Wednesday 30 September 2015

Parenting as a team

There is no greater test of a marriage or relationship than having a child. It is one of the most difficult and the most important jobs you will ever have and will push you and your partner to the limit. This is why it is so important to ensure you and your other half are on the same team! You may find that one of you is naturally 'harder' than the other and it is very tricky to change your nature... but it is important that you are both singing from the same hymn sheet. 

In your generic family where the mummy is the main care giver, she becomes the expert and fathers can often feel left out or like they are always getting it wrong. Particularly in the early days when the plan changes all the time, i.e. last week we rocked him after his milk to make him sleep... this week however that makes him vomit! This continues as they get older but it might be about how to manage them swearing, hitting, not eating dinner... you get the picture!

As a childcare professional, my husband was accepting from day dot that this was my bag and he was happy to follow my lead. That is not to say that I always get it right (who does?!) or that I don't value and ask for his opinion. In fact, Seb has been having trouble getting to sleep lately... or rather the little monkey would rather climb out of his cot 87 times before going to sleep. On one particular evening where I was tired and fed up with this trend (excuses, excuses...) after putting him back in bed quietly with a firm goodnight for the tenth time, I shouted at him to stay in his bed. I then left his room very cross with myself because I had lost control. Five minutes later I hear Mr. NQP shouting at him to stay in bed. I gave him a puzzled look as he came out of the room... 
'I was copying what you were doing?' He responded.
I felt awful! Poor Seb got a mouthful from both parents because I lost my temper and Husband thought that was the 'new plan!' Doh. 

  1. Communicate! Talk to each other. Preferably before the event. If Seb is exhibiting some new behaviour I try and explain to husband how I am dealing with it... i.e. we are ignoring this, or he knows now this is an immediate doormat offence, or try saying this to calm him down. Consistency is so important for children and will really help your marriage.
  2. Only pick them up on the things that really matter. With tiny babies it is easy to get obsessed with routine, or the way you got them to sleep one day, or how to get them dressed or change their nappy... if your other half does it slightly differently... but it got the job done... then leave it be! They are trying just as hard as you, they just have even less time to perfect their parenting skills.  If it really makes a difference or they are making matters worse then step in, but make sure it's in a helpful, meaningful way!
  3. Try not to play good cop, bad cop. There is no need for it. If one parent is managing behaviour, let them manage it through to the end including the reconciliation. Nothing makes a parent feel worse than them having to be the bad guy all the time. 

Happy team parenting! Thoughts and comments below!


Thursday 10 September 2015

Bad influences

Seb is lucky enough to spend a lot of time with his older cousins aged 6 and 11. He absolutely adores and idolises them which for the most part is fab as they are both wonderful with him. Spending time with older children can be great in lots of ways, it encourages children to progress faster as they are eager to copy and learn, it encourages good social skills and encourages mature behaviour.

HOWEVER - spending time with children significantly older also has its draw backs. Despite never watching anything on TV about anyone dying or anything with violence ( CBeebies and Peppa pig are low on this aspect!) he has spent the last week running around the house shouting 'die die die!' This made me really cross! What an awful thing to say! So I started by explaining that this was not nice. Then I started getting cross with him and tried explaining that it would upset people (namely me apparently!) After a few days of this my husband asked me what I would do if Seb swore. 'Ignore it completely' I quickly replied. 
'So... Why are you not doing the same with this?' 


He was so right, I was making such a big deal about it because it really bothered me! So we ignored it, his cousins were also instructed to ignore it and do you know what... He stopped saying it! A few days later he delightfully came out with both 'I'm going to chop your head off' and 'I'm gona kick you in the balls.' Marvellous. But this time I was on it - everyone was instructed to ignore it and after initial sniggers from his cousins they got it and it seems to have disappeared. 

I await the next fabulous phrase...

  1. Ignore. Try and ignore those choice phrases or swear words. Highlighting them only makes them think it is big and clever! You might need to apologise or explain to those around you, but ignoring is definitely a tried and tested method!
  2. Cut off the source. Try and stop where the bad words/phrases are coming from. Is it a TV programme... is it you?! I have definitely stopped saying Oh God because it just sounds so odd coming from a two year olds mouth. Obviously, I can't and won't stop him spending time with his cousins but I have spent time with them both encouraging them to think about what they are saying and pull them up when they actively encourage him to say 'hilarious' things!
What awful things have your little ones come out with?


Wednesday 9 September 2015

Risk aversion

A few days ago I shared a really interesting extract about a mothers endeavour to stop over parenting her children. This particular extract (available here) focuses on how her over parenting had lead her child to be unable to tie his shoelaces at age nine. We are lucky enough to live in a society in which our children are emotional assets; meaning we have kids because we want kids and they will make us happy. Not because we need them to plough the fields or earn us an income. This leads itself to us becoming hugely invested in every second of their life. We all are guilty of trekking after our little (and big) ones to various activities, standing on side lines in the cold, lovingly mending broken toys, buying new ones, indulging them in too much TV and endlessly picking up after them. I like to think that I encourage Seb to pick up after himself and at only two he is quite good at tidying away toys. But I'd be lying if I didn't say that it is often just easier and quicker to do it myself and then I don't have to have an argument with anyone!

Over protectiveness is hugely linked to how we allow children to manage risk. Managed risk in children's life is so important as it encourages and allows children to learn how to manage difficult situations and confrontation, builds self confidence and fundamentally is usually quite fun. If you compare your childhood to your own child's now, you will see what a loose leash you were given by your parents comparably to now. Maybe you walked alone to school at a younger age, maybe you were allowed into the fields or woods near your house, maybe you were allowed to play outside until dark?

We are all guilty of being over protective at some point. I had to sit on my hands in a huge soft play area the other day because Seb wanted to go into the big children's area on his own. Who am I to say no? What more of a managed risk could you ask for?! It is a totally contained soft play. What was the worst that could possibly happen? Of course he looked tiny next to the 4/5/6/7+ year olds but he didn't care. He had an absolute whale of a time and I sat nervously watching to see him appear at any of the netting areas on my side of the mammoth maze. 

So, top tips for allowing children to manage risk...
  1. Ask yourself 'why?' Why am I saying no? Why am I doing this for my child? Why can't s/he do this for themself?
  2. Don't run when they fall over. Naturally, this does not mean completely ignore them. Young children look to you for how to react to situations, if you are dramatically running over to them looking terrified, chances are they will cry and you won't actually know how bad the injuries are, if any! If you calmly say "whoopsie! Up we get!" you will quickly learn whether they are really hurt or maybe just need a quick brush down and off they pop. 
  3. Enrol them in a forest school. Forest school sessions are becoming increasingly popular in both schools and pre-schools. If your child's school or pre-school doesn't have one, take a look online to see if any others do locally, sometimes you can just sign children up for these sessions. They are usually run by specifically qualified forest school staff and are entirely child led. This means, if they want to run around with sticks they can, if they want to look and bugs or climb trees, they can. The staff won't stop them within the bounds of what is safe, but what they percieve to be safe will be considerably more lenient than what regular teaching staff consider safe. (This is meant with no disregard to teaching staff, often they are limited by what is permitted within the school rules or fear of litigation.) 
  4. Encourage them to do things for themselves where possible. I don't mean abandon them to do the dishes, but allow them to try. In our swimming lessons, if our child throws themselves from our arms we are encouraged to allow them to go under the water before picking them up again. This both allows them to know the risk of being on their own in the water but also permits them to try and learn further what they can achieve unaided. Each time you do something new with your child, take a little step back and see how much they can do alone. You might be surprised. 

It isn't easy. And sometimes it goes against your nature and need to protect your young. But it will honestly create a greater generation of adults who are confident and capable.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments box below.