Is There A Perfect Parent?

Perfect Parent? Ha Not Me!

Perfect Parent? Ha Not Me!

Let me just dispel all the myths right now… “There are No Perfect parents!” From the first moment as a new parent when we hold our new born baby in our arms until they grow up and move out of the house our life will be filled with First Time Experiences. As a first time parent we are all new to the game. So, what does anyone do when they are new they make mistakes and learn from them and try, again, again and over again throughout their child’s life. Of course by the time the second child comes along (if there is a second) we have a little more knowledge and experience under our belt and can make different choices. Even then sometimes the methods that worked with one child may not work with the second.

The hardest moment in parenting to deal with is when a child is really upset or having a temper tantrum. Kids can push us beyond our limits and when you have an angry parent and an angry child sometimes not all the best decisions are made as my kids love to remind me. One time when my daughter Anya was little and totally out of control I was at a loss on how to help her calm down. Then I remembered a show I had seen where they put a hysterical person into a cold shower clothes and all to calm them down. The cold water shocked the person and chilled them out of their hysterics. I had tried everything else to no avail so thought it might work. Lets just say what works on TV doesn’t always work in reality. As soon as the cold water hit her body she totally lost it and was so mad she came out of the shower kicking and screaming then threw all her clothes and toys out of her drawers and all around her room.

What I didn’t understand at the time was what triggered her anger. She would lose control when she felt disrespected. She had already been feeling disrespected by whatever happened in the first place to upset her and the cold shower was definitely not respectful to her. After she calmed down I apologized and we talked about what we could both do differently next time.

It took some trial and error but I eventually learned what she really needed was to be heard and understood. If I could catch her before she lost control, sit with her and hear her side of the story she would feel heard and calm down. When she did lose control we found Cool Down Time worked better than cold showers. I would give her some paper and crayons or pencils in her room and ask her to draw me a picture of how she felt. She did draw some very angry pictures but it gave her a more positive way to vent her feelings and art became her escape and passion.

Anya also taught me a very valuable lesson. When disciplining a child remember, they are just like you. If you wouldn’t want to be treated a certain way yourself do not treat a child that way and if you do over react a bit like putting your child into a cold shower it is always ok to say you’re sorry after all we are only human. Sometimes it is better for you both to walk away for Cool Down Time rather than carry on. As a mom on more than one occasion I gave myself a cool down time until I calmed down enough to be able to help my child deal with their emotions.

Being a parent I guarantee you will make mistakes or if your children are older you have already made mistakes. What is important to remember is we all, even our children are doing the best we can with what we know in this moment. So be gentle with yourself and your child. When our knowledge changes through experience or parenting books or courses we will learn a different way to handle the same situation for the next time and as parents we know there will always be another opportunity to try again.

Discipline and Consequences – Sibling Squabbles

With No Toys There Will Be Nothing to Throw!

Consequence – With No Toys There Will Be Nothing to Throw!

So, now we have established the difference between punishment and discipline let’s talk about discipline and consequences. Discipline is when we correct our child’s behaviour. It sometimes involves yelling (no one is perfect), timeouts or cool down time as I like to call them, taking privileges away or grounding our child from going outside or using electronics. Some methods of discipline work and some don’t. A Consequence in the dictionary is something that logically follows an action. Consequences with children can be a blend of discipline as well as letting the natural consequences of a child’s behaviour affect them providing they are not doing something that would seriously hurt themselves or others physically. For example if a child throws their toys in anger the consequence could be to take all their toys, bag them in a large garbage bag and put them away for a few days. No toys, nothing to throw!

Anger is a very difficult emotion to control especially for a child. When my daughter Anya was little she had a very hard time controlling her anger. One time in her temper she broke one of her brother’s toys, hit him, then ripped out all the linen in our linen closet throwing towels and sheets everywhere. She was put in her room for cool down time, given a big pillow and told it was ok to hit pillows but not people. She cried for about 10 minutes and punched the pillow angrily then I went in to talk to her.

Sometimes a hug is the best medicine so I sat down beside her and held her until she stopped crying. We talked about what had happened, what she did, what she could do differently next time and what she could do to help make everything better. Her brother was partly at fault too as the instigator of the fight but Anya was the one that over reacted. It was not ok to hit someone or to throw the linen around and break a toy.

The consequence of her actions was, she had to pick up and fold all of the towels and sheets she had thrown around (we put a sliding lock on the linen door to prevent future incidents). The toy she broke cost $10 so she had to pay to replace it out of her savings. Anya and her brother had done a disservice to each other in choosing to fight so, they apologized and had to do each other a service of folding the others laundry to make it right. (The service could be anything from helping pick up each other’s toys, or doing a chore for one another.) Then because it had taken half an hour of my time to sort everything out they both had to do me the service of helping to complete the chore I had been working on and fold some of my laundry.

As with any discipline or consequence in order to work there has to be follow through so neither child was allowed to do anything else (TV or play) before the service to each other and me was complete. Consequences may take more time but they are worth it. Doing services for each other is a great tool. It can be any service from cleaning toilets to scrubbing tile grout with an old toothbrush, laundry is a good one for young children. The child who overreacted feels better in the end because even though they hurt someone they did something to make it up to the person. The child who was hurt feels better because although they were hurt, their sibling did a chore for them to make up for it.  Both children will hopefully think twice before having another fight and temper tantrum again because neither of them want to do their siblings chores as well as their own and clean up the mess they made. I stress the word hopefully because we all know kids will be kids. Just think how many chores you can get done with all those services. 🙂

How To Give Kids Choices Without Giving Away Your Power!

Who Has Control Now??

Who Has Control Now??

Have you ever wondered who is in control you or your child? Children love having control. They have so many areas in their life where they have no control, when they find an opportunity to take it they will go for it every time. Their favorite person(s) to control is their parent(s)! They master it from a very young age. Even as babies they innocently use different cries to get our attention. Then as they grow into toddlers they use tears, temper tantrums and relentless pleading or whining to get what they want. It is like a tug of war and if we give in once they have won the battle and learned our breaking point which they will remember and use for a very long time. Giving a child choices in life gives them power and a bit of control without having them take over. As parents though it is good for us to learn how to offer our child choices to create win/ win situations instead of arguments and tears.

For instance, if you know you have to work the next day and your child needs to be in daycare by a certain time it might be good to offer the right choice to them. If you ask, “Do you want to go to Daycare tomorrow and play with your friends?” it gives them the power to control the situation and could be setting you up for a big argument. After all what do you do if your child says, “NO!!!!”? You could maybe stay home from work or spend half an hour convincing your child why they have to go to daycare. A better choice to offer could be, “Mommy has to work tomorrow and you get to go to Daycare, do you want to leave at 7:30 am so you can play with your friends longer or 8:00am so you can sleep in a bit more? This is win/win it doesn’t question the fact they have to go to daycare, it allows them to control what time they go or maybe even suggest a time in between so they get a bit extra play time and some extra sleep-in time.

When my kids were little I always found bedtime a challenge. There were so many areas that could start conflict, bath time, snack, teeth brushing, and story time so coming up with some good choices helped the night go a bit smoother and more peaceful.

If bed time was at 8:30pm I would always start at least a half an hour or an hour before when possible depending if it was bath night.

  •  On Bath Nights – “Do you want to take your bath before or after your bedtime snack?”
  • Snack time – Offer a choice between two different healthy snacks. (if my kids got what they wanted it would probably have been Ice Cream)
  • Teeth Brushing – “Time to brush your teeth, do you want to use mint or berry flavored toothpaste?” When my son was two he hated brushing his teeth and would refuse to open his mouth so he also got the choice of brushing the easy way (standing nicely with his mouth open) or the hard way (flipped over on the floor, pinned and rib tickled to get his mouth open) Sounds a little harsh but the job had to get done one way or the other. Funny enough being a boy he loved the hard way getting flipped and tickled was his favorite and we always ended up in a giggle fest afterwards.
  • Pajama time – “Do you want to wear the red or the blue pajamas tonight?” (this one works with a couple of outfits for getting dressed in the morning too)
  • Story time – Would always come last after they were ready and settled in bed. How long they took to get ready for bed would determine the length of story. If we only had 5 minutes before bedtime the story would have to be very short. If they were speedy that night and had 20 minutes left they could pick a longer book. If we didn’t have a favorite book we were reading that night I found it easier to narrow the choice for them and lay out 2-4 books to choose from for their story.

Choices work great in every situation from crossing the street – “You can hold my right hand or my left hand” to leaving a favorite activity – “We can leave now or in 5 minutes?” The key is to come up with choices that meet the end goal and one where both the parent and the child feel good about themselves afterwards.

Christmas Shopping with your kids?

What do I do Now?????

What do I do Now?????

Shopping with children can be a challenge at the best of times. Never mind at Christmas when stores are packed and children are excited and want everything in sight. I am sure every parent has a “Shopping Nightmare” story.

Mine was when my son James was just turning three years old….

It was his 3rd birthday and I took him to the toy department to pick out his favourite toy, a Tonka Truck.  He had chosen a small metal digger and we were walking down the isle to leave when he spotted “The Monster Digger”, six times the size and price as the one he had clutched in his hands.  He immediately dropped the small one in his lap and started begging for the bigger one. Cursing myself for venturing down this isle I tried reasoning with him. I agreed with him that yes the bigger one was very cool but it was way out of our price range right now,  it was also made out of plastic and would probably not last as long as the small metal one he had in his lap.

I ask you, “What does a 3 year old know or care about price?”  Absolutely Nothing! He just wants what he sees and wants it NOW!  James picked up the digger in his lap, threw it down on the ground and started kicking, crying and pleading for the Monster Digger.  It was his birthday after all and I would have felt horrible if I didn’t buy him something. So, I spent 15 minutes reasoning with him. I showed him how much better the smaller one was being strong metal and not plastic. I explained again why we could only get the smaller one while I slowly walked away from the source of his tantrum. I picked up the small digger off the floor and bought it for him. That was my biggest mistake.

I couldn’t take James into a Toy store for almost a year after that incident without having to drop my purchases and leave with a screaming child. A stubborn boy he was and he did not give up easily. However, I never caved in again and he eventually got it. When he fussed mommy left the store.

What did I learn from that experience? Never buy a child in a Temper Tantrum ANYTHING he or she wants in that moment! Pick them up, drop everything and hightail it out of the store as fast as I can. If it is something I really want to get for them like a birthday gift I can go back the next day to get it but if I buy Anything in the tantrum moment the child will always remember “Temper Tantrum = Getting what I want”.

Christmas shopping survival tips…

  • Try shopping in the morning after breakfast when the child is not overtired and hungry.
  • Always explain your expectations ahead of time and maybe have a small reward at the end of the trip as something for the child to look forward to. For example, I would say “Ok James we have two stores to go to, we need to pick up groceries and mail a letter at the post office; it should take about ½ an hour and I expect you to be on your best behaviour. If I hear any “I wants” I will buy nothing for you. If you help me get my shopping done then maybe we can go for a treat afterwards. If there is any crying or tantrums we will leave the store immediately, go home and we won’t be able to go for our treat.” When I was clear with my expectations before shopping James knew exactly what was going to happen and how I expected him to behave. He also had something to look forward to after the shopping trip. The key was to follow through. If James started putting up a fuss on our shopping trip I would drop my purchases, pick him up and leave the store.
  • When going to a toy store tell the child exactly what you are there to pick up so they know if the trip includes some toy shopping for them or not. Before I left for the toy store I would tell James, “We need to go to the toy store today to buy a birthday gift for your friend Tommy, you can help me pick it out if you like but we are not buying for ourselves today so there will be no I wants. If you think you can manage that you can come with me if not then I will go shopping when your daddy gets home?  Then I would follow through with whatever he felt he could handle.
  • Be Flexible. Sometimes it is better to skip shopping that day rather than taking a fussy child into the store. I have left many parking lots and gone home without my groceries because my child was already fussing in the car.
  • Always Carry Extra Snacks when going shopping, then if your child gets hungry you have something healthy they like to eat with you instead of having to buy them something off the shelf. If a child is hungry they will get cranky very quickly.
  • When you can, Shop Without the Children. It is always much faster, more peaceful and relaxing. I was always amazed how much I could get done in just 45 minutes with out my children with me.

Cool Down Time – What do I do when my child is Angry?

Don’t give up. Keep trying different ideas. What works for one child does not always work for the next.  Parenting children is not a cut and dried task. You can’t put Parenting into a box a “One method for all and the child will turn out perfect idea”.

If only you could put parenting in a box....

If only you could put parenting in a box….

One thing I can tell you is, when a child is angry or having a Temper Tantrum they all need a cool down time. (Don’t we all)  How or what that cool down time looks like for each child may vary. Some children might need to be alone to cool down, others might do better with a snuggle with mom or dad on the couch. It depends on the situation and how upset the child is.

Sitting down and being curious about their feelings always worked best. In Step Parenting they teach Phrases that started with “Could it be your upset because  ________? Fill in the blank with whatever the current situation is…Max was hitting you, Mommy couldn’t play right now, We had to leave the park or whatever you think the source of the problem is. That one phrase opens the door for the child to identify and share their feelings with you and if you guessed wrong and it was maybe something that had happened earlier in the day it opens the door for them to correct you and share what was really upsetting them. Children just want to be heard and being curious is the first step to discovering what is causing their frustration.

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Disclaimer

The information on this site is based on the personal experience of the author. There are no guarantees of a perfect method to raise a child, it is all trial and error. Please feel free to try some of the suggestions on this site and let me know how you make out. If you would like to use any words or pictures from this blog please contact me for written permission. © 2013

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