Researching a Psychopath (and how to avoid being killed).

Do you know how to stay safe from a serial killer? I have spent the last year discovering as much as I can about psychopathy. This was mainly as background for my books, so they are authentic. However, I did also learn a few things that might be useful in real life.

You probably know a psychopath. Have a think, do you know someone who’s fun to listen to, but tends to be a bit ‘glib’ – they’ll move on if someone more interesting comes along? Someone who might have been in trouble as a child – perhaps stealing or vandalising? Someone who sometimes speaks in quite a muddled manner, so you’re always sure what they answered to a question? Someone who is mainly concerned with themselves, so they rarely comment or ‘like’ things on Facebook, unless it will benefit themselves. They won’t let you know whether or not they’ll be attending an event, and are very likely to not show up at the last minute. They like to be seen as a leader, but you’re not quite sure what they actually do. They’re often promiscuous, possibly having children from multiple partners. They lie. They like excitement, and are never scared. They have grandiose ideas about their own capabilities. Do you know that person? Then possibly, you know a psychopath.

Psychopathy is a mental disorder – the brain does not respond like most people’s brains. It is thought to be a hereditary condition. Some people, when diagnosed as a psychopath, have then discovered evidence that their ancestors also showed signs of psychopathy, things like ruthlessness, multiple sexual partners, cruelty. They tend to have a smaller orbital frontal gyri (no, I didn’t know what that meant either! It means the front bit of their brain, the bit that controls emotions, is under developed). They also have lower serotonin levels, so lack the ability to feel happy, to have emotional highs.

Now, most psychopaths are NOT serial killers. People tend to link the two because the reverse is not true – most serial killers probably ARE psychopaths. Robert Hare estimates that for every serial killer, there are 30,000 psychopaths who have never killed.

One trait of psychopathy is pathological lying. They will lie, even when it serves no purpose. If you suspect someone is a psychopath, think back to what they have told you – is it verifiable? Can you always prove what they have said is true, or do they tend to twist things slightly? It is thought that lots of politicians are psychopaths, as are the CEOs of many successful businesses.

It is difficult to detect lies though, especially as psychopaths tend to speak in a slightly confusing way. Sometimes they will contradict themselves within a sentence, so it is hard to be sure exactly what they have said. For example, Richard Kuklinski (Mafia hitman) said he “wasn’t a violent person,” he “only killed when it was necessary”. It is thought by some neuroscientists that they have two speech centres in the brain. For most people, everything relating to speech and words is located on the left side of the brain. However, there is some evidence that psychopaths have a second speech centre, on the right. Therefore, as they are deciding what to say, their words come from two different places within the brain, often conflicting. Dennis Radar was told he spoke in ‘word salad’ – a whole mix of phrases that barely linked. They also tend to use their hands, to emphasise a point they want to make.

You can watch psychopaths on YouTube, as trials and police interviews in the US are recorded, and are now available. I spent many hours listening to Ted Bundy (thought to have killed around 50 young women) Diane Downs (who shot her children) and Dennis Radar (the ‘Bind Torture Kill’ serial killer), learning their speech patterns and trying to understand how they think.

When I first started to watch video clips of convicted serial killers, I was shocked by how nice they were! I have always thought myself a good judge of character – and perhaps if I met them in real life it would be different – but they came across as nice people. Ted Bundy was an attractive, witty, intelligent man. If we knew him, we might have invited him round for dinner. He talks about coming from a ‘loving Christian family’ where he was ‘raised according to standards in the Bible’. However, my background reading indicates his mother fell pregnant when young, and some believe Ted’s father was his grandfather, who she lived with until she married another man. Ted Bundy for many years thought his mother was his sister.

They are often entertaining, very charismatic. Charles Manson (leader of the ‘Manson Family’ sect) was fascinating to watch, you couldn’t avoid listening to him.

Most of my research was conducted online, reading papers by neuroscientists. I did buy a few books. The most useful were ‘Without Conscience’ by Robert D. Hare PhD, and ‘Confessions of a Serial Killer’ by Katherine Ramsland PhD. (I will review those books in another post, or this will be too long.)

I also spoke to two women, one of whom was the mother of someone who fits the psychopath profile and the other was mother-in-law to one (though neither ‘psychopaths’ had been tested, so they might just be ‘bad’ people!)

Psychopathy is now diagnosed using Hare’s checklist – a list of traits, of which everyone has some, but a psychopath will have most of. Psychopathy is a spectrum, a bit like autism (though a very different disorder. An autistic person will have emotional empathy, they will ‘feel’ how someone else feels, so detect anger or joy, but they will not understand why. A psychopath is the opposite, they will have neurological empathy, they understand how someone is feeling, and can even use this to manipulate people’s feelings, but they have no emotional empathy. A toddler laughing will not make them smile, they don’t pick up the ‘feelings’.) You will probably appear somewhere on the psychopathic spectrum, perhaps you are selfish, or like to be in charge, or don’t often feel other’s emotions; but mostly, you will have the same responses as everyone else. You are only classified as a psychopath if you show most of the symptoms.

The neuroscientist James Fallon, was researching the changes in the brain under certain stimuli using an MRI scanner. He found he could detect psychopathy by the results of an MRI scan, he could actually see who was a psychopath.

This is getting long. I could write for pages and pages about this. While I was researching this, when my husband came home from work, I would say: “Hello, did you know…” and he would say: “Is this about psychopaths? If so, let me eat dinner first!” It is a hugely interesting condition. One final point, is whether or not psychopaths can be cured. Hare and others have noticed that when psychopaths get to be about 45 or 50, they generally stop breaking the law. Is this because they have learnt how to avoid being caught? Or, could it be that the under developed part of their brain, after 45 years of life, has started to develop sufficiently for them to modify their behaviour?

Going back to my first paragraph, how can you avoid being the victim of a serial killer? It is, of course, extremely unlikely that you will ever encounter a serial killer. Even though you probably know a psychopath or two, they are not likely to be killers. However, in case you are the one in a million who’s unlucky, what should you do?  Well, they are generally well planned, and will have observed a few possible victims first. So changing your routine helps, don’t always do the same things at the same time.

Also, psychopaths do not want trouble, they want an easy life. So the serial killers I researched would always choose a victim who did not have a dog. Dogs are unpredictable, they might bite the psychopath, so they would avoid those houses. (One of Dennis Radar’s first victims did have a dog, but it had been put into the garden.)

As psychopaths want things to be easy, they will think of a ploy to subdue the victim, so they don’t make a fuss until they have either been tied up or knocked unconscious. So, Ted Bundy pretended to have a broken arm and led his trusting victims to a secluded spot. When people found Dennis Radar in their homes, he told them he was ‘on the run from the police’, so instead of instantly panicking and fighting, they relaxed a bit, decided to be submissive until he had taken their money/car/food and had left. Which he never did. He used their compliance to over-power them. If those people had started fighting at the first sign of trouble, they would possibly have survived. If you suspect someone wants to hurt you, run or fight, don’t ‘play it safe’ and ‘wait and see.’ Be loud, make a fuss, fight.

Having said that, I think the odds of you being killed by a serial killer are much less than the odds of you winning a million pounds on the lottery or being a famous celebrity – so it’s not something you should worry about too much!


Thank you for reading. I used all my research when I wrote my latest novel, Joanna. Written in the first person, we see the world as Joanna views it. The novel also explores how her family feel, what it would be like to parent a psychopath.

Copies of Joanna are available from bookshops and Amazon.

Published by The Cobweb Press
ISBN : 978-0-9954632-2-6
Available from bookshops (if it’s not in stock, they can order it).


Author Update : December 2016

This week, Joanna went to the printer (small fanfare of trumpets please!).

This is always very scary. Any typos that have missed will now be in the final book for all to see, for ever more. We did very nearly have a disaster. The cover was finished – brilliant photo from Chloe my photographer, formatted by Geoff my cover guy – but I was unsure about the colour. It was greys and blacks, and I wanted it to be blues and purples. So both people tried various filters, but it wasn’t the colour I had in my mind.

Geoff (who understands these things having been a printer in a former life) gave me a brief lesson about colour in light (and therefore on my computer screen) being different when transferred to ink (and therefore on my book cover.) It was possible to pay the printer for a fifth ink, whereby I could be picky on the colour. But it would cost extra. I am hoping to break even with this business, so unlike big publishers, I don’t actually have any ‘extra’.

We decided to ask the printer to print one cover and to post it to me, so I could decide if the colour was okay. They kindly did this. Which is when I noticed there was a white margin around the cover photo. I hadn’t noticed it on the proofs I had been sent, but it was absolutely not the look I wanted. It was a horrible moment when I realised that if we hadn’t decided to check the cover colours, we wouldn’t have spotted it, and the cover would annoy me forever (even if possibly no one else would have noticed.)

So, my advice to anyone planning to self-publish, always ask the printer for a cover sample before they print off hundreds (because while it delays things very slightly, it doesn’t cost any extra.)

The colour is still not exactly what I had in mind, but I don’t have the funds to be fussy, so it is staying as it is. It is still an amazing cover. You will love it when you see it, the photo is perfect for a book about a psychopath. Very exciting.


My other bit of news is on the selling front with Hidden Faces. We had contacted Gardners, a wholesaler, and they said that if a retailer wanted to sell the book, they would contact me via the Nielsons website and supply it.

I decided to test this before I advertised it, so bought my book from Waterstones charge £8.95 plus £2.80 postage, so I paid over £11 (for my own book.) I was somewhat perplexed when the following day I was contacted by Bertrams, a completely different wholesaler, and asked to urgently send a copy of my book. Waterstones obviously decided to use them. It then took about 10 days for my book to come back to me, though it was in perfect condition considering it had gone round the country! I have not yet been paid by Bertrams, though they did ask for an invoice to be enclosed with the book. I could, I suppose, have charged them what I wanted for the book, as I don’t have a trading agreement with them. But they would have added a bit before supplying Waterstones, who would then have found the book was costing more than they were making. So although they would have supplied me (as the customer) they would also I assume have deleted me (as the publisher) from their website. I rather like being on there, so sold to Bertrams at a sensible price. It was an expensive experiment.

I notice I am also on the Foyles website. My advice, is set up clear details when you register with Nielsons (who are the people you buy the ISBN numbers from.) Then, every major bookseller will be able to supply your book if people order through them. And it’s rather nice to know your book can be bought through Waterstones and Foyles.

Really though, the best way to actually recoup your costs, is by private sales. Big shops use wholesalers, and everyone wants a cut of the profits, so you receive very little money. I have spent November and December selling books at Christmas Fairs. I even started to enjoy it after a while. I sold loads of books, people bought them because I was local author, or because they wanted to give it as a gift. I would definitely recommend it as a route to sales. I am hoping to find some summer fairs too. If you’re keeping count, I have now recovered half my costs (which is about what I was hoping for in my time plan.) Now I need people who have enjoyed it to tell their friends…..

The local papers have been brilliant. They have given me lots of support and included photos of me/the book a few times now. I was in a third newspaper this week (well, the book was, not me – but actually I prefer that.) It makes you feel very grateful when people help. Setting up any business is scary, we all need people to help us. It’s nice when they do.

Thank you for reading.

I have now put my earlier posts, which explain the process of publishing a book, on my website in the ‘How to’ section.


Hidden Faces by Anne E Thompson


Available from Waterstones, Foyles and Amazon (cheapest from Amazon!)


On Monday I will tell about all the things went went wrong when we went to son’s masters graduation. Life is rarely everything you hope…..

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First Book Signing Event…..


I have had my first book signing event. Terrifying. Well, it was terrifying beforehand. When I was actually there, everyone was very nice and I almost enjoyed it. A book signing is not an activity I would choose to do. However, if you are an author, and if you actually want to sell your books, you somehow have to market them. Book signings are therefore necessary.

I decided to link mine with the local community cafe. It’s run by volunteers, and was a good opportunity for them to entice some new customers through the door, plus they received 25% of the price of every book sold. In return, they gave me a pleasant venue and some free advertising.

I have to admit, I have never actually attended a book signing before. Nor do I collect autographs. The thing is, I think people, whoever they are, are just people. So yes, I have met some very famous people, I have even had some round for tea. They are however, no better or worse, or more or less fun to be with, than all my non famous friends. They are basically the same as you and me. So, to want their autograph seems weird to me. It also seems weird to me that other people now want me to sign their book. It’s not something I really understand, but I am happy to do it.

Being a complete novice, I took some advice on what to do. My sister was a big help, as were a couple of ‘author community’ Facebook groups I have joined. Here’s their advice:

Make the table look attractive. It’s worth taking a cloth, some sweets, some signs so people know what is going on. Some people suggested a vase of flowers – they must be less accident prone than me, I had visions of tipping water all over my books, so I decided against that one. The sweets are also only a good idea if you take ones which you don’t particularly like, otherwise, if you’re like me, you will eat them all while waiting for customers. I took some masks, as the book is about people hiding their true ‘face’ when at work, it shows how people are different when they’re at home or with their friends.

Take a pen. You might be surprised to hear that I nearly forgot one!

Remember your author name. This one is also surprisingly hard. When you’re tired, and have chatted to the nineteenth stranger in a row, it is very easy to sign your real name by mistake!

Take enough books. I had NO idea how many books I would sell. Other authors are rather coy when it comes to actually giving numbers (which is not very helpful when you are just starting out.) I would have been disappointed to sell 3, pleased to sell 10. I sold 16, with a further order of 10 more. No idea how that rates with an average non-famous, just starting out author – try asking a few and see if they will tell you!

Be prepared to listen. I found most people wanted to chat. Some people wanted to chat for a very long time. Mostly, this is nice, you get to hear about their lives and how they plan to write a book one day. It’s quite tiring though, so plan something low effort afterwards.

Advertise the event. This one is difficult. I can tell you what DIDN’T work! I handed out invitations at the school gate to nearly a hundred mothers as they collected their children (because the story is set in an infant school.) Not one came. I put it on Facebook. Same result. I put it on Twitter. Nope, not a soul.. The best advertising was word of mouth – people who had bought the book telling other people that they were going to buy another one. The local paper also advertised it, and I did have three people who came just because they saw it in there.

A few people arrived with books they had previously bought in the shops, for me to sign. That was nice, because they had read it and told me they had enjoyed it. Some people (and this is the best ever for an author) had their own copy and were now buying a second copy for someone for Christmas. That was so nice, made me feel glad I had been brave enough to hold the event.

Thanks for reading. Hope it was useful.


On Monday, I will tell you about my church…You know, “Onward Christian Soldiers..”?

Well, my church is more like Dad’s Army sometimes!

Hidden Faces by Anne E Thompson – A great Christmas gift for your mother/aunty/sister
or child’s school teacher!

Hidden Faces final cover 6 July 2016

Publishing a Book – Part Six


Having launched my book locally, it was time to think about something bigger.

I went into Waterstones. I asked to speak to the manager, which seems to always make people look a bit nervous, then they are relieved when you tell them why. The manager at Bluewater was very nice. She explained that all Waterstones shops can only order from certain suppliers. Those suppliers WILL take books from self-published authors, though they deal with the publisher, not the author. If, therefore, you choose to self-publish with a publishing company (who you pay), I am not sure if they would also deal with wholesalers on your behalf. We created our own company, so that was okay, I could approach them as an ‘indie publisher’.

Wholesalers will only consider books with both an ISBN number and a registration with Nielson. If you look on the Waterstones website, it explains how to do all of this. It is a long process and takes several weeks. If the wholesaler accepts your book, you can then go into individual Waterstones bookshops and persuade the manager to stock your book. They will then order it directly from the wholesaler. I am just starting this process (actually, I started at the wrong end and went into the shop first, but they were very nice about it.) I will let you know how I get on.

We left Bluewater – I am not one to linger when shops are involved and son had finished hunting Pokemon. On the way home we called in at a smaller branch of WH Smiths. I spoke to the manager, who took details of the book and looked at a copy of the cover. He said everything had to go through head office and he would email the publisher to let them know. It was encouraging – he didn’t say no. However, he also didn’t explain anything – I’m not sure if WH Smiths only buy through wholesalers. Their website is unhelpful. (Actually, I have since spoken to a different WH Smiths manager. The shop manager is allowed to sell books by local authors, and, after agreement from head office, can take them directly from the author/publisher without the need for a middle man.)

When I got home, I learned a little about wholesalers (not a term I was used to hearing.) Basically, they take books from publishers – probably the printer sends them straight there if you are a major publishing house, presumeably Mr Hodder and Stoughton doesn’t have a spare room full of books. Shops then order them straight from the wholesaler and they deliver them. This means the shop is dealing with fewer people, they can order books from a selection of publishers and just have one delivery to deal with. It also means the publisher (me) doesn’t have to drive to the shops every time they need to restock. It means I could go to bookshops where I grew up and persuade them to stock my book, but I wouldn’t have to keep driving back there every time they sold a couple. This sounds brilliant. I have no idea at this stage what such a service costs – I will tell you in my future blogs. There was an online form, which had a section I didn’t understand, so I phoned them. Spoke to a receptionist, who also didn’t know, but who was nice and gave me an email address so I could write and ask. I am finding this – people are nice and generally helpful. I knew nothing (John Snow) when I started doing this, but at each tiny step, people have helped me, given me the information so I can progress to the next stage. It’s slow, but it’s not overwhelming.


I will let you know how things progress. Thanks for reading.

Take care,
Anne x

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Hidden Faces final cover 6 July 2016

Hidden Faces by Anne E. Thompson – why not buy a copy and help my dream come true….?


Publishing a Book – Part Three


So, after you have had your manuscript edited, have proofread it about a million times, and are fairly sure that you have picked up as many typos as is humanely possible, it is ready to send to a typesetter.

The typesetter puts your book into the right format for the printer. You can assume a cost of about 90p a page. It depends on print size, but a 100,000 word book is about 300 pages. They will send you examples of different text, ask if you want the first letter of a new chapter written as a capital, or the first word, or the whole of the first line. These were all things I had never noticed before (and I am an avid reader!) I think I only notice if something is ‘odd’, if a self-published book has strayed from what my eye is used to seeing. I was therefore grateful that my typesetter knew more than me. He had done this many times before and could tell me what a ‘normal’ book looked like. I had to keep running to my bookshelves to check things.

You also want someone with experience so the margins are the correct size – you don’t want the words running into the fold of the book, nor do you want massive margins because that means more pages, which will cost you more money.

Some people choose to have a running header, with either the author name, or the chapter title on each page. Some people like the page numbers in the centre, some prefer them at the top. I didn’t have strong opinions on much, I was mainly just keen that my book didn’t look odd : that chapter one began on a right hand page, that the starting margins were full width and all others indented, things like that. This was all learned while I was answering questions and checking inside other books.

I was told that pages are bound in batches of 16 (I think it depends on the size of your book.) This means there might be some empty pages, at either the front or the back. My typesetter suggested that this would be a good place to put some ‘tasters’ of my other books, to encourage people to buy them, a ‘free’ advert.

You might also like to think about the copyright page. There is fairly standard wording inside most books, but you can adapt it to suit yourself. In England, copyright is automatic, if you have written something, you own the copyright. Proving that you have written something might be difficult, so it is possible to register your copyright – there are details of how to do this in the Writer’s Handbook. It does not mean you now own the copyright (you did already) but if someone challenges you, you have proof of when you registered it.

It is usual on the copyright page to name the publisher and to put their contact details. If you use a self-publishing company, they will, I presume, put their address there. We weren’t using a company, we were doing it all ourselves and I wasn’t keen on having my own address in the book. We therefore made a company name, The Cobweb Press, and made a website. This gave us an email address that we could use in all the books. (I am sort of hoping no one ever looks at the website, as we made it in a rush, and it’s not going to impress anyone. But it serves a purpose and means strangers can contact me – to order books – without knowing my home address.)

You might decide to have an ISBN number. These are usually included on the copyright page and also on the back cover. It is not essential to have an ISBN number, but shops like them (some shops will refuse to stock the book unless it has one) and it makes it easier for people to find your book if they know it. You buy them. I bought 10 numbers for £149. There was some paperwork to fill out (husband did that for me) and then they were issued, to use as I wished. The ‘cover guy’ had to leave a white space in the correct place so the barcode could be added (my printer did that.)

We also needed to register the book with the British Library, and send them a copy when it was published.

You need a cover for your book. Go and look at some. I wanted something that would stand out, but not something that looked odd. Find someone who has done other book covers. You need to consider how thick the printed book will be, because that changes the thickness of the spine (and the cover is designed as one long, -front/spine/ back – file.) My typesetter had also done other book covers, so he also did my cover. For the front, you can look online and find many different photographs that are available to buy to use as book covers. These range from textures to use as backgrounds, to full pictures. I opted to have a person on my cover, as the book is about people. The ‘cover guy’ came and took lots of photographs and I chose the one I liked best. He then added the words, designed the spine of the book, suggested ideas for the back. I included the ‘blurb for the back’ in the file I sent to the editor, so that was ready to use. I think you need to allow £35 for a cover, plus a price for the photograph.

We also discussed choices with the printer. We used cpi (if you look at books you have bought, it usually says who has printed them; ‘cpi’ have printed many of the paperback books that you find in the bookshops.) They were very helpful and gave us a menu of options. We could, if we had wanted, had just a single book printed. If anyone has a book they want to see in print but they don’t plan to sell, they might like to have one copy made. Obviously, the more books we had printed, the cheaper the cost per book. It cost about £2 per book to print 500 copies. If you want to add a barcode then add an extra £35 to the overall printing costs.

They asked us which thickness of paper we wanted and what size of page. I didn’t have a clue! They kindly sent samples of books they had printed, so I could ask all my family and friends to turn the pages and tell me which thickness they preferred. Made a change from talking about the weather.

If you read all the terms and conditions that the printer sends, you might find that one condition is that you have indemnity insurance. This was quite a hassle to arrange, and I don’t think actually it will cover much should anyone ever sue me, claiming I have stolen their ideas. But if you read all the small print (husband is good at that sort of thing) it was a condition of being published, so we did it. We had to estimate my probable earnings for the year – the insurance company then told us they didn’t go that low! It cost £175 for annual insurance.

I really want to tell you about the things we did to market the book, why I had to register for US tax, and how much shops will want to make when they sell your book; but this is too long. I will include it in Part Four. Why not sign up to follow my blog so you don’t miss it?


Thank you for reading.


Hidden Faces by Anne E Thompson.
When did you last buy your Mum a gift that made her laugh?

Hidden Faces final cover 6 July 2016


How to Know Your Gender

There has been a lot in the media recently concerning gender issues. If you are confused as to which gender you belong to, this short quiz might help. If you are a sensitive soul, it might be better to consult your medical practitioner.

Answer the questions and keep a tally of whether you score mainly A or B or C.

  1. During a discussion:
    A You always think you are right.
    B You always think you are right, until someone challenges you, then you assume you must be wrong, then in the end you discover that you were right.
    C You don’t care who is right or wrong, you just do whatever you want to do.
  2. When you were small:
    A You were often told to take your hands out of your trousers.
    B You were often told to stop playing with the hair of the person in front of you.
    C You liked to play with spiders.
  3. When you need scissors:
    A You think you know where they are but when you look, they are not there.
    B You think you know where they are and when you look, they are there.
    C You never use scissors, you prefer to bite things.
  4. When the toilet roll needs changing:
    A You sometimes put a new roll on the holder.
    B You put a new roll on the holder AND you throw the empty insert into the bin.
    C You never use toilet paper.
  5. Which is true ? :
    A You know the make and model of every car your family has ever owned.
    B You know the name of every car you family has ever owned – there was “Connie Consul”, “Betty Beetle”……
    C You do not like cars and if forced to travel in one you are usually sick.
  6. When on a long journey:
    A: You never even think about where there might be suitable toilets en route.
    B You sometimes worry about where there might be suitable toilets en route.
    C You do not like cars and if forced to travel in one you are usually sick.
  7. If there is an unusual noise in the middle of the night:
    A You get up to investigate, sometimes taking a weapon.
    B You send the person next to you to go and investigate.
    C It is usually you who has caused the unusual noise.
  8. When you go grocery shopping:
    A You rarely have a carrier bag with you.
    B You usually have a carrier bag with you.
    C You prefer to catch your own food.
  9. When you have your hair cut:
    A It always takes less than an hour.
    B It always takes more than an hour.
    C You never have your hair cut, you prefer to leave it all over people’s cushions and sweaters.
  10. Which is true?:
    A You hate peeling boiled eggs and oranges and so rarely do either.
    B You hate peeling boiled eggs and oranges but you do it anyway.
    C You never eat boiled eggs or oranges.
    If you scored mostly As, you are probably male.
    If you scored mostly Bs, you are probably female.
    If you scored mostly Cs, you are probably a cat. This quiz was not really aimed at you.


Thank you for reading.
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Mummy Secrets

Mummy Secrets

       These have been learned over time and are the result of much experience in the mummy department. I now impart them to all young mother’s in the hope it will enable you to have a slightly easier time.

1.Boys (of all ages) never look in the back of drawers. This is true. They open the drawer about half way, have a quick look and then tell you that what they are seeking is not in there. This can be used to your advantage if, as in my house, they frequently a) misplace their own scissors and b) borrow yours and don’t replace them. Seriously, I have pairs of scissors with death threats written in permanent marker pen on the handles (slightly embarrassing when I took them to use for church sunday school, but I got over it.) It made no difference, they would still use my scissors and not return them. However, if I keep them at the back of the drawer, even the drawer where they have always been kept, then they don’t find them. Things at the back are safe. Worth remembering.

2.When they ask which child you love best, pick one. I spent years trying to explain that I loved them all equally, that I could never choose which one I loved best, etc etc – they just kept asking. So one day I picked one and gave an outrageous reason:”Rebecca, because girls are better than boys,” “James because he’s the nicest,” “Mark, because he’s clever,” They still asked occasionally (and I did try to switch which one I chose) but it put them off for a long time and always ended the conversation pretty fast. Maybe they just needed to be the one that was chosen.

3.When your children argue with their siblings, always be the most unreasonable. I always wanted my children to be friends with each other, not least because one day I wont be here to care for them and I want them to look out for each other. All children argue with their siblings, that cannot be avoided. However, when there was no clear reason for the dispute, I would try to be much more unreasonable than any of them. Comments like, “Right, that is no television ever again” or “I am banning all chocolate” would so outrage my children that they would mutter darkly about me – together – and forget all about whatever they had been arguing about. After an hour or so they would ‘persuade’ me to modify my punishment to a more sensible one.

4.Forcing your child to eat something will not make them less fussy eaters. I am an adult now, all grown up, but I still feel sick when I smell rhubarb or gooseberries cooking and I am sure it is because I was forced to eat them as a child. I did initially try the same parenting technique with my own children (most of us copy our parents to some extent) but I abandoned it when I found peas thrown out of the window and half a piece of steak blocking the toilet. If my children did not like something, they were not forced to eat it. They did have to taste it every so often, in case their tastebuds had changed, but they were happy to do that because they knew they could choose not eat it if they didn’t want to. They are all adults now and they all have a varied diet. One of them was very fussy and I do believe he could taste things that I could not taste as he was even picky over treats like chocolate or vanilla ice cream. He still dislikes a lot of food but he will eat a whole variety of food and if under pressure (like at his girlfriend’s parents house) he can force himself to eat pretty much anything. You do of course need to ensure that they have a balanced diet. However, if your child does not eat vegetables, fruit is just as healthy.

I would like to have a short rant here. I am increasingly concerned by how fat some children are in today’s society. Please have an honest look at your child. If they are over weight, you are not doing them any favours by allowing them to over eat. It is not cute. Sugar is not an essential part of life. It will not kill your child if they tell you they are hungry sometimes – offer them a baked potato or some toast – if they are not hungry enough for that, then they can wait until the next meal. They will not get enough exercise at school – that is your responsibility as a mother, not the teachers. If they are not having enough exercise, drop them off further from the school so they have to walk for a few minutes everyday. Exercise does not need to be expensive or time consuming. Also, occasionally check the ingredients of what your child is eating. If the list is full of stuff you are more likely to find in a chemistry lab than a supermarket, do you really want to feed it to your child?

5.You cannot reason with an angry boy. When girls are angry, the adrenaline stimulates the speech part of their brain and they want to talk. Sometimes for many hours non stop. The opposite happens with a boy. When they are angry, the speech part of their brain shuts down and they are more likely to hit out than discuss. Something to do with testosterone. I don’t understand the biology but I do know that it is true because I have seen it many many times with my sons and my pupils. So, if a boy is angry, do not bother explaining anything until he has calmed down. If he is small, pick him up and put him somewhere safe. If he is big, put yourself somewhere safe (the washroom is a good place. Even an angry boy will not want to risk seeing his mother using the toilet and there is usually a lock on the door.) When he is calm, then you can explain to him why he was wrong, why you behaved as you did, what is an appropriate punishment, etc.

6.You cannot raise a child on your own. We all need help, mothers especially. In an ideal world, a child is raised by two parents and four grandparents and a whole world of friends, teachers, neighbours. Ours is not an ideal world, but whatever your situation, recognise that you have limitations and get help when you need it. Lots has been written about this, about “it takes a whole village to raise a child”, or even films like “About a Boy”. It is true. When you get to the absolute limit of what you can cope with, get help. I am a sometimes praised for how nice my children are and was a successful teacher, but sometimes I couldn’t cope. I recall one evening when I phoned my brother and told him I could not cope with my teenage son. He talked to him for a while (I think they just agreed that women can be very irrational at times! But it didn’t matter, it broke a cycle that I wasn’t coping with.) Don’t let things get beyond what you can cope with, that’s when horrible things happen. If you need help, get help. It is the wise thing to do.

7.When they bring home a crap picture, tell them its crap. If you always praise them they will a) never trust you to be honest and b) always feel the need to do brilliantly. I firmly believe that if you teach your children how to fail well, then they will do well in life. One of my proudest parenting moments was when my daughter lost a race in the school sports event. She was last by a considerable margin and ran the last lap with the hugest grin to huge cheers from the crowd. She was not a sporty child, she knew she was not good at running and that was fine. In other areas she excelled and she knew that my praise was genuine. If I say something is good, they can trust that it is.

8.Treat your children differently. You can treat them equally without having to do exactly the same thing for each child. For example, I can never understand the parents who buy a gift for the other child on a siblings birthday. Letting someone else have a turn at the treat is a good learning point, this is life, they will not always be the one who gets the promotion/job/top mark etc. This is relatively easy if they are different genders – when they complain that one is allowed to go to a party or something you can explain that they are all different but equal and offer to treat them equally – if your son wants a pink tutu, to learn ballet, grow hair long enough for ribbons, etc, that would be fine with you. They will soon see the logic in being treated differently. This is the same when choosing a school, clubs etc – see them as individuals especially if they have different talents.

9.Don’t be fooled when your child tells you that you are either the best or the worst mother in the world. You are not. When they are about five and they tell you that you are the best mummy ever, that is very nice. Write it down and hold on to that memory. It wont be too long before they tell you that “all the other mother’s let their children do/have/go whatever” and they will reliably inform you that you are the worst mother ever. Brace yourself and ride the storm, taking regular peeks at the diary entry when they told you how wonderful you are and remembering that ALL good mothers are told this at some point. You are their mother, not their friend. They don’t have to like you all the time. You have to make decisions for what is best for them, not what they will necessarily want. Be brave, it is not easy. But you are the best mother that they have, so they will have to get over it. I regularly told my children, “I am not like other mothers.”

10.Do go with your gut feeling and monitor how long your child plays computer games or watches television. They can stunt creativity and the ability to communicate and keep track of real life. It wont kill your child to be bored sometimes. Or even (horrors) read a book. Decide what works for you. I found that most games, whilst addictive, also needed a certain amount of time for them to be played satisfactorily. So in our house we had ‘computer weeks’. For one week, they could play computer games for as long as they liked (not including homework times, meal times and bed times, which were rigid unless they were ill.) Then, the next week, there was no computer at all. After a couple of days, they adjusted to the lack of life support and actually managed to enjoy something like cooking or reading or playing in the garden.

11.When your child is a teenager, have difficult discussions in public. This was one of the best things that I discovered. So, if I wanted to discuss with my fifteen year old his bed time, the amount of time spent on homework or any other ‘tricky issue’ I would take him out for lunch or even a to nice coffee shop. Somewhere public. Somewhere that having a meltdown would be embarrassing for him. The social pressure helped him keep a lid on whatever anger he would like to vent and we managed to have a few very sane conversations. It was well worth the price tag.

     It should perhaps be noted, that when I began writing this article I asked my daughter if she could remember any of my parenting strategies. She informed me that:
I regularly told her she was adopted and suggested she could go and find her real parents (she looks EXACTLY like me, so this was never a problem for her.)
If something hurt, I told her it would probably fall off.
I wanted to burn down her primary school.
I made her move traffic cones that were blocking the road when I wanted to drive down it.
I also always told them that even if they did things that were rubbish, I would love them anyway (they liked that one.)

       On reflection, I may have been a slightly rubbish mother. However, all my children have grown up to be happy sane and good company. Maybe being rubbish doesn’t matter too much. God chose you to raise your child, He has confidence that you can do it. I remember reading once, you don’t have to be a perfect mother, you only have to be good enough. There is hope for us all…….