A dear friend of mine is the manager of a restaurant.  I bet she sees a very wide variety of human behaviour… There must be a very fine line between restaurant manager and sociologists, come to think of it!

Recently she reported that a mother brought in a toddler in her push chair for lunch. The toddler was knackered. The mother scrolled through the menu asking the child what she wanted for lunch: fish fingers? A hamburger? Something else perhaps? I was not present but as my friend told the story, the child was too exhausted to make up her mind and the mother kept reeling off more options.

Why would a parent do this? In the ‘good old days’ when my three sons were all aged four and under I remember reading some parenting books and one golden rule for very young children was: give them a limited choice. Meaning: would you like to wear your red top or blue top today (but we are not pulling everything out of the closet). This was to give the child a sense of independence yet contain the situation. Being offered too many options makes (tired, young, excitable) children feel overwhelmed! (I mean: I feel overwhelmed with choice just shopping in the local Sainsbury’s Super Store – how am I going to choose from a whole aisle full of different types of olive oil?! I am not even into cooking!!)

My friend’s intuition told her that this mother had read a lot parenting books too and had possibly started living in “fear of therapy”. And let’s face it: at the rate parents (and read ‘mothers’ in particular) are being blamed for all that goes wrong in a child’ life and development these days, I can see how you’d decide to ‘play safe’. But where does that leave us?

This young girl would (probably) have benefited greatly from a more limited choice: fish fingers or burger – and then down for an afternoon nap. Like my friend I observe a trend towards ‘discipline failure’ around me. “Give the poor child what it wants so I don’t blamed for it in therapy later”.

Another such a trend is to be a Trendy Parent and claim that your son or daughter is your ‘best friend’. (Ideally get interviewed for some lifestyle magazine in matching outfits, if you can manage it!)  Now I don’t hold with this at all. My youngest son will sometimes try to annoy me by calling me ‘Imelda’ instead of ‘Mum’. My reply is, unfailingly: “I am Mum to you and I have not invited you to call me Imelda”. It is by really shouldering the responsibilities that go with the role of parent, that we make our children feel safe. They will kick against the rules and complain vociferously but their world will be secure and predictable – or at least as secure and predictable as we can make it in an uncertain world.

Somewhat to my dismay I overheard my 10 year old son discussing “cyber bullying” with a 9 year old friend recently.  They were both well informed and very eloquent on the subject. When I was 10 years old – the internet did not exist. I cycled around town by myself, my parents didn’t drive me everywhere. I did not own a mobile phone – mobile phones didn’t exist then. It was a different world. Cyber bullying certainly wasn’t a concern – but being bullied on the way to school was a real problem.

And so today’s parents have the challenge of parenting children in an era that offers almost unlimited options for communication and education. At age 17 for me there were three real choices: Art School, Medical School or Music School? (I chose Art School) but my 14 year old son has started his GCSE’s and a bewildering array of future choices is now open to him. He communicates with his friends in ways that I don’t even comprehend. He does own a smart phone. I have asked him not to bring it to family meals because every time a friend messages him it tweets like a songbird in the pocket of his school blazer. And those ‘tweets’ are about as frequent as a human heartbeat.

So the point I am really trying to make here is that I think we do more harm by overwhelming a child at too young an age than by offering an appropriate selection of choices for every age range. And if we invite our child to call us ‘Jim’ or ‘Kate’ and to be our mate – we rob them of a parent. We rob them of the words ‘Mum’ and ‘Dad’ and the way young people anchor and tether and define themselves by referring to their Mum and Dad. We even rob them of the ambition to ‘not be like my Mum or Dad’!

My children will go ‘Aw Muuuuuuuuuuuuum!” when I draw the line about something – but I hope that I am teaching them how to draw certain lines for themselves in the future. How to make good choices. How to say ‘no’. How to say ‘my Mum’ with that classical mixture of annoyance and affection.

And my take on therapy? Well, I did write another blog recently, about shamanic healing and therapy!


I do not believe that children arrive as ‘blank sheets’. On the level of soul they arrive with their own unique purpose and sacred dream – and also with a wish list for learning to do here on Planet Earth.

As a shamanic practitioner and mother I do not believe we can protect our children from all pain and harm – but we can teach them how to dance with life’s challenges by embracing the challenges that come our own way in ways that might inspire them.

I cannot say if my children will ever need therapy or not. That will be for them to decide. I believe that all of us are on a journey to wholeness on the level of soul. And that seeds for great healing can be found even in very unpromising situations.

Maybe one day one of my own children will write a blog about parenting – I hope I live to see that day, even if I might not like all I will then read!

Imelda Almqvist