Public Relations in the world of business is a highly specialized art, and science in which professional "spin doctors" work tirelessly to manage crises, spread their message, keep their clients out of jail, and off the front page of the newspaper, unless they're getting married or accepting an award. Hmmm sounds like the description of motherhood too, doesn't it? The person who said there is no such thing as bad PR clearly never spent a minute hanging out in the schoolyard, where the slightest whiff of your child having done something awful (like say, "Shut up") will taint them for a good portion of their youth. You must manage the fall out and keep the message spreading in the "Mummy Media" from getting harmful. The Mummy Media have a long memory, and a short fuse.
As much as running your own family requires keeping things straight from an internal perspective, let's face it: sooner or later these little buggers are going to have to face the outside world and subject themselves to the judgement, which can only come from other parents, teachers, and so-called authority figures. It is at this point that you will realize how and where you have failed to meet the lowest standard of what is expected of your child in many different arenas. It is also at this point that we learn the value of the "spin."
Enter a Public Relations strategy for your family. Basically, what "spin" is, is the ability to shift or manoeuvre the press (or the other mothers) in such a way as to make a potentially bad and damaging situation look like something you not only planned for, but which is actually a preferred method of doing things, to which they should also be aspiring. Allow me to demonstrate:
"Why no Jimmy isn't color blind. He's simply experimenting with shades and tones in order to gauge the reflective response of his classmates. In fact, the way your son is cringing at the mix of neon orange and green suggests that his colour reflex orientation could use some fine tuning. Perhaps I can suggest a few techniques for that."
"I think it's just terrific that my teenager is taking some time off to put some good, solid thought behind his next move. So many kids jump right into a university or college program that just doesn't suit them, and look at the time and your hard earned money that they've wasted."
"Sure the school that Michael is attending has a reputation for dealing with 'problem students' and drugs. I thought it would be good for them to have him as a strong moral compass. Poor lambs."
"Of course we allow Sienna to eat with her hands. It's part of a new food movement designed to introduce children of all ages to the historic method of Food Feeling and Texture Tasting. Oh, you haven't heard of that? Gee, I hope your daughter doesn't pierce her tongue with that environmentally unsound plastic fork she's using, or pierce her tongue in general. That could happen too, you know."
It's the same spin we put on words like "spirited" (translation: freakishly annoying and loud) "independent" (has no friends) and "unique" (freakishly annoying, with no friends). One particularly over-used technique is the parents who utter "My kids are so awesome." Just because you keep saying it doesn't make us believe that it is true, BTW, but I concede it doesn't really hurt too much. Unless the kids believe it all the time too.
Excerpted from Kathy Buckworth's "I Am So The Boss Of You: An 8 Step Guide To Giving Your Family The Business", McClelland & Stewart (an imprint of Random House)
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