Policing and Parenting: The Similarities

Parenting and Policing have many similarities.

One morning, I was calmly trying to explain to my nearly three-year-old son that his favourite breakfast bowl and spoon were in the dishwasher and that he’d have to use another one. What ensued was total chaos.

Ear-piercing screams of ‘NO’, full-on physical meltdowns resulting in him throwing himself on the floor - as well as any nearby items he could get hold of - and a period of huffing and sulking that lasted an unreasonable amount of time.

Now, luckily for me, I know my son very well, so I distracted him with a delicious breakfast and the situation was quickly defused. If it wasn’t for my quick-thinking and ability to stay calm, who knows how that could have ended. I vowed to stay on my toes, ready for the next tantrum to rear its ugly head.

And it was then that it struck me – parenting can be quite like policing.

Now, I understand that you might not yet agree, but let’s go through some of the top skills and qualities of police officers:

  • Negotiation

  • Problem Solving /Investigative skills

  • Detaining / Restraining subjects

  • Excellent communication skills

  • Resilience / Stamina

  • Remaining calm under pressure

  • Assertiveness

  • Good Interpersonal Skills

  • Able to handle responsibility

Now, I don’t know about you, but any parent out there will see many similarities with some of these skills. Allow me to elaborate using some common examples:


Constantly having to negotiate and compromise with a toddler for every situation that arises is exhausting. Bargaining and bribing occurs a lot too (hopefully this isn’t a similarity in the police!) and the days mainly consist of conversations like, ‘If you do this now then we can do that later’. Patience is a necessity.

Problem Solving /Investigative skills

Investigative skills come into play daily when you’re having to look for important items such as car keys, phone or the TV remote because your child has craftily hidden things in fridges, shoes or under sofa cushions. Problem solving is also a key skill, for example – what do you do when your child has got hold of the car keys (without you knowing) while you’re strapping them into the car seat, you then shut the car door and realise they’ve managed to use the keys to lock the car and now they’re locked in and you’re locked out? Answers on a postcard please!

Detaining / Restraining subjects

Two scenarios for you on this subject: changing nappies and getting a (surprisingly) strong toddler into a supermarket trolley. If you know, you know.

Excellent communication skills

Let me paint a picture for you here - Imagine having to explain everything 15 times to someone because they either aren’t listening to you, ignoring you, or shouting back at you, and then doing all this whilst trying not to swear, remaining friendly and being a listening ear. Oh wait…I don’t think you need to imagine!

Resilience / Stamina

I would say that a very common interest between parents and police officers is coffee, am I right? Sleep can often be a pretty elusive thing for both parties, so having the stamina and resilience to keep going day after day is a skill that’s crucial.

Remaining calm under pressure

Tantrums are a testing part of a parents’ daily life and so being able to keep calm whilst someone is thrashing around, shouting and screaming at you means that you possess a highly desirable personal quality.


This is such an important skill in facilitating any kind of cooperation. As a parent you need to establish yourself as the one in the driving seat but also show that you’re respectful of your child’s boundaries and needs. What I’m saying is, if you want your child to get in the bath, you’re going to have to be fair but firm and deal with the inevitable splashes.

Good Interpersonal Skills

Being able to read your child is very important. Knowing the subtle cues and body language of your precious darling can help to keep tantrums at bay before things really begin to escalate. We all know that tell-tale tired eye rub and the whinging and moaning when they’re hungry – know your subject and always be one move ahead!

Able to handle responsibility

Unlike policing, there’s no set of rules for parenting, most of us are winging it in the hope our kids will turn out a decent member of society. Every day parents come up against hundreds of decisions that need to be made on the spot, so all we can hope for is that we made the best decision with the information we had at the time.

So, let’s praise these police officers. I watch in awe at how they deal with all this (and obviously much worse) and more every single day to protect members of the public, let alone their own flesh and blood. These skills, and many more, are just some of the incredible competencies that police officers have in abundance and utilise every day without giving them a second thought, because as we hear so often, they’re ‘just doing their job’.

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