Tea-toxes can do you more harm than good

Tea-toxes can do you more harm than good

Tea-toxes are just the latest, all-shiny, all-promising, new detox products to gain prominence in a market always on the lookout for the next quick fix.

The idea of detox products ridding the body of toxins shows how many people have become polarised in their relationship with food. It is true that in, and of itself, food is simply neutral – except of course for those people with allergies or a medical diagnosis that means they need to avoid certain foods.

However, the thinking of food as either being ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is a symptom of food no longer signifying nourishment but of taking on other loaded connotations that are not necessarily true or balanced. If you are of the opinion that some foods are ‘bad’, then it is not too far a step to believe that they could cause a toxic build-up in one’s body.

Some people may be lulled into a false sense of security with a tea- detox as something that is benign and safe. For them drinking tea feels very familiar and even comforting with positive emotional connections to home and hearth.

They may well be the same people who would shun the quasi-scientific based detoxes and choose a tea-detox as something that to them feels more natural and holistic.

They might well dismiss a regime based on consuming obscure sounding powders or pills or having to drink odd tasting juices in favour of a familiar ‘cuppa.’ Their very familiarity with tea may blind-side them to the fact that some of the tea-detox ingredients can have potentially uncomfortable digestive effects and even make a person feel quite ill.

Most people who undertake a detox would say it was because they are motivated to improve their health. Perhaps they would admit less freely of their willingness to subject themselves to what is often in effect an extreme, crash diet.

Most detoxes including some of the tea-detoxes encourage people to replace one or two of their daily meals with the detox product.

This can leave people feeling light-headed and quite dis-orientated as they are trying to function normally with low levels of nutrition or highly restricted calories. This method of self-imposed fasting can also disrupt blood sugar levels and can trigger feelings of anxiety and panic for some people.

So much disordered eating is hidden in plain sight as it takes place in secret in a person’s subconscious mind. For those vulnerable to disordered eating, or someone who has experienced an eating disorder in the past, the purchasing of detox products can be a way to legitimise their unhealthy eating patterns. It can also be used as their excuse to obscure what is really happening with themselves and food.

An intense detox regime which encourages replacing or skipping meals for a period can trigger a pattern of feast or famine with emotional eaters or disordered eaters who are regular yo-yo dieters. Failing to complete a strict detox can affect levels of self-esteem and plunge an emotional eater into a tsunami of negative self-talk, irrational shame, self-blame and even bulimic behaviour.

For those who experience weight loss during a tea-detox, they might well be encouraged to override the manufacturer’s guidance and quickly repeat the process to achieve further weight loss. If the tea-detox incorporates a laxative, then prolonged exposure can have long-term medical implications. It can cause the colon to require increasing amounts of laxatives to function to produce bowel movements. The colon can become ‘lazy’ in its ability to remove waste and ineffective. This can lead to many digestive disorders including severe constipation, colon infection, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), and, even contribute to the risk of colon cancer.

The problem with all commercial detoxes is that the medical profession is united in their conviction that they do not work. Doctors stress that a normal, healthy body is already perfectly equipped for any detox duties required. Doctors also agree that if toxic build-up really were an issue, then emergency medical intervention would be needed to save a person’s life.

With the medical evidence in mind, it is difficult if not impossible to see any benefits from subjecting oneself to a detox. The premise is so deeply flawed that it might be possible to undergo one safely without causing harm, but it is simply not worth the money or the deprivation it would require. This is particularly true when almost all weight lost through detox is rapidly regained when returning to normal eating patterns.

If you recognise that your use of laxatives has become far too regular and that you increasingly rely on laxatives to be able to go to the loo then book an obligation free discovery call with me to discuss strategies and how to bring your body back into balance.

If you want to lead a happier more fulfilled life it’s almost impossible when you’re doubting yourself or sabotaging your chances of success. Therapy isn’t for everyone, but if you’ve ‘tried everything’ it could be just what you need. You can book an obligation-free 30-minute discovery call to find out for yourself.


Therapy Digest 06

Therapy Digest 06

Therapy Digest 06.
















This week’s Therapy Digest looks at the nudge theory and how it can be applied to any areas of your life where you want to makes changes plus how losing weight is a mind game and how you can use food to eat your way out of depression.

13 ways to lose weight without dieting. Clue: It’s all in your mind.


1.Observe the emotions that might be triggering you to over-eat. Learning to check-in with how you’re feeling increases your intuition and self-awareness. Taking the time to acknowledge your authentic feelings can interrupt your established habits of turning to food when feeling angry or sad and is an effective first step in changing your behaviour.

2. Notice if you’re regularly bingeing on sweet things at certain times of the day. Mid-morning energy slumps or afternoon drowsiness can make you crave a quick sugar fix to help drive you through the day. Instead, find ways to add more protein to your breakfast or lunch to help you to stabilise your mood and keep you feeling fuller for longer.

3. Make the times when you eat your sole focus. Zoned out eating is when you eat while doing something else such as surfing the net; working at your desk; or watching television. The act of eating is your opportunity to honour yourself with proper nutrition so take the time to source the best food you can and appreciate this act of self-loving kindness.

4. Prepare your food. The act of preparing real food is a fundamental stage for your mind and body to recognise that you are about to eat. The sight and appetising aromas of your meal cooking cause physiological and psychological reactions including signals from your brain to your stomach to release digestive enzymes in the expectation that food is on its way. The whole process of cooking from scratch aids digestion leading to increased satiety. You may well find you need to eat less to feel contented and full.

5. Mouth full – hands empty. This mantra helps to remind you to put down your cutlery between mouthfuls of food. Eating hurriedly doesn’t give your body time to register when you are full. It takes time for the messages from your stomach to register with your brain that you have eaten enough. This mantra helps to slow down your eating until it becomes your natural eating pace.

6. Always sit down to eat. Find a quiet place to sit and eat that is away from your desk so your mind and body can be receptive to the nutrition you are providing for yourself. Alternatively, turn the TV off and take a breath or two to help you to feel more relaxed before your meal. Stress hormones in the body inhibit the digestion of nutrients, so it is beneficial to be as relaxed as possible at meal times.

7. See everything you plan to eat on a plate. Eating anything including biscuits or crisps from a packet makes it much harder to keep track of how many you’ve eaten. Tip the biscuits, crisps or sweets into a bowl first to increase your awareness of how many you are eating and then focus on what you are eating. You may well find you still satisfy your desire while having eaten less.

8. Reduce your portion size by reducing your plate size. An optical illusion can play a part in managing your portion sizes. The trend for oversized plates encourages larger food servings. Choosing a smaller plate tricks your mind not to notice your smaller portion or a deep bowl with a narrow opening gives the impression of eating plentifully even with a smaller sized serving.

9. Break the eating rules imposed on you. Any parental pressure when you were growing up to clear your plate can make you feel uncomfortable as an adult about leaving food on your plate can compel you to eat more than you want. Remember whether you eat it or not the food will still end up as waste so make it your new rule to throw away food you don’t want the moment you have finished your meal.

10. Find new ways to reward yourself. Compensating or rewarding yourself with food after a tough day is favourite defaults for emotional eaters. Consider new methods of treating yourself that do not revolve around food. How about running a bath with essential oils for an indulgent soak or telephoning a friend to share the news of your day? What activities did you used to enjoy doing that you haven’t done for a while? Find ways to incorporate them back into your life.

11. Are you eating your emotions? Swallowing down food is often a way of avoiding uncomfortable feelings. If you feel compelled to eat when you know you’re not hungry take a moment to focus on how you’re feeling. By merely acknowledging your feelings of anger, frustration or sadness it can be enough to break the binge eating spell and is a necessary step to dealing with what is eating at you.

12. Raise your bar and demand more. Eating foods to make you feel better or to distract yourself from life’s challenges are indicative of feeling disempowered or overwhelmed. What incremental, small changes could you make to improve how you feel about yourself? One perhaps surprising way is with walking. It is nature’s way of calming and grounding yourself by regulating your breathing. Even a short daily stroll outside can shift your mood and help you to feel refreshed and renewed.

13. Track the source of your negative, self-critical voice. We all have an inner critic to some degree, but if your inner voice is particularly acerbic or judgemental about your body size, shape or what you eat, then it is worth exploring where it originated. Becoming aware of one’s inner critic is the first step to silencing it for good. A lot of your self-judgements happen just below your conscious awareness and act as a constant drip-feed of disparaging and unkind comments. Focus on how you speak to yourself and question in your mind the assumptions you believe about yourself. Most likely they are negative and self-limiting. Learn to be your own best friend instead and speak to yourself with kindness and respect.

This post was originally written by Sally Baker & Liz Hogon for Healthista and was inspired by their book 7 Simple Steps to Stop Emotional Eating available from Amazon.

If emotional eating is stopping you from achieving your weight loss goals, then you could benefit from exploring and releasing your triggers to disordered eating. If this resonates with you, book an obligation free discovery call with me on this page.

Nudging yourself towards change


The Nudge Theory is about nudging or encouraging behavioural changes through positive reinforcement and indirect suggestion. In the wider world Nudge Theory has been applied to economics, politics and health. Supporters in the effectiveness of the theory exist in the hallowed halls of academia, the White House under Obama and in the British Government to name but a few.

So, how can Nudge Theory be applied to you eating healthier in your own life?

Your existing habits, thoughts and beliefs have brought you to where you are today, so nudging towards making positive changes is vital in allowing easy changes and maintaining them in the future.

Decide when
In practical terms, this means choosing a time to initiate changes that have the most chance of success. It is surprising how many people set themselves up to fail by launching a new initiative without thinking through how much they already have to do with their life.

Look at your diary for an opportunity when there may be a lull in stress levels at home or work or a time when you can give more energy to embrace fundamental changes to your usual eating habits. If you are canny with your timing, you will be giving yourself a head start towards success.

Ditch the crap
Behaving with your usual default habits around food perpetuates you feeling the same way about yourself. It is a truism that if you keep doing what you have always done, you’ll get the same results you’ve always got before.

Reaching for snacks in your kitchen that you have always reached for maintains the status quo, so an essential part of your preparation is to ditch the old low nutritious, poor quality processed foods in your cupboards and replace them with tastier and highly nutritious options. If you’re not the only family member using the kitchen, then separate out their foods from yours and claim space and ownership of the foods you want to eat.

Ideally your efforts to maximise your health and well being would be supported by all family members, but more often than not you will face resistance. If you wait for everyone in your life to come on-board you could wait a lifetime so be the change you want to see in your life; set your own standard and let them see how much healthier and happier you are. It’s about doing something for yourself.

Just because you’ve decided to nudge yourself towards better nutrition doesn’t mean you will magic away all your impulses to snack.

This is especially true while you are adjusting to this new way of eating and feeling about food. The nudge ensures everything you need is at hand to fulfil your mealtime and snacking requirements to maximise your nutrition. This may mean shopping differently and stocking your cupboards and fridge with different foods.

You will find a comprehensive list of real foods in the ‘Foods to Marry’ section of Sally Baker & Liz Hogon’s book ‘How to Feel Differently About Food’ published by Hammersmith Books. Available from Amazon

Eat your way out of depression.


Nutrition-related health issues seem to take an age to become part of accepted medical practice. The medical establishment requires comprehensive scientific evaluation, randomised trials and peer review before a new drug can be licensed, for instance.

The pharmaceutical company has to weigh up the costs of research and development versus the potential profit to be made from launching a successful product that can earn a good return on their investment. (When you add in the factor that 80 per cent of their budget goes on marketing, it is clear the stakes are high indeed.)

As real food is simply real food and can’t be licensed, branded or patented, there is little impetus for the business community to fund costly research.

Medical research over the last couple of decades has, nevertheless, highlighted how an unhealthy gut could contribute to many physical diseases and these findings are becoming more accepted in mainstream medicine. Clinicians increasingly agree that the gut-brain axis also plays a crucial part in emotional well-being, including the development of conditions as diverse as chronic fatigue syndrome, depression and autism.

The gut-brain axis is a way of describing the interrelationship between gut health and brain health. The various aspects of digestion are controlled via the vagus nerves by a complex set of neurons embedded in the oesophagus, stomach, intestines, colon and rectum. The brain sends messages to all the nerves in your body, including the neurons that control digestion. All works efficiently enough until a person is anxious or stressed on an ongoing basis. You perhaps know for yourself that if you are feeling nervous your stomach can feel upset and queasy. The reason for this is that strong negative emotions, stress and anxiety increase cortisol and adrenaline, which then stimulate the sympathetic nervous system and shut down the parasympathetic nervous system, which includes control of the gut.
This causes a physical chain reaction:

Reduction in pancreatic enzyme production
Reduction in gallbladder function
Reduction in the production of stomach acid
Slowing down of peristalsis – the involuntary muscle movements essential for moving food efficiently through the intestines for the absorption of nutrients
Reduction in blood flow to the intestines
Suppression of the intestinal immune system.

In the short term, this allows the body to focus its resources on ‘fight or flight’ – a good survival mechanism. However, with ongoing stress and anxiety, this cumulative slowing down and suppression of the digestive process can, over a prolonged period, lead to a condition called ‘small intestinal bacterial overgrowth’ (SIBO).

As the digestive process is compromised by stress and anxiety, the lack of stomach acid allows the stomach and small intestine – which should both be pretty much microbe-free – to be colonised by unhealthy bacteria, and yeasts, causing foods to be fermented rather than digested. In addition to gas and bloating, compromised digestion leads to declining absorption of nutrients, which contributes to the loss of the co-factors needed for good digestion and consequently further gut problems.

Now consider this situation lasting for extended periods of time. The integrity of the gut lining may be compromised, contributing to gut permeability (‘leaky gut’) that may be sufficient to produce chronic low-grade inflammation.

The inflammatory process includes the production of cytokines, chemical signals of inflammation that are carried by the blood to the brain. The cytokines can activate cells in the brain called ‘microglia’ – the brain’s immune cells – so that the inflammation originating in the gut thereby causes widespread inflammation in the rest of the body, including in the brain.

The impact of brain inflammation is that the brain has reduced nerve conductance which – guess what – shows up as depression, anxiety and stress.

This vicious circle can self-perpetuate and requires long-term changes to heal the gut, which in turn will help to heal the brain. This is done through changes in behaviour and improving levels of nutrition through changes to food choices. To improve your natural resilience to stress it is important to increase the amount of healthy polyunsaturated omega-3 oils in your diet, so look for oily fish, grass-fed meats and butter made from the milk of grass-fed dairy herds. Good plant sources include hemp seeds, linseeds, chia and some nuts and nut oils (macadamia, almond) – see page xx.

If you consider yourself to be depressed, it will be helpful for your recovery to manage your stress levels, improve your sleep patterns and add nutritious and gut-healing foods into your regular eating plan. For information about all this and more see the end of this post.

Do bear in mind, however, that you may also need professional help if you have been suffering from this debilitating psychological disorder for some time. Please make sure you are accessing all the medical and psychological support you need. Try hard not to add isolation to an already challenging situation.

Gut health

As we have said, the health of your digestive system is increasingly acknowledged to be the key to your potential to be physically healthy and well. You cannot be entirely well if your digestion is out of kilter. However, you may not be aware that your digestive functioning is impaired. Many factors affect your digestion that is commonplace in our busy, modern lives. They include poor quality sleep, stress and anxiety (as explained above), stimulants such as alcohol and recreational drugs, and many prescription medications, including antibiotics.

Feeling sluggish, bloated or out of sorts becomes the usual way of feeling if it goes on for long enough. Add in processed foods and fast foods that are calorie dense and nutritionally poor, and your body becomes progressively less efficient at supporting a healthy immune system and fighting infections. Perhaps you’re already beginning to recognise yourself from this brief description.

You do not need to have had a medical diagnosis of Crohn’s disease (IBD) or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) to be experiencing the symptoms of digestive disruption. How about occasional, mysterious abdominal pain or fluctuating between diarrhoea and constipation or indigestion, heartburn and flatulence? Many people live with these symptoms for decades without ever consulting a doctor. It is as if they are resigned to feeling below par, and that this is how they expect to feel.

To find out more about how to maximise the health benefits of eating real food, then check out the book Sally Baker and Liz Hogon wrote called ‘How to Feel Differently About Food’ published by Hammersmith Books. Available from Amazon.

If you want to lead a happier more fulfilled life it’s almost impossible when you’re doubting yourself or sabotaging your chances of success. Therapy isn’t for everyone, but if you’ve ‘tried everything’ it could be just what you need. You can book an obligation-free 30-minute discovery call to find out for yourself.


Beach Body Ready is a mindset – not a dress size

Beach Body Ready is a mindset – not a dress size

‘Beach Body Ready’ is a mindset, not a dress-size

Everyone harbours some level of negative beliefs about themselves The ‘Am good enough?’ Or ‘Do I look okay in this? These kind of self-doubts are the sort of internal conversations that pretty much everyone has.

When you have a healthy sense of self-esteem, you can often over-ride the niggling voice of self-doubt in your mind by batting it away and effectively ignoring it.

That’s because there is a part of you, at a deep core level, that acknowledges you are ultimately good enough. If this feels like you then congratulations you are equipped and able to tackle the challenges your life throws at you – even on the beach!

The flip-side is that if you are already highly anxious and your self-esteem feels battered, it can feel much more difficult to dismiss or silence the voice of doubt in your mind.

Planning holidays is a prime time in the year when some people’s negative voice can really ratchet up self-doubt and negative self-talk about what they will look like in either their ski-suit or in their bikini.

I’ve worked with both male and female clients who to the outside world look absolutely fantastic and yet are racked with self-doubt or who suffer body dysmorphia that continually steals their joy.

Everyone on this season’s Love Island UK TV series is typically good-looking young men and women. They are prime examples of the narrow, heterosexual, mainly white, western idea of physical perfection with the boys’ hairless torsos, perfect pecs and tight bums alongside the girls often enhanced breasts and plumped up lips.

It would be easy to assume that along with this level of physical perfection would come security in who they are and that they would have confidence in their own worth. Watching the series though this is apparently not the case. The way the contestants speak about themselves and interact with the others on the Island demonstrate they are as prone to insecurities and anxiety about how they look and how they come across to others as any other mortal not blessed with their god and goddess good looks.

There is no perfect body in existence that can shut off inner negative self-talk as critical self-judgements merely raise the bar of perfection ever higher, so that already beautiful people feel inadequate and seek out plastic surgery and enhancements to ‘improve’ their looks.

You might already recognise how profoundly your negative self-talk and critical self-judgements get in your way of you feeling good about yourself. Your negative self-talk might actually be destructive enough to stop you from doing what you really want to do. Only you know how much you temper your behaviour or hide your light from the world when you don’t feel good enough or deserving enough to live your life to its full potential.

The reason negative beliefs can be such a huge influence is that they happen in your subconscious mind and can be triggered when you least expect it to make you feel really insecure and doubt your abilities. Often they feel so overwhelmed with self-doubt that they just give up at the first hurdle and end-up playing small in their own life.

Your negative beliefs can feel as though they’ve been there forever and they are often unquestioningly accepted as if they are part of your DNA. As they usually exist just below your conscious awareness your negative beliefs are immune to your usual rational judgement so that you only accept that they must be true.

They are not true. Negative beliefs are stories you have told yourself often created many years ago, and yet they can continue to influence and control your life today.

Now is the perfect time to spend five minutes to find the origin of your negative beliefs and to rationally assess, possibly for the first time, whether they serve you, or whether they hold you back.

Spoiler Alert: You may even be surprised to discover that the negative beliefs you had about yourself were never really about you at all and originated from someone else’s projected insecurities.

If body dysmorphia or merely negative self-talk is limiting the life you want to live, then you can connect with me with an obligation free discovery call to find out some tried and tested strategies that would change your mindset from not being beach body ready to that of being prepared to take on the world.

If you want to lead a happier more fulfilled life it’s almost impossible when you’re doubting yourself or sabotaging your chances of success. Therapy isn’t for everyone, but if you’ve ‘tried everything’ it could be just what you need. You can book an obligation-free 30-minute discovery call to find out for yourself.


Can you eat junk & take healthy supplements instead?

Can you eat junk & take healthy supplements instead?

Can you eat junk and take healthy supplements?

A recent survey in Australia claimed just under a third of their respondents take at least one daily dietary supplement. In the US the proportion was even higher with just over half of the people surveyed saying they took at least one daily supplement.

A study just released focussed on the benefits of vitamin and mineral supplements for the prevention of heart disease, stroke and premature death. The research found that the most popular supplements had no effect, while some less used ones did have an impact and that some supplements can be harmful.

The supplements examined included vitamins A, B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B6 (pyridoxine), B9 (folic acid), C, D, E, beta-carotene, and the minerals calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium and selenium. Multivitamins were defined as including most of these vitamins and minerals.

In studies testing the four common supplements of multivitamins including vitamin D, calcium and vitamin C, there was no reduction in the incidence of heart disease, stroke or premature death. This means there was no benefit from taking them, but equally, they do no harm.

The study also evaluated less common supplements that did demonstrate having a positive effect on early death, heart disease and stroke. They found that folic acid supplements successfully showed a reduction in heart disease and stroke.

It was calculated that to prevent one case of heart disease or stroke, 111 people needed to be taking folic acid supplements. For stroke, 167 people would need to take folic acid to prevent one case, and 250 people would have to take B-complex vitamins (which contain folic acid, which is vitamin B9) to avoid one example.

However, there are contra-indications with folic acid supplements. For instance, there are some concerns that high levels of folic acid in the bloodstream may increase the risk of prostate cancer, although the results are not entirely conclusive.

Besides, in studies testing folic acid supplements, stroke was reduced in only two of the seven gold-standard studies. One of these was an extensive study of 20,000 people in China. As a country, China does not have a folic acid food fortification program, whereas, in many western countries including the UK, Australia and the US, it’s commonly added to bread and breakfast cereals.

While a small benefit for taking folic acid was found, researchers also found some adverse effects from supplementation. In particular, those taking a statin medication to lower blood cholesterol who also took slow or extended release vitamin B3 (niacin) increased their risk of early death by 10%. This means 200 people would have to take statins and niacin before we would see one case of premature death.

Vitamin D was the most studied supplement. Researchers found no benefits for heart disease or stroke prevention, but also no harm. This was a surprise, given vitamin D is commonly taken for other conditions, such as diabetes. But there was no benefit seen for early death, although the study’s authors acknowledged their results were inconclusive.

The study concluded there is low-to-moderate quality evidence for taking folic acid for the prevention of heart disease and stroke, and also for taking B-complex vitamins that include a folic acid for stroke.

So, does it mean we can eat junk food and supplement with healthy vitamins?

It would seem not.

Taking supplements is very different from eating real food. Complications or health issues due to nutrient levels in the bloodstream are practically always due to taking supplements, not eating real foods.

When you concentrate on one vitamin, mineral or nutrient in a supplement, you do not benefit from the other phytonutrients found in plant foods that contribute to overall health.

The increase in early death for taking some categories of supplements should be a wake-up call that stronger regulations are needed around supplements, and people need a lot more support to eat real food. They also need to improve the quality of what they eat instead of relying on supplements to support a nutritionally deficient diet.

Everyone needs to eat more nutrient-rich whole foods, including foods high in folates such as green leafy vegetables, legumes, seeds, free-range poultry, free-range eggs, omega 3 rich oily fish, whole cereals and citrus fruits. Most flour used in commercial bread production or breakfast cereals are fortified with folate, and without it, they would have little or no nutritional value. Food sources of niacin (vitamin B3) are found in meats, milk, eggs, wholegrain bread and cereals, nuts, leafy green vegetables and protein-containing foods. Always try to buy grass-fed beef or high welfare meat for higher levels of omega -3 essential fatty acids.

If you are confused about what to eat and who wouldn’t be with all the conflicting information out there, Sally Baker and Liz Hogon wrote How to Feel Differently About Food published by Hammersmith Books just for you. It’s available on Amazon.


If you want to lead a happier more fulfilled life it’s almost impossible when you’re doubting yourself or sabotaging your chances of success. Therapy isn’t for everyone, but if you’ve ‘tried everything’ it could be just what you need. You can book an obligation-free 30-minute discovery call to find out for yourself.


What family battles are worth winning?

What family battles are worth winning?


Family battles worth winning?

Summer holidays are almost upon us, and it is a lucky family who has enough time away from their work commitments to cover their children’s extended summer break adequately. For most parents it will be a juggling act to put together a mishmash of summer school activity sessions; shared childcare with other parents and a smattering of help from any willing grand-parents available to help out for the odd day or two.

Parenting these days is often anxiety-inducing state and nothing ramps up the feelings of overwhelm and powerlessness like the long summer break.

For most parents there merely isn’t enough time to enjoy watching their children grow as they increasingly have so many other plates spinning that their children can get sidelined and ignored – especially if the kids are occupied and not under their feet.

One of the downsides of stressed parents is that after being at work all day, they really don’t want to come home and start a battle with their own children. They want their home life to be harmonious and light relief from their day job. It seems more pressing for many mums and dads to be friends with their children other than be their parents and so they are often reluctant to impose any kinds of sanctions around their kids’ behaviour, and it’s causing problems that no-one could for-see.

So, this is not about authoritative parenting and laying down the law with your off-spring it is however about selecting your battles.

So, what family battles are worth winning?

If you child wanted chicken in a box on the way home from school every afternoon would you let him or her have it just because all their friends do?

If your child wanted a meg bottle of cola on the supper table because that’s what his friend’s mum does then would you comply?

If your 14-year-old moans at you for not smoking dope with him when all his friends’ parents are ‘cool with it’ is that enough of a reason for you to light up too?

With the 20:20 vision of hindsight, parenting can seem like an ever-expanding set of choices of trying to make the right call for our kids.

One parental choice I really feel would be valuable for most parents to would be restricting or even zero tolerance of often violent role-playing video games. It can feel like a real challenge for many families to put that particular genie back in the bottle but it can be done, and eventually, that decision will seem small fry compared to the entirety of the challenges you will face raising a well-balanced, socially adjusted and connected adult.

I also, in contrast, believe it is important not to sweat the small stuff and to be able to give autonomy to our children is how they learn and grow.

An example might be if your son or daughter want bright blue hair for the school holiday then you could let them.

Or if they want to live in a pig sty bedroom, then that’s their call.

In my therapy practice, I’ve seen plenty of children of strict or helicopter-style parenting where the children feel closely monitored make a sub-conscious decision to stamp their individuality by whatever means they can. For many children in this situation, one of the few ways they can be autonomous is by becoming picky eaters, or vegetarian or vegan which can be a pathway to a full eating disorder.

No child’s development is permanently hampered by having guidelines imposed by a caring parent. However, the child’s development can be detrimentally affected by unfettered exposure to highly graphic video games.

If a child has both parents involved in their care it is essential they are in accord before imposing any boundaries around behaviour, whatever they may be. Children do not have direct power so will naturally try to divide and conquer by exploiting the good cop, bad cop parental dynamic.

Once the parents have an agreement between themselves, it is essential to inform the child of their decision. This can be backed up with age-appropriate information, but this is not a discussion this is a directive. Once the decision has been made it is not open to endless debate or negation.

Use the stuck record strategy of repeating a short phrase that sums up the new family policy. Do not get pulled in to discussing this further.

Psychologists have worked out it takes 21 days to embed a new habit, so you need to give this time too. The summer holiday is soon, and hopefully, parents will have a little more flexibility and time to spend with their family. If you are going away on holiday, then use this time to leave electronics behind or reduce access in favour of other activities. Habits are easier to break when not just omitting an activity but replacing it with something else.

Remember whatever your child says about their friends and what their friends’ parents allow them to do is irrelevant for your family. While your child might want to be endlessly playing video games other children are competing in martial arts, learning Mandarin or taking coding to the best level.

There is a little explored dynamic with many parents who are relying on short-term rewards to give them some respite from the demands of parenting. This includes absent fathers working at the office until late and fitting in a gym session before coming home just before bedtime and hard-pressed mothers who feel overburdened and are drinking far too much on a nightly basis. 

To make a change to the family dynamic will ultimately need the full participation of everyone in the family but the tenor is set by the adults, and they must take the lead.

If you are struggling with your family dynamic, I often work with couples, initially individually and sometimes later together, to explore your own behaviour in this, your key relationship. I offer a safe space to consider what old pain and unfinished business you brought with you and ways to erase and let go of the past. If this sounds like you then book an obligation free discovery call with me on this page.

If you want to lead a happier more fulfilled life it’s almost impossible when you’re doubting yourself or sabotaging your chances of success. Therapy isn’t for everyone, but if you’ve ‘tried everything’ it could be just what you need. You can book an obligation-free 30-minute discovery call to find out for yourself.