It has been an age since I wrote a parenting post, I guess when you are in the thick of it you can quite forget to write about it. Recently my friend Marcia from The 123 Blog asked me for my top 3 parenting tips – gasp. To be honest I actually choked a bit, what do I know about parenting, not to mention parenting tips. The father person mentioned that after parenting for 17 + 15 + 13 + 11 + 10 + 8 + 7 + 5 years… I probably knew enough to write a blog post. The point is, we all know so much about parenting until we have kids. It just goes to show that you never feel overly confident at it, and to be honest parenting is very a much a two-player game between a parent and a child. Talk about always learning, always learning, always learning. Parenting each of my kids has brought out something completely different in all our relationships – they have made me grow up far more than I was comfortable with at first, and they kept me young at heart more than anything else could have.
Parenting Tips for Raising Se7en + 1 Kids…
Well once I got started with three tips for Marcia, I got on a bit of a roll and in no particular order…
- Everything looks Better in Daylight:
- Enjoy the Moment:
- Your Kids Need You, Not Stuff:
- Set Your Kids up to Succeed:
- Equal is Never Ever Fair:
- Not Every Moment Has to be Picture Perfect to be Perfect:
- Children are Short, Not Stupid: Adults so often make this mistake and think that they can talk down to children or worse, be sickly sweet with children, when actually those adults would rather be doing anything else. Try it, talk to a child like a person and you will be strangely surprised how eloquently they respond. Kids see right through our fake voices, we call it the gym voice… When you are at gym and you hear mums saying, “Darling, just get out of the shower will you, just pick up your towel, just get dressed for the ten millionth time.” That mum is about to pop and everyone knows it, even the kid. You can be true to yourself and respectful at the same time, while I am polite to my children, “please and thank yous” flow freely, children understand grumpy days and moody moments a whole lot better than we think. We want them to know that we love them no matter what, so let’s give them the chance to love us, no matter what.
- Expect Great Things:
- You Wish Your Kids Knew How to do Something:
- What they Don’t Know They Won’t Miss:
- Your Kids Are a Team, Treat Them Like One:
- Don’t Fix What Ain’t Broke:
So I Asked My Kids… What do I always say when mums ask me for advice… and the first thing I say is get as comfy as you can and make it through to the morning. Somehow walking the halls at night with crying babe, or sitting in the bathroom while a kid has croup or worse a tummy bug… seems terminally hard. And never quite so hard in the daylight. Don’t try and make it through to next week, or next month… just get to the morning and everything will seem so much better. And if all else fails… and here my gang collapsed in a heap, “I always say, go for a walk.” Who knew I said that, but it is true. I always say, go for a walk… after even a short walk to the mailbox or a long walk to the end of the block (!), all grumpiness tends to dissipate. Very often a much needed nap will follow, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.
There are so many nay sayers… really. “Just wait until they are teething, crawling, toilet training… ” There are the woeful ones, the terrible two’s, the theatrical threes, the fearsome fours and the frantic fives… Not to mention, just wait until they are teenagers. Well teenagers are delightful, and nothing beats the deep sleep of a trying two year old collapsed in your arms. There is always something to love right now… I know this sounds crazy, but don’t wish away your child’s childhood. We long for these babies, we work so hard to have them and then our crazy dashing world says – hurry up and make grow up. Well this is one time when you should go against the grain and linger longer. Enjoy these little ones while they are small because it really does all fly by so fast.
We live in the world of marketers and child rearing has become, just like sport, a marketers dream… without a million products you cannot raise a child. Don’t believe it for a second. There are millions and bazillions of perfectly fine kids all over the world who didn’t have a special wedge in their cot, in fact they didn’t have a cot… they didn’t have special educational mobiles that rocked them to sleep while singing Mozart, and still those kids grow up to be fine. The one advantage that you can really give your kids is just being there alongside them. This will be far more key to your kids “getting ahead” than any extra mural or any multi-sensory toy ever. And your kids don’t need you to be doing special crafts, special dates, special activities, special anything. You there lying on the couch on a lazy afternoon asking about the game they are playing or their walk earlier counts for so much more than you think. And no marketer is ever going to tell you that – EVER.
I have said this before and I will say it again, kids need three things to survive… lots of sleep, nutritious food and plenty of fresh air. Their parents need the same. Those three things together. The child that is sleep deprived isn’t going to eat well and will hate fresh air; the child that is never hungry, won’t sleep comfortably and just can’t run around outdoors; and woe to the poor child that never gets to be in the great outdoors, because they will never feel the fatigue of a good days play and they will never stimulate their senses enough to enjoy tasty food. When you see a parent-child couple melting down anywhere, then usually one of those factors is not in play. When you have crying baby and they have cried for hours… wrapping them up and going for a walk is often the best medicine for everyone. Often when I am gathered with mums of little people they just seem to feed and feed and feed them. The snack industry sure is making millions out of moms of tots. When these kids say they are hungry, they are really just bored and a walk in the park, or races in the garden would be equally satisfying.
This might not be a tip, so much as a pet hate… but treating siblings equally is actually quite mean. I know when you have your first child you think you will never love another the same, turns out… you will love subsequent children, totally and differently. Each child is perfect in their own delightful way. Where one child loves trucks and the other loves wild animals, I can assure you if you want to treat them equally no one is going to be happy: One child will hate the truck they are given or the other will hate the toy zebra. And if you compromise and get two zebra trucks – just no-one will be happy. Seriously treat your children as individuals, and gift them in the way that fills them up. If one child likes to chat away while you are washing dishing dishes and another likes to sit in your chair and read a book… for me that works. There is enough love for all our kids, we just have get creative and giving the love that fills them up. The most obvious case of treating kids fairly vs equally is when once in blue moon we go and let everyone choose a treat… imagine if I said all eight of my kids had to have the same treat… eight of the same is never quite as glorious as eight carefully selected.
Often good enough is really quite perfect enough. So you didn’t get a multilayer, triple sponge, double chocolate cream birthday cake… and you grabbed yesterday’s breakfast muffin and stuck a candle in it instead. That’s fine. For years we had magical, marvellous birthday parties… heaps of our early blog posts are about them. By the time I had five children I was hanging on for dear life and by six I just gave up in despair. But kids love parties and they love being celebrated… so now we have an ordinary cake, often they make it themselves, and invite all their friends over for a play date. There is no expectation of elaborate crafts, or jumping castles or creative party packs… just a play and cake and of course “Singing Happy Birthday” and everyone is totally happy. Really, often good enough is good enough… Movie night can just be a movie… one movie, you don’t have to have special snacks and popcorn everywhere and late bedtimes… just a movie. Who would’ve thought.
Kids naturally rise to your expectations. If you aim too low, don’t be disappointed. So many folks say they can’t take their children to a restaurant, they just can’t sit still for longer than a minute. Hello, the same children that can watch a full length movie five times in a row. Sitting still is not the problem. Engaging them and talking to them about what is happening and can they see the waitress and what colour plate do they think they will have, and do they need help with their napkin (not likely)? The question is, do small children really want to go out to a grown up restaurant and eat grown up food with you, not to mention try new things? You bet they do, kids love being treated like they are people. They want to use real tools, not plastic imitation ones, they want to use real art materials and they can, they want to be just like us. It is really up to us to enable them.
Then stop and take the time to teach them… if you hate tying shoelaces, or hanging up bath towels, or stacking dishes… even small children can be taught how to do this. Then leave them to it, no one likes to be bossed around, least of all kids. If you have taught them then leave them… if they ask for help offer it, and if they are clearly failing, reteach… but don’t ever hover, then the only person trained is actually you. It takes time to teach them, yes, but it is so empowering for them to do things for themselves. Really the smaller the better, is the time to teach them all sorts of wonderful things. If you wish your children could sit nicely at the dinner table, take the time to teach them what that means to you. You actually have to sit down with them and eat nicely at the table yourself. Because children learn by what you are doing… if you are scampering around the kitchen cleaning up and chatting on the phone while they are having dinner then they will most likely do the same.
My kids never knew that bedtime was an issue, so bed has always been somewhere they want to go at the end of the day. Somewhere to linger and lie in the dark and chat together as they drift off to sleep. The same can be said for take-outs and candy and sugary drinks – if they don’t know about it, they won’t miss it and they won’t develop a taste for it. When my kids were small they had an elderly aunt that said, “Shame,” every time she saw them… because they were always drinking water and eating fruit… Really I was just too spartan with them and they would never cope in the “real world” if they didn’t learn how to handle candy and juice in moderation as a small child. Well my kids did get treats from time time, but they are convinced that while adults can drink juice, children can only drink water. And as for candy and treats, they can dive in with the best of them but on special occasions… it isn’t a daily thing and it isn’t even a weekly thing. What they don’t have they just don’t miss.
If you have more than one kid then you probably want them to grow up to be fab friends and yet somehow that friendship can very often look like a war zone. The thing that makes relationships work is time together, not quality time – it is quantity time. If your kids are always flying in opposite directions and to different activities… then their shared experience will most likely be car pooling – and everyone knows that isn’t the best place to generate good times. Think of ways that your kids can spend hours together, sharing every day things and plenty of time to chat about life together. I have a feeling that creating shared memories and a history together is important to friendship down the line. And if your life is chaotic then schedule time for your kids to spend together, just them, not them and a friend each… not them in their own rooms down the corridor from each other. Take them for an amble, let them bake together, anything really… time together is the glue that binds.
Just because other folks are all doing it, just because all the parenting books say you must do this or that… if something is working for you then leave it. Your kids will eventually stop nursing, they will use a bathroom and they will even sleep in their own beds – you can force them, or go with flow. It is going to happen anyway, so relax and enjoy the ride. For example, some folks stress so much about toilet training they spend the first two years of their child’s life asking them if they need to go to the bathroom or not… I would rather show my kids heaps of other things and grow a huge vocabulary … they will spend enough of their lifetime discussing toileteering habits without any encouragement from me.
There you go, a heap of tips all in one post… please pop over and visit my friend Marcia, she has an entire series of parenting tips on the go!!!