Put your clothes on, Baby Mabel, or Mummy will set fire to your trampoline



00:07 GMT, 2 August 2012

With the fourth baby I promised I would do a few things differently. This baby, I told myself, with smug foolishness, will be eating an avocado by the time she is one. She’ll demand carrots for a treat. She’ll clean her teeth joyously without bribery (ditto homework).

She’ll wear matching socks and she’ll never know who SpongeBob SquarePants is. Mabel will cross the road to avoid Haribo sweets because that’s how ‘right’ I promised myself I’d get it with the last baby.

I’d have none of those parenting flash points which make you sit at the bottom of the stairs with your head in your hands wishing you’d bought a hamster/joined the circus instead of starting a family.

Beach babe: Why do some children behave SO well

Beach babe: Why do some children behave SO well

Because it appears that my parenting inexperience and/or confusion has resulted in our other three becoming a lost cause of feral disobedience, with enough free will and high spirits to fill an Olympic stadium.

It’s too late to make them wear socks without imposing martial law. Maybe with them I accidentally perfected the art of ‘underparenting’.

Which is why I figured that with Baby Mabel I’d use a combination of reverse psychology (‘No you cannot have peas, they’re for birthdays only’) and a more extreme approach (‘Put your clothes on or I’ll set fire to that trampoline’). This would make family life easier, the baby more compliant.
Well I tried, honestly I did, but Gina Ford has nothing to fear from me. Homer Simpson, on the other hand . . .

I can only conclude that after ten years of this parenting malarkey nurture plays no part, nature dominates. It’s in their genes, your honour, because Mabel, 15 months, is a clone of the other members of the unruly collective, aged five, eight and nearly ten.

Who knew
Psychologists say many personality traits are
determined by birth order. Last-borns are often stubborn, social and the most outgoing, but can be spoilt

I accepted this on the beach during our Cornish seaside holiday last week as the sun beat down and I watched her impatiently hurl her sun hat into a rock pool for the fifth time, just as they used to.

The Candy clan are genetically programmed not to wear a hat (or ‘hat off’ as they called them). Yet when I look around the crowded beach there are many children happily wearing hats, there are even children who quietly sit in their buggy while their mums wrestle them out of wet swimsuits, rather than wrestling back.

Children with a more agreeable gene pool Or better parents Who can say Maybe the person who believed that nurture not nature dictates a child’s personality is the same person who thinks beach volleyball is an Olympic sport.

I mean, I’ve tried all sorts of tricks now with Mabel, after my years of reading parenting manuals and late night conversations in chat rooms with the army of internet mums. Waste of time: Mabel still expertly gives me the slip when I try to get her dressed or brush her hair. I am in a constant state of motherhood deja vu, wondering where I misplaced the ‘make them do what you ask’ rule book. There is one, isn’t there

Of course, none of this makes me love Mabel and her ever-expanding thighs any less, I just assumed that with every child you had you got a bit better at it.

And the others are a triumph of independent opinion, an attitude their teachers seem to find agreeable but is a little more challenging to manage at home.

The ‘hat off’ debate doesn’t bother Mr Candy however, who is obviously Mabel’s favourite, as he’s never made her wear one (or tried to apply sun cream to her ginger bonce).

‘She’s defiant, over-curious, stubborn and generally very bossy just like the other babies,’ I tell him as I bemoan my inability to shape a more ‘perfect’ baby.

‘Really’ he says, raising an eyebrow, ‘Well it’s definitely genetic then.’

Lorraine Candy is editor-in-chief of Elle magazine.