The Simpsons Movie TM & copyright 20th Century Fox/Rex Features
There comes a time in every parent's life when you'll have to deal with some serious attitude.
I'm not talking toddler tantrums because their banana broke in half, or the moon is following them, or their straw is pointing the wrong way. I'm talking Bart-style cheek from children old enough to know what a consequence
is, even if they couldn't spell it if all the Alphablocks got together and did a choreographed demonstration on the kitchen table.
Recently we went on holiday to a French campsite with a group of children of varying ages. They all befriended more children until it was like Lord of The Flies with baguettes.
My five-year-old son isn't an evil minded boy, but is prone to moodiness and unreasonable stubborn foot stomping. Soon, the mixture of trying to impress older boys and access to the campsite sweetie grabber machine led to a landslide of shrugs, sneers and back chat.
Everything I said was questioned and argued with, sullen sulks went on for hours and the hugs he loves so much were met with a shudder and 'MUUUUUUUUM!'.
I knew this was going to happen one day. But I was thinking more when he was 13, not five.
He can barely wipe his own bottom and already I've got a teenage dirtbag who has the same gobby 'tude as the lads who draw willies on the climbing frame at the playpark with marker pen. Where's my boy gone?
Now I'm not saying that your kids should be your friends. Absolutely not. You are The Boss and they are little pipsqueaks and that's how the world should work. Otherwise you've got Suri Cruise
shouting 'Don't you know who I am?' at the frozen yoghurt stand or Junior Andre driving his electric mini Porsche into the window of Snappy Snaps.
But it pains me that my sweet boy has started to develop personality traits I would normally associate with someone serving two years for public disorder offences at Her Majesty's Pleasure.
And all I seem to do is shout. Then he copies me and shouts at his friends. ARRRRRGH. Can't we just have a nice time? Hang out and watch a Ben 10 DVD, or have a weepy, futile game of Kerplunk?
Of course, there's more to it than just plain naughtiness. According to that famous parenting book Raising Boys
, from around four years old, boys have more testosterone pinging about in their little bodies than they'll have until they hit puberty. That's a hell of a lot of man hormones with nowhere to go.
Plus there's peer pressure, competitiveness and the need to imitate that comes with learning to navigate the world. It's no wonder heads can get turned. But whether you've got a boy or a girl, no amount of touchy-feely psychology can stop cheeky behaviour being the most irritating thing since Justin Lee Collins tried to find the A-Team.
So what do you do when your child becomes a stinkbomb of bad attitude, borrowed phrases, swearing and swagger? Gentle coaxing? Mature sit-down chats? Or do you do a Homer and strangle the little @*!@*?
Mother of three, Joy, leads by (bad) example: "I tend to point out anti-social people in the street and then ask the children if that's what they want to be like. Usually the answer is no, so I tell them to change their attitude otherwise they will become like them. Fear works wonders."
"I tell mine I'm going to a hotel for the night," says Abigail. "The threat of abandonment goes a long way. My mum used to say she was 'getting a train to Penzance' when she'd had enough of us."
"I ban telly," says Fiona. "My daughter says she doesn't care, until I start to unplug it and pretend to carry it out of the room. Little does she know I'm too feeble to lift it up."
Aside from threats, others take a slightly different tack, from Zen calm to making them laugh. "Lots of deep breaths, perspective and calmness – remember you probably used to act that way, too," says Karlie.
"The only way I can diffuse a bad attitude attack is to make her laugh," says Graham, father of an eight-year-old girl. "We have a similar sense of humour, so it usually works."
Alistair favours the softly softly scary monkey approach. "The main thing is not to raise your voice. Lower it instead, so it sounds angry but has more authority. Then take away something they like."
But typically it's the child-free who have the last laugh, unfettered by whingeing, whining Barts. "My advice would be for all ladies to keep their knees together in the first place," says my friend Jacqueline.
As Marge would say: 'Grrrrrrrrr.'
Has your child gone through bad attitude phases? What worked for you?
- Mr Incredible, The Incredibles
Bob Par and wife Helen are former superheroes, forced to relocate to the suburbs and live as ‘normally’ as possible with children Dash, Violet and Jack-Jack. Easier said than done, and when Bob, aka Mr Incredible is drawn back into his superhero world, he leaves behind three sad little ones who just want their dad back. Lucky Bob realises his mistake, and proves that to be a real superhero, all he needs to do is make his kids proud.<br />
<strong>Favourite quote: </strong>‘I’m sorry. I’ve been a lousy father. So obsessed with being undervalued that I undervalued all of you.’</p>
- Daniel, Love Actually
Dashing Daniel is faced with looking after stepson, Sam, all alone after his wife, Sam’s mum, dies. He seems clueless, but gets better as time goes on, doting over the little guy and helping him snag his crush at school, learn the drums and come to terms with losing his mum. We challenge anyone not to well up at the end when Sam calls Daniel ‘dad’ for the first time.</p>
<strong>Favourite quote:</strong> ‘This stepfather thing seems so suddenly to somehow matter like it never did before.’</p>
- Alfie Moon, Eastenders
So he isn’t technically Tommy’s dad, but we all saw loveable Alfie’s heart break when he thought the little man had died during the baby cot death swap saga. And when Tommy was returned to Kat and Alfie and he bought him a mini football strip to match his own pyjamas, he went straight to the top of the list for sheer cuteness.</p>
- George Banks, Father of the Bride
Anyone with a grown up daughter will relate to poor George. He's put well and truly through the emotional and financial ringer as he prepares to walk his not-so-little-girl, Annie, down the aisle, facing the reality that his once baby girl is ready to face the world alone.<br />
<strong>Favourite quote:</strong> ‘I suddenly realised what was happening. Annie was all grown up and was leaving us, and something inside began to hurt.’</p>
- Chris Gardener, The Pursuit of Happiness
Chris’ wife has walked out, and he’s skint. Faced with a life where he and his son, Christopher, are broke and homeless, he takes on an unpaid internship at a stockbrokers to learn the trade and make a mint, while teaching his son impeccable moral standards along the way to boot.<br />
<strong>Favourite quote:</strong> ‘I made up my mind that when I had children, my children were going to know who their father was.’</p>
- Martin Crane, Frasier
Down-to-earth Martin likes the simple life with minimal fuss, which is made tricky when he shares a flat with grown-up son, Frasier, who is a fan of the finer things in life, just like his brother, Niles. In one memorable episode, Frasier throws out Martin’s beloved leather chair, which upsets lovely Martin as it has huge sentimental value. Frasier realises his mistake and sets off to make amends, realising his dad isn’t all too bad in the process.</p>
- Homer Simpson, The Simpsons
Hapless but hilarious dad Homer might not always put his kids Bart, Lisa and you-never-quite-know-what-she’s-thinking Maggie first, but he always comes through for them in the end. And you couldn’t help but love him when he worked two jobs and barely slept to buy little Lisa a pony.<br />
<strong>Favourite quote:</strong> ‘Well, it's 1am. Better go home and spend some quality time with the kids.’</p>
- Mick, Gavin and Stacey
The loveable dad to Essex boy Gavin, Mick is the long-suffering husband to Gavin’s mum, Pam, and puts up with long drives to see future daughter-in-law Stacey’s family in sunny Barry. He has, as character Ness would say, ‘a cracking’ relationship with Gavin, cemented in the touching scene where the pair discuss a very sad Gavin’s possible infertility.</p>
- Charles Ingalls, aka, Pa, Little House on the Prairie
The pillar of the family’s small farming community, Pa Ingalls juggled life on the ranch and raising three girls, along with sorting scuffles in neighbouring families. The family didn’t have a lot of money, but were rich in love and respect for each other as they faced a tough old life on the American frontier, with Pa leading the charge.</p>
- Ben Harper, My Family
Moody Ben is dad to hapless Nick, sharp-tongued Janey and brainbox Michael, who is far too clever for Ben and outwits him on a daily basis. All he wants in life is a bit of peace and quiet, and his wife, Susan, to stop cooking such awful meals. He gets his wish briefly when Nick and Janey move out, but in comes lodger Abi, and Janey is never too far away with her son, Kenzo, to disturb the peace…</p>
- Daniel Hillard / Mrs. Euphegenia Doubtfire, Mrs Doubtfire
Poor Daniel seems to attract trouble, and when wife Miranda kicks him out and takes custody of kids, Lydia, Christopher and Natalie, he walks into even more trouble, by dressing as an ageing grandmother and starting work as the family’s housekeeper in disguise. Extreme? Yes. But no one can argue this dad won’t go the extra mile for his children.</p>
<strong>Favourite quote:</strong> ‘I admire that honesty, Natalie, that's a noble quality. Never lose that.'</p>
- Geppetto, Pinocchio
Inventor Gepetto is desperate for his wooden puppet, Pinocchio, to become a real boy, and a real son for him. His wish is granted, and despite Pinocchio lying, sorry, fibbing (children’s film) regularly, his dedicated father, Gepetto, is always his biggest supporter. When Pinocchio finally sheds his wooden body, Gepetto’s dedication pays off, and he is rewarded with an, altogether now, ‘real boy!’.</p>
<strong>Favourite quote: </strong>‘You're alive! And, and you are a real boy!’</p>
- Pete Brockman, Outnumbered
Pete and wife, Sue, struggle - daily - to keep their brood of three in order. Most of time Sue, and especially Pete fail miserably, as children Jake, Ben and Karen outwit and run rings around them, leaving you wondering: ‘Who are the grown-ups here?’</p>
- Professor Henry Jones Senior, Indiana Jones films
He might not have the best relationship with son, Henry ‘Indiana’ Jones, but Henry Senior clearly had a big impact on a little Henry growing up, as he follows an identical career path as his dad. Despite huge disagreements and eye rolling, you can tell these two have a real soft spot for each other.</p>
<strong>Favourite quote:</strong> ‘Oh, yeah? And who's gonna come to save you, JUNIOR?’</p>