“I set out to write books that made all the amazing psychology, which was being kept in research papers and textbooks, much more accessible to parents so they could use it in real ways.”
Parenting (and grandparenting) can be a minefield, with constant challenges that can leave us floundering. Getting good, practical, parenting advice can make the difference between a happy or stressed household.
So it’s my absolute pleasure to interview the highly respected author, journalist and ‘parenting guru’ Tanith Carey.
Discover Tanith’s top 5 tips for parenting young children and teenagers, how to deal with a child’s behavioural issue and her specific insights on grandparenting. As well as learning about her own journey as a writer and why she felt the need to write about parenting.
Tanith has written 14 books on psychology and parenting, some of which have been translated into 30 languages all over the world, including Chinese, Vietnamese and Indonesian. She has also written for most national newspapers and magazines during her 34 year career as a journalist and writer.
Her parenting books include: “What’s My Child Thinking?” and “What’s My Teenager Thinking”, (both with child clinical psychologist Dr Angharad Rudkin), “The Friendship Maze: How to help your child navigate their way to positive happier friendships”, “ Girls Uninterrupted: Steps for building stronger girls in a Challenging World’ and ‘Taming the Tiger Parent; How to put your child’s well being first in a competitive world.’
She is most proud of the fact that the evidence-based tools in her books have helped parents really connect and understand kids in real world challenging situations and that they are being used all over the world.
It’s an incredible accomplishment and body of work and what I first wanted to know was…
What inspired you to start writing about parenting?
“When I had my first child Lily in 2001 I really wanted to understand how her mind was developing. But at the time, there was quite a limited range of parenting books and the ones I could find didn’t really help me connect with her on a deeper level or understand how her mind was growing .
So I set out to write books that made all the amazing psychology, which was being kept in research papers and textbooks, much more accessible to parents so they could use it in real ways.
So one by one, I tackled all of those areas with books that analysed the issues parents wanted to know more about – and which also gave practical evidence-based strategies to help them deal with these challenges.”
In a world where parents are often overwhelmed with parenting advice, Tanith’s books stand out by offering practical and achievable suggestions, in an easy to read format.
So with that wealth of experience, I now wanted to find out…
What are your top 5 tips for parenting young children (aged 2-7)?
- “Put your phone away as much as possible when you are with your child. Your child wants to connect with you. They will give up if you’re always distracted by what you are looking at – and feel second best. Remember you are their world.”
- “Play with your child – without trying to teach them anything. Kids know the difference and fear disappointing you.”
- “Remember there are many different types of intelligence. Not just the ones that are measured by marks and SATS tests. Many kids feel like failures in today’s education system because this is not recognised.”
- “Help them find their spark. Every child has a talent or activity they are naturally drawn to and find easier. Once you’ve spotted it , give them opportunities to do it, but don’t take it over or use it to compete.”
- “Don’t tell your child how they feel, compare them or label them. Your child is forming their self-concept based on what you think of them. It’s not fair to saddle them with judgements they feel they can’t escape. “
So quality time with your children and recognising and acknowledging their gifts and feelings, whatever they are, is key.
- For a full guide on all the situations that you may encounter over the ages of 2-7, check out Tanith’s wonderful book “What’s My Child Thinking?: Practical Child Psychology for Modern Parents”.
However, as a mum of 2 teenage boys, I was also very keen to learn from Tanith…
What are your top 5 tips for parenting teenagers?
- “Listen to your tween and teens without jumping in with your opinion – or trying to ‘fix’ what they are complaining about. Often after a day at school, where they’ve had to behave and deal with social situations, they are just offloading their difficult feelings onto you and need a safe person to vent to.”
- “Don’t take it personally: The job of a teenager is to become an individual separate from you. If they say they hate you, remember they’d only say that if they felt secure enough in your love to get away with it.”
- “What you DON’T say to teens is as important as what you DO say. Timing is everything. If you think you shouldn’t say something in that moment, listen to your instinct and save it for later.”
- “Don’t let kids ruminate for too long on their own – as they can fall down a rabbit hole. Ask them to talk you through where they are going on social media so you understand their world.”
- “Teenagers’ brains are still developing the functions that help them to control primal fight-or-flight instincts. Don’t respond in kind. Calm yourself before answering, even if that means taking a time-out. Otherwise it’s like throwing oil on water – and no one gets heard!”
So letting them express themselves and not taking things too personally are key at this stage. Also recognising how their brains are developing at this age is very helpful.
- More understanding about how the teenage brain is wired and the situations you’re likely to encounter as a parent, can be found in Tanith’s excellent book “What’s My Teenager Thinking?: Practical child psychology for modern parents”
So we have some great tips to get going with. But as parents we all have moments when things feel out of control. What does Tanith recommend when our child is really struggling?
“If you are going through a tricky patch with your child, spend MORE time with them NOT less.
Imagine how the world looks through your child’s eyes. Spend uninterrupted time with them to connect through play or time together, with no strings attached.
Remember children and young people of all ages lack the vocabulary to say how they feel – so they act out their feelings. So hold your criticism and role model the behaviour you’d like to see instead.
They are not being naughty or trying to annoy you. They are trying to communicate.”
As many of our customers are grandparents – I was keen to ask Tanith what specific insights she had on grandparenting and whether her books can help grandparents when caring for their grandchildren?
“Definitely. One of the things that has made parenting harder over the last 20 years is that many families tend to live further apart. So for grandparents to be actively involved is such a huge blessing and bonus for any child – and relieves a lot of stress within modern families which can impact childhood.
But of course differences can crop up because parents and grandparents may be coming at child rearing from different angles. So may I suggest it helps to be on the same page from the outset to avoid disagreements down the line.
As ‘What’s my Child Thinking?’ and ‘What’s my Teen Thinking?’ tackle 100 real-world scenarios each with the most useful psychological and developmental research, they are likely to help – and head off some of the quibbling that may pop up when grandparents are with their grandkids!”
Finally, if you had to give one main piece of advice on parenting, what would you say?
“See the world from the child’s point of view and their stage of development, instead of imposing a lot of ‘shoulds’.
Rather than panicking about the future, join your child where they are now. Try to come to parenting from a fresh place.
Identify any triggers in you that are left over from your own childhood and become aware of them so you don’t repeat them with your child. What happened before they were born is not their fault.”
Huge thanks to Tanith for sharing her thoughts with me and I would strongly recommend any parent checking out her books. “What’s My Teenager Thinking” has become essential reading for me – the many different scenarios that it covers has helped me parent my boys with both practical and thought-provoking advice.
And if you’re interested in learning more about Tanith Carey and her books you can find them all on Amazon here. However Tanith says that it’s “always best to support your local bookshop as far as possible. They are such important community hubs and we’d miss them so much if they disappeared!”
You can also follow her books on Instagram at:-
And on Facebook on @whatparentsneednow
Tanith is currently working on a new psychology book about how we can overcome feelings of ‘blah’ so we can enjoy our lives to the fullest. It will be the first book to look at what causes that ‘meh’ feeling when we feel a bit stuck and flat – the reasons behind these feelings, both biological and environmental, and how to address them.
And for a more playful look at the joys of parenting, do check out our blog “Pants on My Head 😱 – The Perplexities of Parenting”!