Parenting-advice-2

What I Want My Daughter’s Biological Mom To Know

This is a note from me, her stepmother.

March 9, 2016

13 Parenting Hacks For Getting Your Child To Behave

Because it gets expensive to keep bribing them with candy.

October 16, 2015

Can Controlled Crying Affect A Baby’s Psychological Health?

Sleep is by far one of the biggest concerns of new parents, so if you’ve tried controlled crying it’s completely understandable. In a nutshell, this technique requires the baby or toddler to self-sooth. This is accomplished by placing them in a safe place like their cot or crib and allowing them to cry themselves to sleep. Of course, there’s a lot more to it, but that’s the general concept.

RELATED: The Ultimate Parenting Tip …Consistency

Despite controlled crying being a salvation to exhausted parents, I recently read a very different perspective about it in a new book called Becoming A Mother: A Journey of Uncertainty, Transformation and Falling in Love. The author, Leisa Stathis, talks about how controlled crying can be detrimental to child psychological development and how it can greatly effect parental-child bonding.

This made a lot of sense to me, having used controlled crying myself. This was twenty odd years ago when it was highly popular, however, and when no one considered the psychological effects on the infant. It was all about the parent getting some sleep – and boy did I really need some!

So, back to the book. Quite simply, Leisa wrote that we wouldn’t want an adult to cry themselves to sleep repeatedly. That would be cruel. So why on earth are parents encouraged to place their babies and toddlers in this situation? As a parent, this made me wince. What Leisa put so simply was 100 per cent correct.

She went on to say that babies and toddlers cry for a reason – and yes, some more so than others. My youngest had a very healthy set of lungs, but that was his only form of communication. With age he continues to have a lot to say, but obviously in being older he can now express it. What’s more is that when he does, I listen.

That made me think about what I had done by using controlled crying. As a young child, I would put him in his room and chose not to attend to his cry. Granted it wasn’t easy, many a tear was shed using the professional advice I was given, despite it going against my gut instinct as a mother.

After reading Leisa’s take on controlled crying, I realised I wasn’t alone. Many parents expressed they too felt this technique went against their maternal instinct. It really doesn’t feel natural to leave a crying infant alone for any period of time, let alone to allow them to cry themselves to sleep.

Over time controlled crying has been reported as being detrimental to infant development. Bruce Perry, a psychiatrist who specialises in this field and the impact trauma has on the brain, believes infants don’t learn how to self-sooth at all using this method. Instead, they develop a defeat response.

This occurs because they essentially give up on crying. They do this because their cries yield no response from their parent. Eventually they learn that their cries for comfort will go unanswered – this is why they cease to cry. It’s got nothing to do with learning to self-sooth, as was previously thought. Instead, they rapidly learn that they are very much alone in this world. So in turn, this impacts their ability to trust and does nothing to strengthen the maternal bond.

Thankfully, I have a wonderful relationship with my kids, but I can see first hand the detrimental effects it’s had, particularly on my youngest child. My eldest is far more capable of regulating his emotions, while my youngest has always struggled. In hindsight, I wish I could turn back the sands of time and try something else. If only we had a crystal ball to inform us of our mistakes as we make them!

So in closing, it just goes to show that your maternal instinct will always be your best point of reference. This is the message Leisa Stathis delivers in her book, Becoming A Mother: A Journey of Uncertainty, Transformation and Falling in Lovewhich I highly recommend.

Image via mamamaike.nl

September 16, 2015

Throwback Thursday: 10 Positive Parenting Tips

Children are continually learning and evolving, so being constant in your positive parenting techniques will help in shaping and dealing with your child’s behaviour. Here are 10 top tips on how to achieve harmony but also deal with those inevitable lows.

1. Talk and get to know your child

All children are different, so make time to find out what your child’s interests are and what angers him/her. Consider the tone and volume that you use, as this can make a big difference to how much your child listens and respects you.

2. Listen to your child

It’s important to listen to your child whether he/she is worried, angry or happy. If your child doesn’t feel you’re showing due consideration to their anxiety, he/she may act out, rebel or withdraw.

3. Engage in your child’s interests and introduce him/her to new ones

Whether playing, fishing, stamp collecting or engaging in sports, being active in your child’s life in a fun and stimulating way is important to their development.

4. Set boundaries and punish effectively

Children need to know where the boundaries lie before they can keep to them, so when they are testing how far they can go you need to be firm but fair. Ensure that you are constant, and when you punish them, and that you explain why they are being punished, so they will learn for the future. For a young child, placing him/her in the corner for a few minutes can be effective, while older children might be grounded. It’s a good idea to investigate why your child misbehaved before punishing him/her though.

5. Notice and praise good behaviour

Just as important as setting boundaries is rewarding your child when he/she is well behaved.

6. Praise your child’s achievements

Ask your child about their performance and achievements in school, sports, clubs and hobbies, and show your recognition, as this will make them happy and motivated to continue achieving.

7. Build self confidence

As your child grows up they will need to get used to making new friends and dealing with difficult situations. Show your child your love, and try to support your child without getting too involved so that they become more independent. Avoid comparing him/her to your other children as this can reduce confidence further.

8. Understand changes and let them learn from their own mistakes

Your child will inevitably change over time and make mistakes, and there will be difficult times, so do your best to understand and accept these moments. Don’t be afraid to let your child deal with his/her own consequences, as only in this way will they learn from their mistakes.

9. Deal with mistakes and downfalls positively

Your child will probably be as upset as you are, so for the sake of your sanity, your relationship with your child, and you child’s behaviour, try not to be pessimistic in the bad times. It will get better.

10. Look after your health and be optimistic

Your child will react to your behaviour and your attitude towards them, so in order to retain your positive parenting techniques, ensure you are happy with yourself, in good health, and able to set a good example for your child.

July 9, 2015

The Downside Of Being A Stay-At-Home Mum

If you’ve ever considered being a stay-at-home mum you really need to be aware of the reality of your decision. Expectant parents are often naive about the choices they’re making because it can be very difficult to imagine the future. They may think it will be better for the baby and their family for mum to stay home, when in fact it’s a full on mental, physical, emotional and often financial test of endurance. Not only does the mother need to be strong, but so does the relationship between both parents.

RELATED: Is There A Perfect Time To Start A Family?

So, what are some of the downsides to being a stay-at-home mum? OMG, where do I start!? There’s isolation for one – that’s a big factor because the majority of women are choosing to go back to work. Unlike women in the fifties who all stayed at home and raised their children like a community, that just isn’t the case now.

For the majority of the time a stay-at-home mum will be alone with the kids. There isn’t a lot of adult conversation to be had unless you join a local playgroup. However, they are only run a few times a week at most and you would need to find one where you get along with the other mums. So in reality, a typical stay-at-home mum does spend an incredible amount of time on her own.

With all that alone time depression can creep in because humans find isolation so difficult. This puts the new mum at risk of Post Natal Depression and this will put an enormous strain on everything she does. She will struggle to look after the baby, herself, and her relationships, so essentially she will isolate herself even more.

If she’s lucky enough to avoid Post Natal Depression, the isolation can affect other aspects of her life. For example, have you ever tried to have a conversation with a stay-at-home mum who only talks about her kids? Some women get all consumed by the task of parenting and actually forget there’s a whole world out there that doesn’t revolve around their children. This can be an added stress on a relationship, especially when hubby comes home and all she can talk about is dirty nappies and housework.

This brings me to yet another factor that can be affected: the partnership between parents. As they are generally only on the one income, finance is usually tighter than previously experienced. Additionally, there are multiple expenses associated with having a baby because cute little tackers aren’t cheap to keep!

Unless the relationship between the parents is rock solid, becoming a stay-at-home mum will put pressure on both parties. Her partner will likely be tired from a day at work and she will need some time out from bubs when he gets home. Not to forget babies need to learn the difference between night and day and new parents get very little sleep. Overall, this is a recipe for disaster unless both parents are willing to put in the hard work to survive their situation.

Then, depending on how long the stay-at-home mum has been out of the work force for, she will also struggle in many cases to return to a decent position. Some women stay home until their youngest child is in primary school and for some this may take longer than a decade. Imagine the change to workplaces and technology within that time! She would have to stay trained during her stint at home to even get considered for a position.

I could go on and on about the downside of being a stay-at-home mum, but I think you can get the picture. In many ways having some outlet of work, adult contact and responsibilities outside of the home could be a positive thing. Plus, having that away time from the kids is essential to retain some part of the person they were prior to motherhood. Regardless of what choice expectant parents make, they need to fully appreciate both sides of the equation very carefully.

Image yahoo.com

July 8, 2015

Why You Should Say No To Kids’ Gift Registries

Do you get annoyed by super-expensive wedding gift registries? Especially when you’ve left it to the last minute, and all that’s left is a $500 cutlery set?

RELATED: Best Kids Themed Birthday Parties

Brace yourself, poor beleaguered parents – kids’ birthday gift registries are an increasingly popular new trend both in Australia and overseas.

Many upmarket small children’s toy and clothing stores and gift shops now offer the wish list service, as do big retailers like Myer, Amazon and Toys “R” Us and Babies “R” Us.

Other top-end kids’ stores have started offering expensive “bespoke baby hampers” with just the right styling lest you – gasp – commit the cardinal sin of not purchasing the perfect baby gift.
So, have kids’ and babies’ birthday parties gone too far? Or does a gift registry actually help frazzled, time-poor parents?

How would you feel if you received a kids’ birthday party invitation, with a gift registry which included over-the-top, expensive gifts? Of course, this is the norm in la-la land, whereby Hollywood celebrities wouldn’t think twice about buying kids exorbitant and outrageous gifts, such as diamond-encrusted dummies (pictured) and/or a mini Ferrari worth US$25,000.

kids gift registries, parenting, parenting advice

I was recently shocked, when shopping for birthday gifts for my youngest toddler who’s turning two, at some of the super pricey items stocked at a local, small retailer who specialises in cool and quirky kids’ gifts. The store also proudly displayed a sign saying it offered kids’ gift registries.

And then when my three-year-old toddler who had accompanied me started eyeing off a gorgeous, expensive-looking tulle tutu dress in the store, sans price tag, I knew it was time to make a hasty retreat.

“How much is this pretty dress?” I asked the sales assistant, as my three-year-old made a series of small, delighted squeals and on-the-spot twirls while admiring the dress.

“It’s $350,” said the snooty sales assistant, “And handmade,” she quickly added, upon seeing the frown on my face before I speedily escorted my toddler out the door.

Now, I’m not immune to occasionally spending a fortune on my small people, but that’s a bit steep for a kids’ dress she’ll quickly outgrow, if you ask me. And I don’t care if it was handmade by silk worms! I promptly took my little one to Big W and got her a $30 tutu dress she was equally enamoured with.

kids gift registries, parenting, parenting advice

It’s a sentiment shared by Dr Karen Phillip (pictured), who’s one of Australia’s leading relationship and parenting experts.

The counselling psychotherapist and clinical hypnotherapist, international author and keynote speaker, who’s based on the Central Coast of New South Wales, advises parents against setting up expensive kids’ birthday gift registries and buying super-costly children’s gifts, in general.

“Instead of buying a $350 dress for a child, or putting it on a kids’ gift registry, parents should think: ‘For $350, I can improve my child’s mind,’” Dr Phillip says.

“I don’t like kids’ gift registries personally due to the ramifications of the pressure parents put on themselves and their kids.

“The children’s expectations of themselves become escalated and then they crash and burn in their adolescence.

“I’m referring to their expectations to aspire to, not just gift giving, but expectations of behaviour and achievement – to have to be the best achiever, attain perfection and be good-looking.”

kids gift registries, parenting, parenting advice

And gift registries also greatly negatively impact parents,” Dr Phillip says. “I believe gift registries put unfair expectations on parents and often people can’t afford it – it just takes away from parents.
“People think: ‘I’m letting my child down’. It’s awful!

“And everything is measured against who bought what from the gift registry; it cheapens the process of gift giving.

“A gift registry for a wedding is practical, but a kids’ birthday gift registry for anyone under 16 is rubbish! Kids’ parties can turn into an absolute shemozzle because of the expectations and expense.

“Parents can’t afford it [kids’ gift registries] and some get angry and then the children get offended by the parents’ talking, because the walls have ears, and then the kids fight at school and they get ostracised and bullied.

“It’s also really sad for the kids having the parties when no one shows.”

Dr Phillip says it’s crucial parents instill a sense of gratitude in their children. In addition, open discussion between parents pre-parties was one way to take the stress and expense out of gift giving.

“It’s a good idea for parents to advise other parents of what their child is into or likes as this aids gift purchase,” she says. “So, advising what interests the child is wise without selecting gifts for purchase [via a registry], which may be construed as arrogant.”

kids gift registries, parenting, parenting advice

Mum of two, Erina Natho, 35, from Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, who has four-month-old and two-year-old daughters, is not a fan of expensive kids’ birthday gift registries either.

“I would never do it, personally,” Mrs Natho says. “I think anything creating a big expectation in our kids is not good.

“They should get excited by the small things, like a book or a toy, not a big, expensive gift registry.

“I don’t want my kids to miss out on anything either, but then I think about my own childhood, growing up in the 80s, in a single-parent household. I grew up knowing where everything came from, as everything was laybyed.

“These days, kids expect too much. I used to make my own fun! What’s wrong with paint and a bit of imagination?”

While the busy mum concedes kids’ birthday gift registries would prevent parents from doubling up on gifts, Mrs Natho agrees with Dr Phillip that it’s preferable for parents to talk to each other about what kids actually need before buying gifts.

“If I was faced with an expensive kids’ birthday gift registry, I’d probably go: ‘Wow, you know what? I’m going to go get what I want’,” she says.

“At the end of the day, it’s about the joy of giving and the sentiment involved.”

For more information on Dr Phillip, visit www.karenphillip.com.au.

What do you think? Are kids’ birthday gift registries a good idea or an unnecessary evil?

Images via www.lifehacker.com.au; everydaylife.globalpost.com; newsfeed.time.com and www.bornrich.com.

March 25, 2015

Introducing Your New Baby To Siblings

No matter how well you’ve prepared your older kids for the arrival of your new baby, you’re probably still nervous about the actual event. How are your older kids going to react? Will they like the baby? Will they know you still love them? If you’re wondering how to make this first encounter run smoothly, here are some things you can try.

RELATED: How To Explain Childbirth To Young Chidren

Prepare gifts

Encourage your children make some gifts for the baby before the birth. It will help them feel grown up and important, and ready for their new role as a big brother or sister. My children made a bead necklace for their new baby sister – not the most appropriate item for a new baby, but it was very cute and I still have it in my box where I keep precious memories. You can also prepare a gift from the baby to her older siblings.

Be available to greet your older children

Whether your children are coming to visit you at the hospital or you’re returning home with your new bundle, have your hands free to give cuddles and reassurance. Ask the person who’s bringing them to the hospital give you a call before they get there or have someone else carry the baby when you arrive home.

Get your older children involved

Let them hold the baby and bring you items you might need. Take lots of pictures with them and your new baby, but be careful that you have some pictures of just you and your newborn, too, or the baby might get upset once she grows up. We had to look through my daughter’s baby photos for a school project recently and she wanted a photo of the two of us together. No luck, she was either by herself in the picture or her older brother was always there!

Be prepared that your older children may get jealous and act out in the beginning, but they will soon come to accept and love their new baby brother or sister.

Image by sathyatripodi via pixabay.com

March 16, 2015

How To Combat Toddler Fears

It’s no secret that as a mother of a toddler, you’ll have to find superwoman-like mind strength and Mother Teresa-like patience.

RELATED: Rude Toddlers: How To Teach Kids Tact

Small people are a trying bunch; ridiculously cute, but ever-growing and evolving, they can shock and surprise you with new habits, such as toddler fears, just when you think you’ve got them all worked out. A case in point is my three-year-old daughter, who’s suddenly developed an almighty fear of the “big bath.”

You see, my husband and I bathed her and her two-year-old sister together in a small baby bath within our big bath up until only recently, because it was easier to contain two slippery little tykes. But now that they’ve well and truly outgrown it, we’ve upgraded to the adult-size bath and OMG, the tears and the tantrums?! I swear our neighbours must think we’re child abusers. The horror!

toddlers, raising toddlers, parenting advice

It’s the flush-down-the-drain dread that’s got my little one losing her tiny mind. What’s more, no amount of soothing or coaxing seems to help and she’s stubbornly refusing to sit down in the bath each night, all the while screaming like a banshee as if we’re torturing her.

Meanwhile, her two-year-old sister is equally baffled by her odd behaviour and then she works herself up into a frenzy in kind, after witnessing her sibling’s nightly bath-induced meltdowns. It’s like dealing with terrorists, I tell you! And all this is very upsetting at times and far from bloody ideal.

Child health experts say toddler fears are very common, in part due to their ever-evolving imaginations. As they grow, they start to realise they can get hurt and bad things can happen.

toddlers, raising toddlers, parenting advice

Experts say never admonish or belittle your child over his or her immoveable fears. Instead, we parents must dig deep and give our toddlers an ample dose of sympathy. We’re also advised to tell our little ones that it’s OK to have fears and praise any progress he or she makes, no matter how little.

That’s all good and well, but my advice is you may need a glass of wine (or two) afterwards, too. It’s hard to see your child upset and beyond reason, but like all toddler phases – this soon shall pass. At least that’s what my friends tell me!

Common toddler fears

  • The bath
  • Animals
  • Loud noises
  • Doctor visits
  • Santa and other costumed performers
  • Strangers
  • The ocean
  • The dark

What do you think? What are your toddler’s fears?

Images via todaysparent.com, drgreene.com and magicmum.com

March 11, 2015

Weekend Wit: What If Toddlers Were In Charge?

On TV recently I saw a toddler roaming freely around a moving car. When questioned, it was stated that the toddler refused to sit in the seat or wear a belt. I think the child was about two years old. Now despite the fact it was ludicrous stating this as a valid excuse to avoid a fine, it did get the cogs turning. I thought to myself, what if all toddlers were really in charge? Can you imagine what that scenario would look like behind closed doors?

RELATED: Weekend Wit: Kids say the darnedest things

For starters, I wonder what would be on the menu? Fruit, veggies and custard with stewed apples? I highly doubt it. As soon as that kid got a taste of McDonald’s and began collecting those happy meal figurines I’m pretty sure fruit and veggies wouldn’t get much of a look in. As far as drinks go, I reckon they’d ditch their water bottles or pop tops and go for a nice cold glass of Coke. They don’t care if they don’t sleep or if their teeth rot.

Which brings me to bedtime. As they’re fully hyped up on sugar and processed foods, bedtime would become a thing of the past. An overtired toddler has no idea what’s going on. They just scream until they get their own way. Which, by the way, they have no idea what that is. What’s the bet they’d hold out until they couldn’t hold out anymore and just drop on the spot and sleep where ever they happened to land.

Be aware though that as soon as you move them, they’ll wake up. A toddler in charge wants attention day and night, especially when you want to sleep. Not to mention that your sex life will definitely suffer. Toddlers don’t know that mummy and daddy need alone time. When they do finally sleep, they’d prefer to do it snuggled up next to you. This not only assures attention but will prevent you from having another child. This means they’ll get to rule the roost for years to come and never be required to share.

Now bathtime could possibly go one way or the other depending on the child’s preference. You could either get a nudist always wanting warm water for the tub or a stinky baby who won’t go near it. Toddlers don’t have a middle ground and it will be all or nothing.

As far as entertainment goes, the TV would be permanently on and switched to ABC kids. If they’ve grasped the concept of DVDs you might get a continuous playback of the Wiggles, Dora the Explorer or Thomas the Tank engine. You can forget the late-night crime shows or reality TV. Hubby can totally forget about watching sport as well. Toddlers just aren’t into that and remember it’s all about them, so you’ll have no say.

There won’t be any more adult outings either. All trips would either be to the local park, beach or swimming pool. They generally hate the shops, so you’d need to order everything online. Plus you won’t be heading to the movies, pub or club anytime soon. You may get away with visiting friends or relatives but as soon as the toddlers had enough you’ll need to leave.

You may get to sneak off to work but the toddler won’t be too happy when mum leaves the house. They have no idea that work equals housing, food and entertainment. If you’re lucky, all income will need to be brought in by dad if the toddler lets him leave. There won’t be working from home options either. That toddler’s going to demand your attention 24/7.

In the car, you’ll probably experience what the toddler did at the beginning of the story. Defiant till the end, they won’t want to be restrained. They have no fear and safety to a toddler isn’t even a word! They’ll jump around from front to back and probably end up perched in the front seat on the driver’s lap driving the damn car. They don’t care they just want the best view.

So consider the chaos it would cause if toddlers did run the show. Was it just in the car that the toddler had control? I somehow doubt that. Perhaps this a glimpse at how they really live? Hmm, the mind really does boggle. What were these people thinking? Don’t they know toddlers grow into teens? If they think their life is bad now, wait till that happens!

Image parentwin.com

February 22, 2015

Starting Kindergarten: Survival Tips For Parents

If your child is starting kindergarten, you’re probably experiencing an array of emotions right now. Proud that you’ve come so far on your parenting journey. Struggling to let your little one go. Overjoyed that you’ll have all this time to yourself. Sad that you’ll have all this time to yourself…

In addition to your own emotional roller coaster, your child may start behaving strangely. Tears in the morning, tantrums in the afternoon and you begin wondering if you’ve accidentally made a mistake and sent your two-year-old to school. Take heart, this behaviour is completely normal and will pass as your child adjusts. In the meantime, here are some things you can do to make the transition to kindergarten as smooth as possible both for you and for your child.

RELATED: 7 Tips For A Smoother School Run

Allow your child to express her emotions

Your little one is spending her days in a new environment, with a teacher she doesn’t know well yet. Numerous things happen during her time at school that may upset her, excite her or make her uncomfortable, but she doesn’t know how to deal with it all yet. By the end of the day she’s full of new impressions and disappointments. Then she sees you and to her that means safety. She can now relax, be herself and let her emotions flow. Don’t see her behaviour as naughty or annoying. Instead, accept that this is your child’s expression of trust and be her safety island.

Be a role model

This is a big change for yourself, too, so it’s normal to feel anxious. Do what you need to do to take care of your own emotions – have a good cry once your child has been dropped off, talk to a friend, do something nice for yourself and try to have a happy, relaxed attitude about school. Your child will pick up on your feelings, so model what you want to see in her.

Introduce an earlier bedtime

Your child is adjusting to change and she’s also required to work a lot harder than before, so she will be tired. Set up an earlier bed time routine to allow for extra rest. You will probably benefit from an earlier bedtime, too. Nothing helps better with emotions running wild than a good night’s sleep.

Minimise after-school activities

I can tell you from personal experience that there’s nothing quite as frustrating as trying to drag a reluctant 5-year-old to a gymnastics class after school and there’s absolutely no reason why you should have to go through it every week. If your child is feeling more tired and irritable than usual, put swimming and dance lessons on hold for the first term or two. You can always re-enroll in a few months, when your new student is happy and confident at school.

Hopefully, everything will be effortless for you and you won’t need any of my tips for starting kindergarten. But just in case you’re having a hard time, I want you to know that you’re not alone. And that your child (and you) will adjust.

Image by joduma via pixabay.com

February 9, 2015

5 Ways To Get Dads Involved In Parenting

Dads of the twenty first century are now expected to parent children, more than any other time in history. This includes step-dads, separated or divorced dads. While fathers have taken on disciplinary roles in the past, day to day parenting has traditionally been the responsibility of mothers.

The main issue with this massive shift in societal roles and expectations is lack of experience, knowledge and guidance. This is because many fathers of previous generations neglected critical aspects of parenting. For many, they just didn’t know how.

RELATED: The Ultimate Parenting Tip… Consistency

As a result today’s dads who want to be more involved in parenting, may lack the knowledge, skills or confidence. They won’t admit it, but many haven’t had sufficient exposure to effective role models. They are learning parenting skills from sources like the internet, other dads and their child’s mother.

This is why encouraging fathers to parent children is so vital. Not only in satisfaction raising them but to educate fathers of the future. Mothers need to play a pivotal role in achieving this. Particularly if they are going to make an impact on generations of parents who surpass them. The question is how?

Relinquish control

Mothers have an innate way of hovering over their offspring regardless of their age. This is an enormous responsibility, especially in the infancy stage and one which can and should be shared. Offering responsibilities to fathers will lighten the load and encourage involvement.

While most fathers would be happy for this to occur, it’s mothers who have stunted progress. The key here is for mothers to relinquish control. (Easier said than done!) It doesn’t matter if things aren’t done the same or if parenting styles aren’t exact. As long as both parents remain consistent children learn to adapt. This is a valuable life lesson which enables kids to adapt to different situations as they get older. Much like they do when they have multiple teachers at school.

Building confidence

It’s very easy to pick someone else’s parenting efforts to pieces, especially in the heat of the moment when kids play up. Ridiculing parenting efforts will only encourage fathers to doubt themselves and withdraw. The aim is to encourage, provide support, grow and learn together. This builds confidence in both parents.

When positive parenting efforts or changes occur, use praise and provide more opportunities for fathers to use their new skills. Remember, the only way to improve and gain confidence is to practice.

Communicate

Talk about your parenting experiences and issues often. I can’t stress this enough. This will provide an opportunity to become a united front. Kids need to know what their behavioural expectations are from both parents. If given the opportunity, they will divide and conquer to get their way. This applies from toddler to adult so you may as well start as soon as possible.

If they manage to divide you it will cause enormous strain on your family. As parents, set consistent boundaries together and most importantly enforce them. Communicating is the only way you can make this work, regardless of whether you are parenting together or apart. Separated parents have a much higher chance of being manipulated by kids to get their way. Communicate with your child’s father / step-father and make it a priority.

Remember not to attack but voice concerns if you have them. To avoid attacking start sentences with “I” instead of “you”, followed by the behaviour. Address the behaviour, not the individual. For example; “I feel uncomfortable when you…”. Instead of “You make me uncomfortable when you…”. Parenting can be a touchy subject, so be mindful of how you say what’s on your mind.

Alone time

It’s really important that fathers get alone time to bond with their kids. Separated parents often argue about this. Unless a child is in immediate danger, fathers should have private access to their kids. It’s all about what’s best for them, not how you feel personally about your ex. The children love you both, so keep negative parenting opinions to yourself.

If you are a partnered parent avoid pushing alone time opportunities upon fathers who need time out. Be fair and possibly create a schedule so both parents have parenting time alone. Also encourage fathers to take the kids away from home. Initially a park outing might be enough. Use gradual exposure to build confidence.

Fathers who have little exposure to their children alone in public are often quite timid about the idea. It’s generally a confidence thing. Plus the thought of anything going wrong and needing to report back to the mother is terrifying. Don’t laugh, because this is a viable rationale, especially for step-dads.

Give fathers time to learn

Finally, provide time for growth. Some fathers are intimidated by the responsibility, the actual size of babies or small children and above all making mistakes. Encourage them, provide opportunity and guidance, praise their efforts and above all be patient.

If you think it would be helpful find a local parenting group. Some are offered especially for fathers and some can be done together. They can be very helpful in educating both mothers and fathers adapt to their twenty first century parenting roles. Take a look at your local council website for options.

Image via dailymail.co.uk

January 29, 2015

Entertaining The Kids On A Tight Budget

Congratulations! You’ve made it more than halfway through the holidays without giving the kids away for adoption. Some of you may have thought about it though, so you’ll be hunting for some budget ideas to keep them busy, now and in the future. These ideas can occupy kids of various ages, will keep them out of mischief, encourage their creative side and keep them away from technology. They are also excellent for cognitive or motor development. As they get a bit older, they can do these activities unsupervised and you won’t need to hear that never ending  cry that they’re bored.

Sandpits

Sandpits don’t need to be works of art or inside tiny little shells. Especially to entertain older kids, just get a trailer load of sandpit sand and literally dump it anywhere! If you don’t have a trailer, you can get it delivered and it will still be great value for money.

Free sided sandpits are much safer, more fun and hygienic than the ones in neat little boxes. Your kids can pile the sand into a mound and jump in and out of it without injury and the sand dissipates into the grass or garden easily and just dispapears. Therefore, it won’t get old, moldy and germ ridden. It’s just like being at the beach, but it’s right in the backyard. When it gets low, just grab another trailer load and they will think it’s Christmas!

When my boys were younger, I set ours up so they were close enough to the house that I could hear them, but far enough away so by the time they reached the back door, most of the sand was still in the garden, not in the house. They could wander out there at will and I didn’t need to supervise every second of every day. They could use their imaginations and get precious time away from me to create and explore. I loved the sound of their voices out there knowing they were having fun, staying safe and being outside.

The busy box

I got the busy box idea from Playschool almost 20 years ago. It was a favorite with my kids during hot, cold or wet days. It grew in size from a small container and expanded as the kids got older and started sourcing their own materials. They would ask friends and relatives to save stuff for them and before long we were collecting enough to take extra stuff to their Playgroup and school for others to share.

We bought some things, like paints, textas, pencils, chalk, glitter, plain and colored paper. The rest was collected. They sourced old magazines, scraps of wrapping paper, bows and ribbons, cardboard rolls, discarded plastic containers or jars, pegs or pop sticks. It was only limited to their imagination, so we had a bit of everything. The hardest thing was keeping them out of the recycling bin!

We also collected stuff during outings for them to take home and make wall hangings or add to scrapbooks. Things like shells, small pebbles, flowers, leaves, gum-nuts, seeds, feathers, pamphlets of the attractions we visited, photos we took and even soil samples! These decorated their rooms, were given to friends and family, made into cards and wrapping paper, plus I always had something new and spectacular to hang on the fridge or frame and take to the office.

Image via blessingsmultiplied.com

January 24, 2015

Tales Of A Sleep School Survivor: Fix Or Folly?

If you’ve ever experienced the unrelenting horror of a baby who barely sleeps, you’ll understand only too well why so many desperate parents turn to sleep schools for help.

RELATED: How To Cope With New-Parent Sleep Deprivation

I was one of them – nine months of sleep deprivation with our second daughter, born just 18 months after our first, saw my poor, sleep-deprived husband and I worriedly searching for answers – anything we could find to help ease our pain.

Our first baby slept through the night like an angel from eight weeks, and when our second didn’t follow suit, we were shell-shocked to say the least. What the hell was going on? And, after reading what felt like 10,000 baby books and that still barely helping, our local child health nurse suggested a local Medicare-funded sleep school located within a hospital. A tiny glimmer of hope sprang forth in my heart.

You can attend these “family centres” as a family unit, but I chose to go it alone with our little problem sleeper so that my husband could care for our toddler without disrupting her routine.

Now, there are many different sleep schools out there – mine was a four to seven day residential centre which catered for parents and their children aged up to three. It aimed to teach the following: nutrition and feeding, sleep and settling techniques, relaxation and stress management and more.

sleep school, getting baby to sleep, sleeping through the night, sleep settling techniques

I will say from the outset that there are positives to be gained from attending such a centre, and I’m sure they help many people, but this one just wasn’t for me. For me, it felt a lot like a prison and I bristled every time a midwife gave unwanted, snarky and contradictory advice about everything from what my baby was wearing (too hot/too cold!) to the rare occasion when she was sucking on a dummy (dummies are the Antichrist!).

My nine-month-old baby and I were there to learn better sleep-settling techniques in a calm, supportive environment – or so I’d hoped. Instead, on our first night there, I was shocked and bewildered when a giant, matronly midwife started smacking my baby on the bum, with considerable force, as a sleep-settling technique!? My daughter was just as upset as I was, if not more so, poor little lamb.

I already had an effective sleep-settling routine down pat, pardon the pun, it’s just that my little one went easily to sleep, but wouldn’t ever stay there, waking every second hour or less, no matter what we tried. How was smacking her hard, to the point of shock/tears, going to help? I felt undermined and misunderstood.

And while they didn’t openly advocate “controlled crying” – the centre had another nicer name for it – they certainly were far too military tough with infants, in my opinion.

But perhaps the biggest fail about this particular centre was that it wasn’t sound-proof – each small room backed on to another and unfortunately for my daughter and I, we actually got less sleep than normal (which I’d never dreamt was possible) because our room was oh-so-inconveniently located next door to a three-year-old toddler (and his mum) whose ear-splitting howling 24/7 made me truly despair.

I lasted two nights of this incessant, God-awful noise right next to my ear before stomping out in the middle of the night to the nurses’ station to see what, if anything, was being done to help the poor mother, only to find a group of midwives on their coffee break, oblivious and uncaring to any distress, mine or otherwise.

sleep school, getting baby to sleep, sleeping through the night, sleep settling techniques
And, as to the reasons as to why my little one still wasn’t sleeping well through the night at that stage – I’ll never know – for as soon as she hit 10 months, mere weeks after our prison, sorry sleep-school experience, she started blissfully doing it all on her own.

Since then, a GP has told me many babies simply aren’t developmentally ready to sleep through the night until nine, ten months, maybe even longer, nor should we naively expect them to be, given they’re all little individuals, with different personalities. Wish I’d gotten this advice sooner!?

For us, my daughter’s sudden, improved sleep habits were nothing short of life-changing but, looking back, if I’d just had a bit more patience, we need not have endured the sleep school – I could have, should have, just waited it out a bit longer. Ah, the beauty of hindsight.

Now, some positives from the experience, just to round things out: it was free; I attended some interesting (did I mention free?) seminars; and I got to meet many other suffering parents, with whom I swapped war stories over coffee and biscuits in the common room. Many of us heartily bitched about the prison warden-like midwives in solidarity, too.

My advice? Try it, you might like it. This particular sleep school wasn’t for me, but it might work well for you. But go in prepared and stick to your guns – there’s no rulebook on parenting, follow what your heart and gut instincts are telling you. And all babies sleep through the night eventually – don’t lose hope, sister.

What do you think? Have you attended a sleep school?

Main image via ecoroa.eu, secondary image via presschoolmummy.com; final image via theelfsdeviantart.com

January 14, 2015

Shared Care Tips For Separated Parents

Millions of separated or divorced couples share care of their kids. For many of these people the kids are the only reason there continues to be a connection. Yes, it would be easier to remove them from your life, but if a parent wants to be involved in the care of their child and is capable of doing so, personality differences or your past relationship baggage should not hinder this. You both need to find a way through your emotions to make it happen.

Negotiation of shared care over school holidays, special events like birthdays and Christmas, can be an opportunity for yet another heated argument. Rather than needing each negotiation to be heard before the courts or witnessed by mediators, you both really need to find a positive way to keep the peace, specifically for your children. If either parent can’t get past this, the damage you are both doing to your children may be irreversible. Therefore, we have some tips for you to keep in mind when dealing with your ex.

Tip 1: It’s not about you and it’s not about your ex. It’s all about the kids you have both created and doing what’s best for them. It’s that simple.

Tip 2: Make any negotiations like a business transaction. Keep emotions out of the decision making process.

Tip 3: Be fair and open to compromise.

Tip 4: Don’t abuse, argue with, belittle or put down your ex to their face or in front of your children. Your children are a combination of the two of you and therefore they feel like you are also attacking them or don’t like aspects of them. If you need to vent, do so well away from your children so they don’t overhear you.

Tip 5: The kids love you both, so you need to let them in their own way. If they want to give something to the other parent or be with them, encourage it. If children have a healthy relationship with both their parents, they are far more likely to be able to have healthy relationships when they get older.

Tip 6:You are role modelling their future relationships. Always be aware of this and provide positive role modelling.

Tip 7: Find a way to negotiate with your ex for shared care. Many people send simple text messages like “Picking the kids up at 6pm Friday and I will bring them back at 6pm Sunday night.” It’s all facts with no emotion.

Tip 8: Some people find the change over an extreme issue. There are a few options you can organise:

  • Both of you have a mutual family member pick up and drop off
  • Changeover in the car park of the local police station
  • Changeover somewhere with security cameras
  • If the children are old enough, stay in your cars and let the children swap vehicles

Tip 9: Remember above all else, to keep your emotions in check. If you feel baited; walk away, hang up; whatever. Don’t be the one to bait or look for that argument, either. Instead of making it as difficult as possible for the other parent, make this as easy as possible for your kids.

Tip 10: Every decision you both make should be about your children. If your ex doesn’t get that, no amount of arguing is going to change it. Be polite, do what’s right and ignore their bad behavior. If they are looking for a bite and you don’t give it to them, they will eventually stop and get on board with doing what’s right for the sake of the kids.

If they don’t change, understand that you can’t alter their behavior. (This may be why you separated?!) Don’t argue about it. The kids will see what’s happening and everything will take care of itself as they get older. They will know that you have tried your best and put them first above all else.

Image via ogamagazine.com

November 27, 2014

10 Parenting Tips for Pageant Days

When my kids were young, taking them to the Christmas pageants was a tradition. It was a great family day out but it was pretty stressful. It wasn’t too bad when they were bubs in nappies but, when they reached preschool and primary ages, it got a bit tricky – particularly when I planned to do it solo.

So, if you don’t want the kids to miss out and want to take them along to a Christmas pageant or two, I have some great tips to reduce the stress, keep the kids entertained, food and drinks to pack, sun smart info and a heap of other things you may not have anticipated.

It’s all in the preparation

1. Go on-line and checkout the route. Get a satellite view so you can check out things like shade, shelter, toilets, parking, public transport and access. The best spots will get filled early, so plan for a very early morning, followed by a long tiring day! Work out if you are catching public transport or taking the car and plan accordingly.

2. Plan what to pack, well before the day. Pack it in a way that will be easy to take with you and do it the day before. Leaving it all to the last minute will be too hectic. The only thing you should need to organize in the morning is the kids and yourself. Have the food and drink packed up and in the fridge and freezer, ready to go. This will include:

  • Food (see below)
  • Drink (see below)
  • Sunblock 30+
  • Panadol/Nurophen (child and adult)
  • Hats and sun-smart clothing
  • Spare pants/T-shirt for the kids
  • Blanket to sit on
  • Small pillow or two for the kids to have a rest on
  • A full packet of giant chalk to entertain the kids
  • An electronic game or other activity
  • Fold-up chair for you
  • Umbrella
  • Mobile phone
  • If you have a baby with you add the stroller or pusher, nappy bag, bottles and plenty of water

3. Now you’ve got everything covered, let’s look at what sort of food to take. Lots of parents grab high sugar or fat foods and wonder why they are having a hard time keeping the kids entertained for hours, while they are waiting for the floats to arrive. Avoid this sort of food and opt for cut up fruit, veggies, cheese, small goods, sandwiches or finger food which will take time to prep but save you hours of stress later.

4. We all know the best drink is water. Freeze a few bottles and they will keep the food cold and save you lugging extra cooling products. Take some extra water while it defrosts. If you are going to take juice, dilute it, freeze it and give it to the kids like an ice-block. If it’s going to be a warm day, it will cool them and keep them calm.

5. Now we’ve got all that covered, let’s discuss safety. Even the most attentive parent can have the potential to misplace a child, when there are thousands of them there and distractions galore. I used to dress the kids in really bright coloured clothes.

It’s also advised that you get a semi-permanent pen and write your phone number on your child’s arm. Take a photo of them prior to leaving with your mobile, so you have it with you. This will remind you of what they are wearing should they get lost. Discuss stranger danger in the car or on public transport along the way. Kids need a bit of reminding when they are excited. Also remind them that if they can’t see you, you won’t be able to see them, so stay close.

6. When you arrive at the location before you set up, locate a meeting place if someone gets lost. If you wait until after you set up it maybe too late.

7. After you set up, let the kids just look around for a while before you start to bring out things to entertain them. If you load them up with food and drink continuously, you’ll be lining up at the toilets constantly. If you hand over the entertainment items too soon, they will get bored. The wait will be long so, you may as well use the new surroundings as entertainment, until they start getting restless.

8. Remember to enjoy the day with them. Don’t make it a stressful event. If you are planning to go solo, have a plan of attack should the kids need to go to the toilet. If you have more than one child, make sure you all go together and just make sure you take the most important things, like your purse, phone and any computer game with you and leave the rest. Far better to lose possessions than your babies!

9. Take lots of photos of the kids reactions and if possible some video footage. This will keep them entertained on the way home, especially if you are catching public transport.

10. Pre-organize some quiet activities for when you get back home. They may fall asleep along the journey and wake up with that second wind, right when you reach the front door and you are in desperate need of a cupa and time out to put your feet up.

Hopefully, I given you some new ideas and confirmed some of yours. Christmas pageants are all about the kids, Santa and having fun; not giving parents a nervous break-down. Remember to relax when you can, stay vigilant about their safety and enjoy their childhood.

Image via resources1.news.com.au/images/2009/11/07/1225795/282641-christmas-pageants-past-and-present.jpg

November 22, 2014

Attack Of The Mummy Guilt: Is Daycare Really Bad For Kids?

Breaking news: yet another study says daycare is bad for kids and working mothers all over our great nation get a serious attack of the guilts, again. This time, the recent study is from the University of Adelaide’s School of Population Health, but the message is a recurring one: if you put your child in daycare, you are a bad, bad mummy.

Related: Should Daycare Centres Have Zero Tolerance To Violent Kids

I’m being highly sarcastic of course – many, many women (and men) have to work out of sheer economic necessity, so daycare isn’t a choice, it’s an essential. And even if you don’t work, but are juggling other small kids or – gasp – just want some kid-free time to yourself, you selfish heathen, you – daycare performs a vitally important role in our society.

In addition, if you’re lucky enough to a) find a good daycare centre you can afford and b) a good daycare centre that has vacancies to begin with – this in itself feels like a major miracle and something to be grateful and happy about.

But no – along comes another set of uni researchers who seem hell bent on making parents, particularly working mums, feel bad about their choices. Well, I’m calling bullshit on this study!

It claims a link between children in daycare centres and behavioural problems. The study revealed that in a study of 3200 children in all types of childcare, by the time the kids were four, the children were more likely to be hyperactive, disruptive and aggressive.

As to why this is, PhD student Angela Gialamas – who contributed to the study – has said it’s due to a lack of consistency of care as daycare kids are moved around from room-to-room as they get older.

This study received much press, so good work, University of Adelaide! Round of applause. And my fave quote goes to the aforementioned Angela Gialamas who said: “The last thing we want to do is make parents feel guilty about childcare”. Too bloody late, Angela?!

daycare, working mums, uni study

You see, what a lot of news outlets didn’t focus on was that the same study showed that when daycare kiddies eventually head off to school they were found to be happier, less clingy and less likely to be depressed. Win, win, win!

What’s more – child psychologists say the No.1 predictor of how a child turns out is parents. Not daycare, but parents – providing a safe, loving and nurturing environment for your child which allows him/her to thrive.

In addition, daycare unquestionably teaches kids good social skills and resilience, and how to adapt to structure and routines. From personal experience, our three-year-old daughter’s language skills and socialisation has improved greatly since she started attending daycare twice weekly from the age of two. And, even better, like a great, big soothing balm for my working mummy guilt, she bloody loves going to daycare and has made many firm friends there.

So, enough of these stupid, unhelpful studies – if university researchers really want to help kids, start with their stressed mothers! Why aren’t there more university studies hitting the headlines about how we as a society can better support new mothers? Or, what about one on why bringing up a baby always, always becomes a woman’s job? Or, better still, let’s get uni research boffins really scratching their heads over how best to support women returning to the workforce – gasp – after having had children?!

What do you think?

Main image via www.telegraph.co.uk and secondary image via absolutemommy.blogspot.com.

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November 10, 2014

Teaching Your Kids To Be On Time

Being on time is a helpful habit to have. In future it can help your kids start both their work and personal relationships on the right foot. Right now it can save you lots of stress. I don’t know about you, but nothing tests my parenting calm as much as running late and trying to get my kids to hurry up. Of course, when kids are very young it’s up to us to make sure they’re ready by a certain time, but we can start teaching them habits and skills early on that will make it easier for them (and for us!) later.

RELATED: 7 Tips For A Smoother School Run

Get organised in advance

Do you always leave everything until the last moment and then spend precious minutes looking for your keys, phone and your kids’ shoes? That’s my default way of being. I’d still happily do exactly that if now I didn’t have triple the amount of stuff to prepare for any outing and if I didn’t have three pairs of little eyes watching me and learning. It pays to put some effort in to get everything ready beforehand and encourage your kids to help you. Before you know it, they’ll be doing it all by themselves.

Give your kids some responsibility

Kids love acting grown up and independent. Even if your children can’t tell the time yet, you can explain that when the handle reaches a certain position, they’ll need to finish their breakfast or start getting dressed. Then ask them to watch the clock for you and tell you when it’s time. In case they forget (which they will), gently prompt them, but without completely taking over the task, for example, “I wonder when it’ll be time to put our shoes on…” Older kids can try figuring out how long it takes them to do each task and what time they’d need to wake up to make sure they’re ready.

Engage your kids’ imagination

When you talk about why being on time is important, don’t turn it into a monologue. Before you offer answers, invite your kids to imagine what they’d be missing out on if they were late for school, to a party or a play date. Their imaginations will paint vivid pictures for them and they’ll want to get there quickly.

Teaching kids about time can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be an arduous task. Be lighthearted about it and turn it into a game, and all of you can have lots of fun with it.

Image by WallaceChan via pixabay.com

October 29, 2014

How To Be Honest Without Hurting Others

Have you ever told a lie to someone, to save their feelings? Most people have. No-one wants to be the one who is brutally honest about something you know will cause upset. So, what can you do about it?

Whether it’s your partner, best friend, parents, kids, co-workers or acquaintances; there are two things to consider before you put your honesty out there. The first is to think about how you would respond to a statement if you were the recipient and the second is the timing or situation, in which the conversation takes place.

Thinking about how a comment would effect you, is a great way to work out how to say it. If you need your hubby or kids to help out more around the house; blurting out that they are lazy and need to pull their finger out; is probably a sure way to get their defences up and will cause a lot of upset. It’s all up to the way you word things.

The best way to address anything that requires honesty is to distance the behaviour or issue from the person. Communicating honesty is just like communicating anything else. If you want to be honest about something that others might consider negative criticism, start with how you feel.

For example; if you need more help around the house because you are unable to cope with a heavy work load; begin with something like; “I’m really exhausted at the moment. I’m trying to get everything done around here and I really need some help.” Addressing how you feel will shift the focus toward you and what you need.

Alternately, if honesty is required for a question like, “do these jeans make me look fat?” A less hurtful response than a blatant no; could be, “I’ve never been a big fan of those jeans. I’ve always though the other pair you have, look so much better on you.” Avoid putting others down and offer a viable solution instead.

If there is a greater issue, such as your partner putting on excess weight; which is what this question implies; an honest response can be tricky. Once again, consider how you would like to be spoken to about such a sensitive issue and think before you speak. It’s very easy to say words, but impossible to retract them.

Secondly, if you have a sensitive issue that requires honesty; for goodness sake; pick your timing. It doesn’t matter who it is either. If your child has just been rejected by a girl or boy at school, it’s probably not the time to talk about inappropriate behaviour. Sometimes adults forget what it’s like to be a kid growing up. What might seem like an insignificant issue as a adult, might be a major concern to a young person.

Also remember than honesty is best addressed face to face, where possible. Technology can hide important communication cues such as tone or body language.

Finally, avoid communicating issues when you or the other person are angry, tired or frustrated. A lot of honest, but nasty things can be blurted out in the heat of the moment. You will spend a lot of extra time and energy correcting an argument, than waiting for a better opportunity to discuss an issue.

 

Images via searchquotes.com/sof/images/picture_quotes/110533_20130805_063336_download_(4).jpg

 

By Kim Chartres

August 16, 2014

Teaching Your Kids To Share

Are you currently in the process of teaching your kids to share? Many parents find it difficult to get their own kids to listen to them, let alone share their food or toys! But try to understand that sharing doesn’t come easy, but lots of patience and perseverance will help kids understand this valuable lesson which will remain a constant throughout their entire life. Below are just a few suggestions if you’re struggling with teaching your kids empathy:

Play dates

Expose your kids to a number of play dates, which won’t just be confined to the family home. Children (especially those aged between 3-4 years old), will find it difficult to let go of their beloved toys. Instead, go to a playground or indoor facility and let your kids interact in a different environment altogether. This will teach them to share something which isn’t exactly their own.

Lead by example

Young children are very impressionable, so try and practice what you preach. Show them that you are also capable of sharing your items with them, your friends and other members of the family. Really try and make a point of this, and if you can, get the older siblings to participate as well.

Taking turns

If your child reacts badly to a situation make a point that it’s all about ‘taking turns.’ This will make it an even smoother transition for the child, since they will begin to understand it’s their turn next. Perhaps this will make it easier and less painful every time another child comes over to play.

Don’t force them

Forcing anyone to do something against their will, won’t ever work in your favour. Instead, create an environment which will encourage personal growth and understanding. Children will often feel a certain power which comes with keeping something all to themselves. The attention is usually shifted off of them when they are forced to share, hence the temper tantrums begin.

Don’t always interfere

Children are more than likely to develop small problems when they are required to share a toy or even time at the playground. Just because they start yelling or screaming, doesn’t mean it’s a golden oppourtunity for mum and dad to interfere.

Teach values

Teaching your children values from a very young age is a great way to encourage this type of social behaviour. Watching the way mum, dad and other siblings interact is a carbon copy of the way the child will also act later on in life. Give them an oppourtunity to develop their skills and their personality along the way. These changes don’t just happen overnight – and often are difficult to break if parents and siblings aren’t willing to try something new and out of their comfort zone.

Image via Confessions Of A Parent

July 13, 2014

How to Say No To Your Kids Without Feeling Guilty

You’ve had an incredibly long day, you’re tired and cranky and now you and your toddler are having a mini face-off at the supermarket checkout. “Mummy, I want it!? Muuummmmmy!” your little person wails at the top of her lungs, as if possessed by some demon, all the while madly gesturing at a giant chocolate bar, which is oh-so-handily placed at her eye-level in the trolley. Elderly shoppers purse their lips and “tut-tut” at you while your little, angry banshee continues her toddler tantrum unabated. You dig deep, trying your best not to give in to your toddler’s unruly demands, so as to silence her, but your resistance is wearing thin. How do you best handle these toddler tantrums of epic proportion? And how do you say no without feeling guilty?

Leading Brisbane psychologist Judith Reynolds says it’s vital to set boundaries with your toddlers and then stick to your guns. “As the child develops cognitively (along with physical development) a sense of ‘self’ emerges at around 18 months and the child begins to assert that ‘self’,” Ms Reynolds says. “At this point, the interactions between mother and child become more complex.

“For a start, the child at this age is mobile, but it has no ‘cognitive brakes’! In other words, it doesn’t understand that in a social context we all have limitations on how far we can express our wants and needs before they begin to infringe on other’s wants and needs. Mum says ‘no’! In fact, mum has to say ‘no’ often, sometimes just to keep the child safe.

“Two year olds can be quite compelling in their efforts to get what they want, when they want it. Learning to delay gratification is a cognitive stage that doesn’t kick in, in any meaningful way until about three years or so.

“It’s easier in the heat of the moment to give in, but giving in, in response to the child upping the ante, is the beginning of the end for mum! The child reigns and mum becomes more and more frazzled as she tries to placate a child with not enough cognitive power to know what’s good for it!”

That’s all good and well, but how do we mums then deal with an attack of crippling mother guilt? Especially when you feel you’ve failed at being the “perfect” nurturing mother? “Just because a child is upset it doesn’t necessarily mean the mum is culpable,” Ms Reynolds says. “It’s mum’s job to determine what’s in the child’s best interests – she has the fully developed brain after all! Feeling guilty is overrated when there has been no malicious intent to harm another and it often undermines ‘good enough’ parenting.

“Don’t waste time feeling guilty! Just because your child doesn’t like the limitations you’ve set that doesn’t mean your parenting is suss. Every parent loses it at some point – what’s important is that you care enough to question your own parenting and clean up the mess you made if you lose it. That is, to say sorry and model bringing yourself back to a more balanced state of mind.”

So, next time we’re faced with a giant toddler tantrum, let’s try to remember it’s a consequence of we responsible mothers setting appropriate boundaries for our children – and reward ourselves with the forbidden chocolate bar instead!

By Nicole Carrington-Sima

June 19, 2014

The Newborn Baby Manual Really Does Exist

New mothers (and fathers for that matter) have often been heard to cry, ‘If only this light bundle of joy came with a manual”. Before the birth of your first baby you tend to read everything you can get your hands but you often don’t think about all the information you will need once the baby is actually born and the reality can be overwhelming no matter how prepared you feel you are.

The people you often turn to for advice are your midwife, lactation expert, friends and family (especially those with young children) and, of course, your mum. But now you can get the expert help as soon as you need it with the new app and ebook, New Baby 101.
 
New Baby 101 is the creation of Lois Wattis, a registered midwife, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and Fellow of the Australian College of Midwives. Lois is also a mother and grandmother herself. With more than 20 years’ experience working in hospital and community settings, Lois has provided woman-centred care to hundreds of mothers and babies.

  
New Baby 101 covers all the baby essentials for first time parents, including preparing for baby’s arrival, breastfeeding, bathing and settling techniques. Filled with answers to the most commonly asked questions, it also contains videos for how to change a nappy (both cloth and disposable), swaddling techniques, breastfeeding techniques and more. It’s reliable and credible information in an easily accessible format.

 
Lois says the idea to share her knowledge came about a couple of years ago following the birth of her daughter’s first baby: “I was on hand to help with my grandson’s birth and support my daughter as a new mum.  She realised many people have to figure all that stuff out for themselves, so she encouraged me to write a book.” Lois and her daughter soon realised that “the first place people turn for help today is their phones, so we decided to create an app and ebook first.”

 
New Baby 101 is a free app which includes videos on swaddling and changing your new baby. You can then unlock individual topics for 99c or all 50 FAQs for $6.99. New Baby 101 ebook is just $19 at newbaby101.com.au.
April 19, 2014

10 Tips to Stimulate Your Child’s Brain

A child’s brain is like a very active sponge that is constantly developing and adapting. This process is something we need to take advantage of in the best way possible. It’s imperative that we find new and interesting activities or techniques to stimulate our child’s mind. This will ensure that their brains are kept healthy whilst allowing them to tap into their inner creativity and imagination, a combination that will help them excel later on in life.

Nutritional Medicine Practitioner and Educator Warren Maginn offers 10 tips and techniques to support your child’s brain health and wellbeing.

1. Encourage exploration and play
A child needs to be allowed to explore the world and engage in the beauty of discovery, investigation and experimentation. Whether it’s examining flowers in the garden or hiking up a mountain, building a sand castle or swimming in the ocean, these activities allow your child to think and to discover new ideas and places, all the while stimulating their senses.

2. Board games and puzzles
Board games and puzzles are not only educational, but also an ideal way to stimulate a child’s imagination. They allow your child to think and identify new ways to solve problems, and they help to develop fine motor skills. The great part about these kinds of activities is that children have so much fun, they learn in a completely effortless way.

3. Take your child on day trips
Turn your child into a culture geek and they will be forever grateful. Weekly excursions to a museum, art gallery or aquarium are extremely informative and mentally stimulating. These places contain so much movement, history, colour and mystery, they keep a child excited, alert and wanting more.

4. Healthy food means a healthy brain
As much as your child may fight you for presenting them with funny looking veggies for dinner, it’s important that you include healthy foods in their diet. The vitamins and nutrients found in vegetables play a vital role in the healthy development of a child’s brain and body. Try incorporating nutritious foods into your child’s diet from day one, and it will stand them in good stead for the rest of their lives.

5. Incorporate omega 3 supplements into your child’s diet.
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is an omega-3 essential fatty acid that helps support brain and visual development and function, especially during prenatal development, in growing babies and in children. DHA is required for optimal health but cannot be produced by the body, so it must be obtained through diet or supplements. DHA is found in cold-water fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, lake trout, and sardines. High quality, purified fish and algae oils are also safe, effective sources of DHA.

6. Exercise and hobbies
There is an abundance of research on the relation between exercise and healthy cognitive functioning in children. Whether your child plays soccer, goes swimming or even has piano classes, involvement in some kind of extra-curricular activity after school is something that will enhance memory, concentration, behaviour and academic achievement.

7. Teach your child another language
It has been said that bilingual children are smarter than those who speak just one language, because speaking two requires using different parts of the brain. If you don’t know another language this is actually a fantastic opportunity for you to learn one with your child, even just a little. It can enhance general communication skills, as well as help your child see the world from a new perspective.

8. Discipline
Everyone has different parenting skills, but this doesn’t mean that all discipline should go out the window. Setting limits is actually a way of teaching and when your child has done something that you disapprove of, it’s important to tell them why it was wrong, but in a positive way. In doing so, you stimulate their sense of boundaries and control, which is a necessary tool for guidance later on in life.

9. Read and sing to your child
Singing and reading to your child allows for them to participate in something engaging, fun and stimulating while developing their brain at the same time. While singing entertains your child and enhances their linguistic skills, reading improves their attention spans and sets them up for academic achievement later on in life.

10. Socialise your child
Make an effort and take every opportunity within your community to include your child in birthday parties and after school play dates, because social skills are valuable at every stage of life.  Spending time with other children will teach your child about forming friendships, other personality types and ultimately, empathy and compassion for people.

What activities or techniques have your children responded to positively?

For information visit www.researchnutrition.com.au.

February 19, 2014

Online Safety and Cyber-Bullying Tips For Parents

With our kids glued to their laptops (or smartphones, or tablets…), it’s hard for parents to know exactly what they’re doing online.

Even more troubling, recent statistics from Telstra show that 52% of young people regret posts they have made online, and 82% did not realise the long-term impact of their posts. And now that the new school year has started, the challenge for parents to protect their kids from cyber bullying has never been more important.

Telstra’s Manager of Cyber Safety, Shelly Gorr, said that today’s culture of online sharing has changed society’s notions of privacy forever and that it is important to equip children with tools and advice to participate in the digital world safely.

“Ongoing conversations with your children about cyber safety essentials such as when to share personal information online, handling approaches from cyberbullies and applying social network privacy settings could avoid a lot of regret in the future,” said Ms Gorr.

Rosie Thomas, the cofounder of anti-bullying and leadership organisation Project Rockit, said the Telstra research shows that children heading into the schoolyard armed with digital devices should be empowered to stand up for themselves and others online.

“Social media and the internet is an awesome place for breaking down social barriers and harnessing people power to do the right thing. We need to give young people the tools to make the most of everything the internet offers, including the strength to stand up and be leaders in both the online and offline worlds,” said Ms Thomas.

Here’s how to deal with online safety and cyber-buylling without alienating your kids:

1. Talk with your kids about their digital lives and let your children know you’re always there for them.

2. Protect personal information – teach your children how to turn on privacy settings.

3. Encourage children to ‘think before they click’, to think about content and the consequences of posting it.

4. Be an offline supporter. Encourage kids to have some screen-free time each day and turn off devices at bedtime.

5. Teach kids to treat others the same way they’d like to be treated online and be zero-tolerant to rude or mean online behaviour.

6. Don’t just talk about the right thing to do; be a role model with your own digital habits.

Have you spoken to your kids about online safety and cyber-bullying? 

February 4, 2014

Tips for Travelling with Kids this Holiday Season

Planning a relaxing holiday with the kids this summer? You’ve probably been looking forward to it all year…and dreading it at the same time! Will the kids behave? Will they be bored? Will I be able to enjoy myself?

Travelling with children can turn a holiday into a stressful nightmare. According to a recent survey compiled by Tourism Australia, almost 50% of Australian families take family road trips over the holidays. Long car journeys with tired and cranky children fighting in the backseat or a fun restaurant visit turned crazy tantrum can raise stress levels and take the fun out of family time.

Karen Phillip, parent and family counsellor and author of Who Runs Your House – The Kids or You? knows the difficulties of travelling with children and shares her tips to keep the kids happy and your holiday blissful.

1. Have activities
Activities and planning are needed to keep children occupied and calm during travel times and restaurant visits. Relying on a DVD or tablet to keep young children entertained on a long journey is usually doomed to fail unless it is mixed with other activities and regular short breaks.

“Make sure you have age appropriate activities, like colouring books or tablets available during a long journey, but make sure to interrupt their activities at a suitable time to talk and play a game with them. For long journeys in the car regular stops are needed to give the children a chance to burn some energy and run around, kick a ball or play in a park on the way,” says Karen.

2. Keep them informed 
The best way to start a long journey is to let the children know the journey might take a long time. A child’s concept of time may vary depending on their age, and a young child might understand time better in relation to something they know e.g. “the same time you are at school every day.”

3. Reward good behaviour
Karen advocates rewards for the well behaved children. Rewards can be anything from being able to choose the bed or room they sleep in when arriving at the destination, or receiving a treat when they stop for lunch, while the child that is misbehaving only receives a basic sandwich. “If the plan was to stop at McDonalds, let them know that if they are behaving you will stop at McDonalds, but if they are loud or misbehave the stop will be somewhere less fun the parents choose”.

4. Learn how to eat out
When it comes to eating at restaurants, the training starts at home. Karen believes that all children need to learn as early as possible how to sit at a table, to sit on a chair properly, use cutlery appropriately and wait for their meals to be served. “If children learn this basic concepts, dinner out isn’t a painful experience. I do however recommend parents ensure they have an arsenal of quiet activities such as books and games to entertain the child if they are having dinner with other adults,” says Karen.

Karen’s advice is, if a child’s behaviour escalates or they throw a tantrum at the table, remove them from the area and use the two choices method as explained in the book. “If a child continues to misbehave, let them know they will miss out on something special, like a planned holiday activity”, Karen says. “Once this happens they know a consequence will take place, and they will usually think twice next time”.

For more information on Karen Phillip and her new book visit www.whorunsyourhouse.com.

What are your top tips for travelling with children?

December 11, 2013

Happy Mother Happy Child

A couple of years ago I began my own Happiness Project. I would do what makes me happy. I would still have to work, but keep my bills low and drive a car I’ve been told looks like I bought it from a drug dealer. I didn’t care. I was doing an exegesis on the art of being happy and staying there.

“I would just take drugs, have sex all the time and eat a lot”, a lawyer friend told me.

“Okay. But would that really make you happy?” I asked, meaningfully.

“Yes. That would really make me happy,” he said.

My Happiness Project was more craft-based. I would paint for the first time since high school. Learn to cook Indonesian. Buy summer dresses. Lift weights. Talk about happiness like a stock investment I was watching.

“That’s sounds pretty indulgent to me,” one mother snapped.

“Unbearable to listen to, actually,” another mother said.

“You just have to do what excites you!” I said, again.

“I’d like to put my children into state care. Then go travel for two years and pick them up afterwards,” one mum joked. “That would make me really happy.”

“Okay. Is there any way you can be happy without doing that?” I asked.

“I suppose I could give them to my mother.”

Another mother said, “I would quit my job and stay home with my children. That would make me happy.” I would think about those mothers who stayed home and were going bat shit crazy…“You might not want to do that.”

I don’t think women want it all – they just want to be happy with what they’re doing. Most parents put their child in front of the television from time to time and when they see them zonked out in front of it, feel guilty and turn it off. They pull out the building blocks, their faces set in a grim mask. “Let’s play building blocks,” the parents mutter. “No, no, no. I don’t want to play building blocks!” the child says, because that’s what children say and also, their play partner looks like they want to kill themselves. “Fine!” the parent says and knocks over the blocks with their hand.

I’ve babysat dozens of children and so I’m not allowed to kick the building blocks through the air, but I feel the same way sometimes. Mothers of our generation have been told to sit down and engage with their children. I can’t remember a single instance of my mother doing that or any mother I knew growing up, but we want to be better than they were. Building blocks. Fantasising, as you lay one block on another, about spending two years in Bali. Of course it would be a scandal if you just took off, but you could invent a story about a nervous breakdown or a job promotion. In Bali. Do people still have nervous breakdowns, you wonder? Did they ever exist or was that a brilliant excuse for a holiday? Might have to be more specific to really pull it off these days. “I’m having a bi-polar break, with episodic depression and suicidal ideation…In Bali.”

Our mothers solved the problem of ‘productive play’ by having more children. We weren’t really playing so much as throwing blocks at each other and crying, but our mothers got a break. It takes one pediatrician to announce the damage to a child’s synapses if they don’t get productive play and parents are back on the living room floor, death mask on. Everybody wants to do what is best for their child, but I think the form is wrong and by form I mean the structure of families in single-unit housing and community safety fears and its attendant isolation. Either one or both parents are working and they come home to be with their children, alone. It’s the aloneness of the experience that wears on mothers.

When I grew up, I was in and out of other people’s houses along the street and playing with their kids. We ran along alleyways and fought with each other and danced on each others beds and went home when it got dark. We knew who lived in the creepy house and we never went in there. We had our own lives. Recently, a parent told me they let their very mature seven year old play outside on the footpath, as long as he doesn’t leave the block. He is regularly brought home by a startled neighbour, like a dog who got out of the yard again.

Living in L.A., I’ve observed that picking children up at a Californian primary school involves sitting in a line of cars, colour-coded placard on the windshield with the child’s name and ten teachers in headsets feeding information about who has arrived. Teachers are running between cars, “Sam Smith! Sam Smith!” they bark into the walkie talkie. Sam Smith gets led by another teacher into the holding pen. Another adult walks him over to the car. I look at the banks of vehicles and think about the loss of productivity in the hour it takes to pick a child up from school. And the tedium of it. Is the alternative too horrifying…letting them walk home alone? What will be the effect of this loss of autonomy? No one wants to be the parent who takes the risk to find out. We are the first generation of parents who grew up knowing the high rates of sexual abuse. One in three women. One in five men. How do we find a way to keep our children safe without cloistering them with our fear?

When you’re a kid walking with a gang and you’ve all got time to burn, it’s terrifying and exhilarating. You are learning how other kids live and which Dad is strict and whose brother’s a dick and which Mum is crazy. We were learning to trust our instincts. Standing outside the creepy house, one kid will knock on the door and everyone does a runner. It was our neighbourhood and we were known. We didn’t have to think about being happy, we were living.

Vivienne Walshe is an Australian playwright and screenwriter. Her plays have been highly awarded and published by Currency Press. As an actress she appeared on The Secret Life of Us and many other television shows and performed in plays at the Melbourne Theatre company, Sydney Theatre company and Queensland Theatre company. 

November 3, 2013
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