When it comes to interviewing Miriam Stoppard, where do you start? Doctor, journalist, broadcaster and writer, Miriam has published more than 80 books and is most recognisable from her eighteen year career in television. An expert in all issues on parenting, childcare and women’s health, any new parent would jump at the chance of talking to Miriam, but instead she got me. In my early twenties, children are a long way off, but on behalf of all the parents in the Hotcourses office, I got in touch and asked all about the terrible twos, the most common parenting mistakes and the secret to breaking through bad behaviours.
With four children and eleven grandchildren, Miriam has covered all subjects from antenatal care to becoming a grandparent in her books. As thousands of new parents decide to go on a parenting or childcare course each year, there couldn’t be a better expert for our guide, although I was also interested in finding out more about the advice Miriam would give to those hoping to follow in her footsteps.
The first thing I ask seems a little obvious and is no doubt a question Miriam has answered hundreds of times before – what was it that made you get into childcare?
It was definitely having my own children. Though I’m a qualified doctor I’m not a paediatrician but at the time I was asked to write a book on baby care, I had pushed out two babies and had four small sons. At this time, baby books were the sole province of men and I reasoned that given I was a woman and had firsthand experience of pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding; I might be able to have something useful to say by the way of baby and childcare.
How did things progress from there, did you continue to write books as you experienced new things as a parent?
Well after my first baby book my publishers were kind enough to ask me to write many more. Child development and childcare remains a passion and I stay up-to-date with the literature and research.
You are recognised as the UK’s most trusted childcare expert, what is the question you get asked the most from parents?
There are several questions but they’re all to do with child behaviour, whether it’s tantrums, unruly behaviour, or refusal to eat and sleep. For my longer perspective I see the terrible twos as a very useful and important stage of development in children, so one had to understand and capitalise on this sometimes noisy and inconvenient statement of independence.
How do you go about solving behavioural issues in children?
In my experience other behaviour problems can almost all be tackled with the magic medicine of one-on-one exclusive time with either parent. The most magic medicine I’ve come across for behaviour problems is dad spending a whole half day alone with his child, devoting himself entirely to doing things together.
What would you say is the best part of your job?
Staying in touch with mothers I have helped and their babies. Last week I spent a morning with a group of mums and their babies aged between six months to two and a half years in a department store in Windsor, chatting to them about the place of play in a baby or child’s development. I sat on the floor surrounded by mums and babies demoing a range or toys I have created with Galt Toys that encourage, through play, the emergency of babies’ physical and intellectual skills, thus giving them a flying start.
After a lifetime of success, what advice would you give to someone wanting to follow in your footsteps and work in the childcare industry?
All my work is grounded in science, so I believe that anyone who wants to have an educating role with parents and children must have a basis in a biological science. So getting this understanding is the first step I would advise.
A lot of the new parents in the Hotcourses office have asked me to send you their questions; would you say every parent worries about how they are doing with their children?
I believe that parents have the right to bring up their families the way they see fit. I don’t have the temerity to criticise as I have no idea of their personal circumstances or ideas, though most parents I see make a jolly good job at it.
What’s in the pipeline for you in the rest of 2014?
I’m ambassador for a range of bespoke hair and bath products for children of different ages and personalities by Shampooheads. They’re using cutting edge ingredients that are usually restricted to luxury adult products. As a dermatologist I know they’re high quality and good for children’s hair and skin, so I am looking forward to working with Shampooheads on expanding their product range this year.
Finally, what was the naughtiest thing you ever did as a child?
In a fit of pique, I persuaded my sister to break her dolls’ china tea set because I preferred hers to mine. She’s never forgiven me. Nor have I.
If you want to find out more about Miriam or her work, be sure to take a look at her website. Whether you are looking to follow in Miriam’s footsteps, or find out how to deal with child going through the terrible twos or terrifying teens, a childcare course could be helping hand you need. With plenty of full time, part time and online options available, we are sure you will find the course you need, (even if Mary Poppins is not part of the package).