It’s been 11 fun years in my parenting journey, and these are a few things I’ve learnt :
1. A happy mom is a good mom
You’ve heard people say, ‘If Momma is happy, then the whole household is happy..’, and how true it is. If I’m not getting any decent breaks or ‘me’ time, I quickly become unhappy, frazzled, and irritable. And when I’m frazzled and irritable, the first thing to go is my patience! I’ll be less tolerant of the kids’ minor misdemeanours and antics…and soon there’ll be a whole household of unhappy people!
So I’ve learnt that I can’t try and do it all and be it all (for everyone), without taking time out for me – to have fun, and do something that isn’t for someone else. There’s only so much sacrificing you can do – before you stretch yourself too thin. Do something nice for yourself once in a while!
2. Children don’t need a lot to be happy and fulfilled
They really don’t! When I first had a baby, I got the colour co-ordinated cot bumper, curtains, soft toy and cushions – it had to be P-E-R-F-E-C-T for my little cherub. Did my cherub care?!! No, not in the slightest. He didn’t even notice. Just one special soft toy was all he needed – the homemade one granny made for him, not the expensive shop bought one.
A few years ago, my husband and I thought we’d find out what kind of holiday our boys would love to go on – and asked them to come up with their ideal holiday destinations and activities – top of their list was swimming, playing in the park and camping! Unlike us, I might add, who were listing Mauritius, Seychelles and Egypt!!
Recently, this truth was brought home to me yet again when we booked an overseas holiday just the other day – my youngest son, when told, said to me, ‘but I prefer to have my holiday at home’. I was quite literally dumbfounded… but there you go – simple, fun activities (and mainly just time spent with us), are what he most wants.
Both my boys are perfectly happy with a small wardrobe of clothes, toys/games bought only really at birthdays or Christmas, and holidays at home. Don’t buy into the materialistic lie that you have to furnish them with everything imaginable and new things all the time – they don’t get happy, they get overwhelmed.
3. Spending time with your children is the best ‘good behaviour tip’ out there
When my children’s behaviour starts to get bad, I do a quick reality check : how much time (quality and quantity) am I spending with them? How much am I really listening when they talk to me and try to get my attention (without my phone in my hand), and how much am I playing games with them or doing activities with them that they find fun?
A lot of naughty behaviour is just a cry for attention. If your children are driving you wild, and don’t seem to be listening to you – try this : just give them 30 minutes of focussed attention that makes them feel special, wanted and loved by you – and see if their behaviour shifts. I bet you it will.
4. They will catch your values if you value theirs
Sometimes it can be very frustrating when our children don’t seem to share our values – they just don’t ‘get it’. But influence generally comes from relationship, and if they’re not catching onto our values – it’s our relationship with them that needs work, not more rules. Switch your focus – try taking an interest in what they love – what they love to do, who they enjoy being with, what makes them feel good – and when they know you’re really interested in their life and what makes them ‘tick’, they’ll turn around and offer you the same – wanting to hear what you think, what you feel, and what your opinion is on the important issues of life.
5. Structure, routine and boundaries lead to a more peaceful home
Children need structure and routine – it makes them feel safe and secure. They may tell you that they don’t want to bath or shower, don’t feel like going to bed, and aren’t ready to stop playing to have dinner, but the truth is that their little brains crave structure and a sense of order to their lives. If there’s no order in their lives, the world seems like a scary, chaotic place that they can’t understand or make sense of.
Boundaries are equally important – even though they push them constantly – they need you to set the limits – which will set them up for success. It’s incredible how much more peace and calm there is in our home when everyone knows what they’re supposed to be doing and when. This doesn’t mean we don’t love being spontaneous – I’m an extremely spontaneous person and I love to do unexpected things for fun – but when the spontaneity comes out of a home that is primarily well ordered – it’s a welcome refresher, rather than just more chaos.
6. Keeping limits on technology can be hard (but really is worth it)
We have long winters here in the UK. The temptation is high to let kids play on their Xbox, Playstation or tablet all day. But it really is better for them (and for their brain development) to limit their time in front of a screen. We have set days when we allow them to play on tablets or the computer, and all electronic devices stay in family areas – the lounge or dining area – not in their bedrooms. They also often have to complete homework, an extra challenge or goal, and/or household chores before they get the privilege of time on electronic devices.
These are some of the benefits we’ve noticed when we’ve limited their technology time :
– Our relationship with them improves and we feel closer to them : they are more chatty and let us into their inner lives (and school life!) more
– They are more creative – they start spending time drawing, inventing games (their own paper based board games), thinking up variations on existing games, and generally their imaginations soar.
– They are less ‘hyped up’ and generally better behaved, and more co-operative at dinner and bedtime
– They get outdoors more and enjoy all the benefits that involves
– They enjoy a greater variety of activities and ‘broaden’ their worlds and thinking
– Their conversation is more interesting (they’re not just talking about the video game they’re always playing!)
-They argue less with each other
7. They’re as innocent – and respectful – as you groom them to be
I hear Moms complain about how disrespectful their children are to them sometimes, and it saddens me! It doesn’t have to be that way! Lack of respect happens when we let it go – again and again and again – until it becomes out of hand, and they are always talking to you with a bad attitude. Also, if everytime you speak to them, you are impatient, irritable or sarcastic – they’ll soon pick that up and do it back. So sometimes it starts by speaking to them with honour and respect – and being gracious with their mistakes.
I’ve learnt that if I address it quickly when one of my children starts speaking to me disrespectfully – then it stops. Sometimes they need a quiet conversation specifically about the issue of their attitude – and I’ll probe to see if there’s something else behind it – maybe I upset them without realising it, by not sticking to a promise, or saying something thoughtless and uncaring – and I’ll need to apologise to make it right.
Innocence is another thing that I feel passionate about with children – children are exactly that – children. I get really saddened when I see young boys and girls becoming grown up before their time. Childhood is precious – and short – they have their whole lives to be adults. Why would we want them to learn now to feel the need to be in the latest fashion, have a girlfriend or boyfriend, or watch movies with ratings above their age? When we do that, they’ll only become jaded and nonchalant about everything – and we’ll pay the price, by having precocious, difficult to please children on our hands. It won’t make them better people – or better prepare them for adulthood. Being a child for as long as possible will.
8. You really can be in charge
Sometimes I need to remind myself that I am the parent – not them. And so my husband and I are in charge – and our leadership in our home is badly needed. No matter how unpopular that may make us at times with our children if we want them to do something that they don’t want to do – we get to decide. It’s okay. They’ll thank us one day!
9. Children are masters at ‘enjoying the moment’
I love how my children have taught me to ‘enjoy the moment’ more. Have you ever noticed how naturally good they are at it?!! It may frustrate us sometimes when we are in a hurry to get somewhere and they dawdle like they don’t have a care in the world (because they don’t!!) – but wouldn’t you love to be more like that?!! We all need a bit of that in our lives. So next time, enjoy the moment with them – slow down. You’ll probably find yourself getting destressed and enjoying life much more 🙂
10. It really DOES go fast
Motheres of older children and grandmothers told me this – but of course I didn’t believe them. When my kids were babies, it felt like an eternity! But it really DOES go fast. They grow up so quick – and there are many ‘firsts’ that become ‘lasts’ – the last time you bath them, the last time they’ll hold your hand in public, the last time they need your help with homework. It’s made me realise that I need to treasure each day and each moment, because the day will come when they leave home. And much as they’ve invaded my life, my home, my car (!) and my time, they’ve also invaded my heart – and I’m NOT looking forward to the day when they move out. Life with them is more fun, richer, more crazy and just more great.
11. Praise works so much better than criticism
I have worked out that praise is a more effective motivator than criticism. In fact, especially with boys, it’s not very effective to focus on more than one thing that you want changed! They can’t cope! If there’s something they’re doing (or not doing) that needs changing or improving (like honesty or tidiness or thoughtfulness) and they’re obviously just naturally not good at it, then I’ll look for small signs of it to encourage – and give them lots of praise when I see it. This galvanises them to do more of it – they just love to live up to what we commend them for.
So how about you? What have been the most important things you’ve learnt as a parent? I’d love to hear!