Chatting to Kate Silverton, star mum, BBC presenter and author of best-seller ‘There’s No Such Thing As ‘Naughty’

When we agreed to meet on Zoom to discuss parenting challenges for my summer 2021 cover interview, I rejoiced as I have always loved Kate Silverton’s reportage style and her cheerful approach to TV presenting. She showed up with curls in her hair as she ‘wanted to look beautiful for our chat’. Her spontaneity, honesty and charming smile made our hour together go by so quickly. Mum to two young children, journalist and children’s mental health advocate, Kate is passionate about her first book There’s No Such Thing As ‘Naughty’: The ground-breaking guide for parents with children aged 0 to 5, in which she shares her new approach to parenting that helps to make family life so much easier and an awful lot more fun!

Our paths are crossing again and on Thursday 18th November 2021, 6.30-7.30pm we will both speak at the LEYF Margaret Horn debate (on Zoom) focused on child obesity, addressing the question:

With one in five children starting school obese, what can the sector do to tackle this crisis?

Everybody is invited to attend and join in the conversation. Tickets are £5 +booking fee per person and all proceeds will be donated to LEYF’s Christmas food bank. Register here.

The debate will be chaired by BBC presenter, parent and author of best seller: There’s No Such Thing As ‘Naughty‘, Kate Silverton.

Guest panellists include:

Paul Lindley – founder of Ella’s Kitchen and Chair of London’s Child Obesity Taskforce

Edna Kissmann – founder and CEO at The Wonder of Me

Monica Costa – Influencer, Author & Editor of London Mums Magazine

June O’Sullivan – Chief Executive at The London Early Years Foundation (LEYF)

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Endorsed by leading figures in the field of children’s mental health and rooted in the latest science, at the heart of Kate’s book is a simple and revelatory way to understand how our children’s brains develop and how that shapes their behaviour. Kate’s engaging, accessible and warm parenting guide, explained really simply, will redefine how we see and raise our children, with a new understanding that for under-fives, there can be no such thing as ‘naughty’.

Her new concept ensures parents have techniques and scripts that will allow them to react to their children’s behaviour in a caring and considerate way – which is key to futureproofing children’s mental health and emotional wellbeing.

She quickly reassures me that I will find useful tips in her manual even if my son is now a teenager because the same principles apply for our teens as much as they do for our toddlers.

Professor Peter Fonagy, CEO Anna Freud National Centre for Children & Families has endorsed Kate’s book and has said that ‘it is perhaps the most helpful book for parents of children of any age’. Interestingly, all our behaviour is linked to our emotional regulation and to how our brain has formed. We all can fly off the handle as 40 years old as well as 4 years old. In this book Kate uses the science and her creative visualisation to explain how this works and to even understand our own behaviour as adults. 

Q: In terms of your parenting journey, what have the biggest motherhood challenges been for you? You have been brave Kate to have children later in life. We are the same age, born the same year and in same summer. My son is 15 but yours are younger. 

KS: I am almost still wiping bottoms! My husband and I did not choose it that way, though. We tried for five years to have children going through IVF and other things but we eventually gave up and were going to apply for adoption. Suddenly, one day at work, I felt tired at work and my colleagues suggested I might be pregnant. I thought I was going through menopause. But, in fact, I was pregnant! After having my first baby at 41, I felt very grateful. I had a few miscarriages afterwards but my doctor told me to have one last go at conceiving before giving up for good. I was lucky and had my second baby at 43. I now share my journey as much as I can with other women to give them hope. But, of course, I also tell them that it’s better to have children early in life. 

Q: I have read so many parenting books before my son’s birth only to realise – when I had him in my arms – that children don’t come with a manual and that there’s no one-size-fits-all parenting model. Why did you want to write this parenting book? How does it stand out?

KS: Like you, when I came to be pregnant after all this time I thought I had been given the gift of these incredible children. My husband, who is a former Royal Marine Commander – tough as they come – turned to me and said: “This is tough! Parenting is relentless! Why does nobody talk about how challenging this is and how to deal with the crying and soothing?”. There were so many questions. So, like you, I set out voraciously reading about this. Coinciding with that, there were a lot of suppositions and myths. I have a very curious mind, as a journalist, and an academic background in psychology. To write this book, I have done lots of work behind the scenes with charities as children’s counsellor and read books about children’s brains which told me that every aspect of my child’s behaviour – from baby’s crying to toddler’s meltdowns, terrible twos – was a reflection of what was going on internally. All of our children’s behaviour is actually communication, it is language. They are telling us something. Our children’s brains go through their fastest growth rate in these early years. How we respond as parents is going to shape their brains, define how anxious they become, how resilient they are, how empathic they are, even shape their future relationships. While reading for my studies – that led me to now work in a school in London as a counsellor on placement and going on to become a child psychotherapist – I thought that we all need to know this because we can help our children lay the foundation for their good future mental health. It’s that important. When I interviewed numerous eminent scientists, I learnt how our brain dictates our behaviour but science is complicated. Professor Fonagy told me to write the book for everyone in a language that everyone can understand.

Read the full interview here

Parenting could be much easier when we know the stuff in this book. I wanted to hold the hand of any parent starting out with my work and I wanted to share the secret to tackling tantrums and tears, stopping squabbles in seconds AND lay the foundations for your child’s good mental health in the process.

We can all dissolve a toddler’s meltdown in seconds and we can build a bond with our children rather than battle against them. The first few years of our children’s lives are crucial. Now you’re thinking, that having a teenager you wouldn’t been able to follow this advice. There’s no such thing as a perfect parent, anyway, but our children’s brain develops up to 25 and even beyond that. We can all change our brains and become more relaxed. There are a lot of tips in the book for us to become more regulated. We must never worry that we haven’t done the right thing. You can try all the tips with your teenager as well. If we can understand what’s going on in their brains, we can help them to calm down and to communicate with us. That’s what I wrote the book for. I wanted the book to empower parents to trust their instincts more. 

Q: There’s a chapter about cuddles. I love how you describe cuddles as ‘fantastic ways to relieve stress … scooping (your child) with your big, wise owl wings’. You seem a very cuddly type of mum. What’s your parenting style?

KS: I am compassionate and curious. If we’re parented in a certain way, we might follow the same parenting style or rebel against it. We all have an inner voice, even if we are afraid, and we should trust ourselves to do the right thing. Children have a lizard’s brain which is what keeps them alive. It acts instinctively alerting you to their needs. An adult has an owl brain which represents our ‘higher or thinking brain’, the most developed part that gives us powers of reasoning and imagination. Our children haven’t developed the owl brain yet so we can help them. I have a creative mind and have come up with the animal analogies.

I have also designed a tool called ‘code red’ to enable and encourage the essential art of communicate and express when our children have had an event or interaction that had upset them. Something that would help when they didn’t quite have the words to immediately explain it. 

I have also developed a ‘Stop S’N-o-t’ technique to deal with panicky moments. When faced with a tantrum in public or at home, we must first stop, then take a breath and pause, and remind ourselves that this is not personal. This is not your child being a dark arts master! And they are NOT being ‘naughty’, manipulative, stubborn, testing … etc., whatever the old school of parenting might try to tell you. They are not capable of that. Then remember that it’s:

S’Not about you – your child might be in the middle of a stress response triggered by something else entirely. O- Observe: So what else could be going on?

T – Turn it around: think about the situation from the child’s perspective. 

When the sexual hormones kick in in teenagers, so much goes on in their brains and they forget the owl wise tips we have imparted. The good news is that then at around 17, they suddenly remember that wisdom again. So, our good parenting is not lost, after all. 

Q: You are now retraining as a child psychotherapist. Who has inspired you the most? 

KS: All the people I mentioned in this manual inspired me particularly leading figures in the field of children’s mental health such as Dr Bruce Perry, Professor Peter Fonagy, Dr Margot Sunderland, Dr Gabor Mate’ and all NSPCC representatives who contributed to my book.

I feel really privileged to have access to all these experts. I soaked all the learning and thanks to their support, I have managed to come up with my own original concepts, unique strategies, easy-to-follow scripts and simple techniques that will enable parents to manage those tricky everyday challenges with ease – and help them to enjoy the strongest bond possible with their child, both now and in the years ahead.

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