Want to be a better parent? Buy a video camera

The most useful thing in my house, in terms of being a better parent is not a book, a seminar, a poster or even a block of chocolate.

It is, in fact, my small second-hand videocamera that I bought on eBay last year for less than $100.

The reason it's so good and so useful is because it has a rewind button.

When we first started out with the Relationship Development Intervention (RDI) program as therapy for our son with autism, one of the main things we had to do was to learn to be more effective 'guides' for our son. We had to make sure that our parenting was the most effective it could be to help him learn and grow.

"So, you need to get a video camera and film yourself interacting with him," our consultant said. That sounded fair enough. But then she said this: "and then you need to look back at it and analyse the interactions. What did you do? What did he do? What could you have done differently? Where did the interaction start to break down?"

Quite honestly, I did not want to do that. I did not want to press rewind on my actions and words. I did not want to analyse my part in what was going on. If I went back and looked at my actions, I might have to change them, and I didn't want to.

But oddly enough, it helps. A lot.

Last week I videoed our family eating dinner. About halfway through, my boy began to have a little bit of a meltdown. At the time, I thought that he was being incredibly rude, demanding and unreasonable. I thought that my words to him were calm, clear and sensible. Basically, I thought he was wrong and I was perfect.

When we looked back at it, however, with our consultant, both my husband and I realised that we were not actually listening, that we were overwhelming our son with demands ourselves and that we were requiring too much of him at that particular time. It was no wonder he didn't really cope.

I would never have known this unless we had pressed rewind and looked at it all with fresh eyes.

If you're looking to make some breakthroughs, or change some things, or just communicate with your kids better, seriously consider buying a video camera. Surreptitiously film some of your common interactions and then sit back and watch it again, paying particular attention to your children's body language and non-verbal communication. You might be surprised at what you see.