WHEN Stuart was born he was OK but he got to six weeks and he wouldn't sleep through the night. He used to wake up at 2am and scream and wail till morning. He was my first child so I thought that was normal.

The first time he said 'Mama' and 'Dada' was when he was about nine months, and he's been talking ever since. He talks all the time about anything - even in his sleep. Even if someone's got their hands over their ears saying, 'Go away, I don't want to talk to you,' he'll still go on. He was crawling at 11 months, and walking at 14. Now he's four- foot-two and looks like a nine- or 10- year-old even though he's just seven.

He finds ordinary things difficult, like understanding the word 'no.' He'll just ignore you and he'll just carry on as if you hadn't said anything. He'll shout and scream and cry, that's his way of expressing himself. I feel embarrassed to take him shopping. He'll run up and down the supermarket aisles bumping into things and making a racket. You get stared at. People are very British about it so you've got to read their minds and I get him out of their way as soon as I can.

TV might calm down some children but not him. If he's watching something like Fun House, it makes him go mad with excitement - he jumps up and down, and runs around going 'Whoooa,' like a Red Indian. Once we were going out and he opened the car door as we were going round the roundabout. I said, 'Well why did you do that?' and he said simply, 'I wanted to see how the car worked.'

He's nearly killed the cat a few times. Once he hung it by its collar off the door-handle and pretended it was a funfare ride, swinging the door to and fro. When the cat was still a kitten we gave it a scratching post to try to stop it sharpening its claws on the furniture. I was horrified when I found Stuart out in the garden cracking the cat's head against it. The cat only has to see him nowadays to scarper off - it's still terrified.

Then there was the time he threw all his toys out of the window, because he was fed up and bored of them. I was so angry he got a whack and was sent to bed at six o'clock. We've spent so much money on toys he hasn't played with. This year he said he wanted a keyboard and a computer game of Treasure Island. It cost us pounds 100 but he's hardly played with it.

Most nerve-wracking are the summer holidays - they're the nightmares. I try to get him out of the house, taking him off to adventure playgrounds and off to friends - anything to keep him occupied. I've thought of sending him to a summer camp, but I'm very tense about that - I can't trust him. It would be embarrassing if they sent him home.

When Stuart was four and started having a hard time at school I decided that something had to be done. One of his friends wouldn't play with him and he couldn't understand why and started saying, 'I hate this life, I want to get out.'

I was at my wits' end and exhausted by frustration, so I took him off to the doctor. Stuart loved that - all that attention, and he just blurted on about what he'd seen on television and anything else that came into his head. The doctor just picked up on the fact that he was falling over all the time and prescribed some new shoes - but that wasn't the point. I was worried about his mental not his physical condition.

Some time later I read a magazine and came across this article that described exactly my son's symptoms. He was obviously clinically hyperactive. His problems are all due to food additives. Since he's been on an additive-free diet he's improved.

I don't blame Stuart's behaviour on myself. A lot of the time I think, 'Why is my child behaving like this?' But it has nothing to do with me. I've done as good a job as I can, but he can still defy me.

There are a small minority of cases when it might be the parents fault, but I genuinely believe that most parents want to be good ones. We're not brought up to be parents, we're not taught. And bad parents will breed bad parents.

Television might play a part, but what are we supposed to do? Stop watching programmes because a few tearaway kids might be influenced by them? I always sit with my children watching films, and explain to them what's right or wrong as we go along.

I'm sure the majority of young offenders suffer from low self-confidence. It's a learnt behaviour pattern that needs to be broken. It's attention-seeking and if they are called 'naughty' they'll just carry on fulfilling what people expect of them.

A lot of parents think ''stuff this,' when their child's playing up and give them a good thwack, but what they should say is, 'We don't like your behaviour, though we still love you', which is much more effective. It gives the child a sense of pride. I don't think thrashing children does any good. Some kids couldn't care less if you thrash them to within an inch of their lives, they'll just go off and do it again.

Of course some children will grow up to be horrible adults whatever you do. There's no formula for avoiding that.