Anita Ratheb, parenting advice

“How do you get it right?”

GUEST WRITER [Anita Ratheb]: I am often asked how I have managed to raise happy, well-mannered and mentally happy children who do well at school. Are we the perfect parents? No, there is no such thing as a perfect parent. There is however a happy, balanced parent. Our motto has also always been that you cannot teach a skill you don’t have. So, when we expect something from our children, we first make sure we are getting it right.


We start by having a peaceful home

We as adults have always respected each other and we are kind to each other and we speak nicely to each other. We did not teach our kids this. It is acquired behaviour. This in turn leads to calmer by nature children – with good manners. They can deal with stressful situations better as they have seen how we handle ourselves in a crisis. Monkey see, monkey do!


We want them to be patient, we show patience. We want them to talk and not shout, we don’t shout when angry. We want them to come to dinner without a phone, we never bring ours to the table. We don’t buy coke and then tell the kids its bad for you. Basically, don’t be a hypocrite and pull rank.


We have also never punished our children. And our friends can vouch for this. We used every mistake they have made to teach them the right way. This is part of growing up.


You have to know that your children will make mistakes and that it is not a crime! They will do badly in a test, they will tell a small lie, they will be unreasonable at times. Especially teenagers who have all the hormones controlling them. As adults, you have to control your temper and fighting with a teenager shows how immature you actually are and how stressed you are. So, better deal with your inner issues first and stop taking it out on a child. That is bullying. You are not perfect, you make mistakes every day, but you want your kids to be perfect because you think you can control fate. In other words, first fix your issue and then try tell a child to change.


I find that most of my friends are always running on empty because of long, busy days. What they are forgetting is that their kids are feeling the same way. They should be coming home and having some ‘me’ time to unwind (at least 30 min), then having a nice catch up with their kids in good spirits-taking in to consideration that everyone is feeling tired. Instead, they say 100 things they have had on their minds all week, complaining and raising their voices and then when their teenagers retaliate they say, “These kids are driving me mad.” So, are you really telling them what they need to hear, or are you offloading your stress? Is this about them or you?


We never discuss important issues on long days. We wait for the weekend or an easy day when we can all just stop and listen. We want them to learn to do the same. So we say, “Today is not a good day, please let’s talk about it another day, thanks.”


If your children are still young, I would highly recommend a book called Easy To Love, Difficult To Discipline, by Rebecca Bailey. It is an amazing book to have on your shelf and refer to it often. It teaches you how to have reasonable expectations and how to make sure you practice what you preach and how to get it right-so that you raise self-confident children. Because words can make or break a child.


If you have teenagers, I would highly recommend that you start doing more things you love as a couple, or on your own/with a friend if you are a single parent. This will make you a happier person and teenagers respond to this very well. They do not need or want you much around the house anyway. Don’t worry, it’s normal and they still love you. Invest in your happiness, it will go a long way! We go to the movies, watch our own Netflix series, have BBQ’s in our garden with friends, cycle around our village town and chat, go for walks and catch up on things. Sometimes we include the children if they want, if not, we have accepted that they can make their own choices. We are not control freaks.


Well, here the key word is being REALISTIC! As a parent, friend and teacher myself, I have seen other parents expect the unexpected from their children. For example, an average achiever being swamped with extra lessons and then scolded for not doing well. Yes, you can push a child to reach his full potential, but don’t do it at the cost of their mental health.


There is no evidence that straight A* students become more successful and HAPPIER in life. Actually, thinking back, students who went to a TOP uni started at a better company, but didn’t necessarily become more successful than the A-C grade students who went to a simple Uni and then worked their way up.


So, you have to ask yourself here. Getting them into Cambridge or Harvard is impressive, but do you want your child to be a nervous wreck? If they work 24/7 to achieve this, they will be miserable. Some kids can do it with little effort. They are built for it and they love the challenge – especially those gifted in maths and the sciences, with exceptionally high levels of quantitative reasoning. Others work very hard and get the grades (at the cost of their well-being). And the difficulties do not end there. These Universities are extremely demanding, and the stress continues.


Nonetheless, in all cases, a fair parent should always say: “Where do you want to go? Which course was the most appealing to you? What is your dream?” If parents could only understand that their children will be most successful at University and life if they get to choose their journey. You should always be proud of them.


My husband and I went with our eldest child to visit 13 Universities in the UK. We told our daughter, choose the one you feel will make you the happiest, go have a great time, these will be the best years of your life! She is naturally clever, didn’t study as much as she could have – even though she got great grades, but she will succeed as she is starting her life with no stress. At her part-time job, she was considered the nicest and smartest of them all. After her work experience at age 16, the manager said “Come back anytime!” She had life skills- maybe because her nose was not always in a book!


The point I am making is that having a happy child who is a pleasure to have at home is more important than a degree from Cambridge or Harvard. Just enjoy your kid and they will be fine! If you believe in them they will believe in themselves!



Anita Ratheb has been a teacher for 24 years. She has lived in 3 different countries and taught children from all backgrounds in 4 education systems (South Africa, British, International and Greek). She comes from a multi-cultural background; her mother is Greek and her father is an Italian raised in Brazil. She was born and bred in South Africa where she graduated with a BA (Education) degree. She currently lives in Cambridge UK with her husband and two children. She works part-time as a supply teacher teaching children from ages 4-16, all subjects. This flexibility allows her to help children apply to university by matching them with universities and towns, making the process less stressful.


“Mrs Ratheb inspired me to go to University. She matched me with the perfect course and took me to the open day to see what university life was like. I was a late applicant and she guided me through the whole application process as I had no other support. I will be forever grateful.Amy

“Mrs Ratheb showed me how to research courses at universities in the UK because the Greek system is very different. She also gave me the best advice on how to write a very strong personal statement. I got 5 offers from top UK universities and I am starting this September.” Chris

“Mrs Ratheb was a tremendous help in getting me into University in the UK. Thanks to her, my application stood out and since then she has always been by my side to support and give me guidance. For that, she will always have a special place in my heart!” Constantina


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