A problem shared…GP and mother-of-four Clare Bailey gives her indispensable advice


A problem shared…GP and mother-of-four Clare Bailey gives her indispensable advice: Can I fix my five-year-old’s bad behaviour?

  • An anonymous mother, in the UK, is worried her son’s behaviour will get worse
  • She asked GP Clare Bailey for advice on how to break the cycle of tantrums 
  • Advised sensitive parenting can help protect children from going off the rails

Q My 13-year-old nephew is getting into trouble at school, bunking off early and has been accused of taking stuff from shops without paying. 

Looking at him, and remembering what he was like as a young child, is making me afraid my five-year-old son will go the same way as he can be quite challenging. When he throws a tantrum, I admit I get cross, too, and give in because he wears me down. How can I break the cycle?

A You are not alone — most parents feel out of their depth at times. Some children, like your son, are more sparky than others.

Around 7 per cent of children grow into little terrors and develop delinquent behaviour, which may result in poor academic results and even drug and alcohol abuse.

The good news is recent research has demonstrated that, particularly in the early years, sensitive parenting can help protect challenging children from going off the rails.

An anonymous mother, who lives in the UK, is worried her 5-year-old son’s behaviour will get worse and asked GP Clare Bailey for advice on how to break the cycle (file image)

The Duchess of Cambridge recently launched the Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood to transform future generations of children by providing effective early help.

The foundation’s recent survey showed only a quarter of us think the first five years of a child’s life are crucial to their future health and happiness.

Not true! This shows that as a nation we have not yet fully grasped the huge potential of investing early in our children.

Not doing so costs us £16 billion a year through lost education, addiction, social services, family breakdown and incarceration, not to mention needlessly blighting many young lives with mental and physical problems.

I found juggling four young children a challenge, despite having a stable home life, comfortable income and support.

Feeling at sea on occasion spurred me to train as a parenting coach 20 years ago. My hope was that I would be a better parent at home and be able to support other parents.

A new study from the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, has found ‘sensitive’ parenting in early childhood leads to long-term benefits for both families and society.

Researchers measured the quality of care in challenging four to six-year-olds, then followed them up as teenagers. They found children who experienced the least sensitive parenting had far worse outcomes and cost society at least £21,000.

GP and mother-of-four Clare (pictured) advised the woman that sensitive parenting can help protect challenging children from going off the rails

GP and mother-of-four Clare (pictured) advised the woman that sensitive parenting can help protect challenging children from going off the rails

So what is ‘sensitive parenting’? The researchers looked at parents’ sensitivity to signals, as well as the quality of their play. This also means less shouting and more listening. Researchers measured problem behaviours, such as lying and disobedience.

Lead investigator Professor Stephen Scott says: ‘We found that a child from a well-off family can have everything they require materially, but if they didn’t receive emotionally sensitive care, they did less well on a range of outcomes.’

He said ‘taking just ten minutes a day to join in an activity with your child and being aware of their needs can have a positive long-term impact on them’.

  • Our garden is looking magnificent right now — but so are the weeds. So I was intrigued to hear from Gardener’s World that you can knock up natural weed-killers in the kitchen. It seems there are no strange chemicals required, simply mix one part baking soda with two parts vinegar. I like the idea of a natural remedy. I only hope it’s better than husband Michael’s recent attempts to kill weeds with boiling water. I only discovered his new intervention when round brown patches appeared on the lawn. Now I have a potion made up in a used spray bottle, ready to test on the weeds.

Keep hydrated in the heatwave  

Once summer hits, I start looking for other tasty and healthy drinks to sip, along with cold water from the fridge. Black or green teas are wonderfully refreshing and are shown to have significant health benefits, including decreasing inflammation and, surprisingly, helping to control blood sugar (as long as you don’t dollop in honey or sugar, of course).

You can write to Clare at drclarebailey@dailymail.co.uk or Daily Mail, Northcliffe House, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT . 

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