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There is a time when 'bad parenting' is just what they need

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'The experts and gurus get all touchy-feely when it comes to giving advice about The Big Exam'

The first rule of parenting should be: not too many rules. I won't say that philosophy has served me perfectly over the decades (my eldest is 28; my youngest 18), but as a general rule of thumb it hasn't let me down too often.

The experts and gurus (some of whom have never fought in the parenting trenches) get all touchy-feely when it comes to giving advice about The Big Exam.

A lot of what they say makes sense, of course. But the tick-the-box advice spreadsheet has never overly impressed me.

Tiptoeing on eggshells and turning all faux solicitous because there's a Leaving Cert victim in the house is both transparent and dishonest.

All that does is reinforce the fact that there's something big going down.

Instead, parents should act normal. As if nothing unusual is going on. Or if there is, well, mum and dad have it covered.

And any intervention parents do make should be by-the-way casual.

For instance, encourage time out. Suggest dossing in the onesie watching brain rot on TLC.

Mention fresh air. Or even stale air, by taking in a popcorn epic at the local multiplex.

There are other ways to indulge them too.

While we all know that a healthy body is a prerequisite to a healthy mind, the pre-Leaving weeks are the perfect time to indulge in the exception that proves the rule.

When I was going shopping the other day, I asked my hard-working and stressed 18-year-old if there was anything she needed.

"No," she said, "but there are a few things I would like."

Like what?

"Treats," she said, "lotsa treats." I took her at her word and brought home Ben & Jerry's ice cream, a Dairy Milk family pack, Gateaux swiss roll, oh, and some barbecue spare ribs. Her favourites.

I don't think she said thanks.

She doesn't have to.

But she is steadily nibbling her way through her stash of comfort goodies.

Bad parenting? Maybe good parents should try it sometime.

Irish Independent