish their childhood development until around the age of 24….so it wasn’t surprising that my emotional brain had much more input into my behaviour during my childhood, than it has now.

One of my daughters (now 12 years old), has a temperament very similar to mine – intense and persistent. We have been extremely careful to avoid the negative labels that were attached to me as a child. When she is refusing to compromise, we say that she perseveres rather than being stubborn. When she is very emotional, we support her to self-regulate (even if this takes some time) rather than tell her off. As a result, she has much better self-regulation and self-esteem, than I had at her age and she tells us that the fact she perseveres is one of the traits she is most proud of.

Over the last decade, through teaching classes, workshops and private sessions, I’ve helped hundreds of families learn the skills and techniques to help their families thrive. I’ve seen the benefit this has provided to my own children. Whilst parenting is always hard work, I feel that the toolkit of skills that The Parent Team provides, enables calm, joy and fun to be brought into every family life.