THE ROD

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The expectation of a new baby being all smiles and settling easy, is often quite different to the reality! All first time mums (myself included) strive to be the most attentive, sensitive, caring mother a child can have. I remember picking up my eldest daughter every time she started to cry and spent hours rocking and patting her off to sleep. I have all too vivid memories of lying on her floor in the middle of the night with my arm reaching up into her cot patting her in the rhythm of different songs whilst willing her to finally doze off. I wouldn’t even leave my daughter in her cot while I showered in case she cried and I wouldn’t be able to hear her. I would put her in her rocker and sit that in the bathroom within arms reach. During the day I would let her fall asleep on me, finding that I was too scared that if I moved and put her to bed I would have to re-settle her all over again. I was literally trapped and immobilised by my little bundle of joy.

What I realised (all too late) was that I had created a rod for my own back. All humans are creatures of habit. Just as I like a cup of tea first thing in the morning, she liked to fall asleep on me. The other epiphany I had was that crying doesn’t hurt babies – in fact it makes them tired. As long as you know they aren’t hurt, have been fed and burped and have a dry nappy then they are crying just to whinge. 

Babies need to learn to settle themselves, which if you constantly do it for them, they will expect anytime (day or night) that it is your duty to get them to sleep. You need to give them a dedicated sleeping spot that is preferably dark and quiet and leave them to doze. It is always best if you have them in a routine so they know that they are expected to sleep, but that isn’t always possible. My poor son, as the fourth child, did a lot of his sleeping in the car as I drove his sisters to and from school and other activities. I did however always try to allow him at least one sleep at home during the day to keep up the routine.

So my advice to any new mother’s out there is that although hearing your baby wail is heartbreaking, it will make life easier for you in the long run to let them cry. There is still plenty of time in the day for special cuddles and bonding. You will find that if your baby learns to settle themselves, you will actually have time for yourself as opposed to hours spent pinned under a sleeping child.

 

 

 

(Photo courtesy of freedigitalphoto.net)

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MANAGING CHAOS

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I, like many of you out there, manage a few of my kids sporting teams. It’s funny how a room goes silent when there is the question put out as to who would like to nominate themselves for this role. I think in this world there are the doers and the whiners (have you ever noticed that the parents that whine the loudest about the way things are being done are the ones that don’t offer to do anything themselves?) The other thing that I’ve noticed is that once you put your hand up to help, you are then forever more stuck in that role. I naively thought the first time I offered to take on managing a team that it would be passed around to all the parents, but alas years on, I’m still in the same role.

I don’t mind the texting to co-ordinate everyone or dealing with the governing association for that sport – what I can’t stand is being in charge of subbing players on and off the field/court. No matter what I’ve done in the past, someone has complained that it’s not been fair to their child. I tried doing it alphabetically to make sure everyone had their turn but the mother of the little girl whose name was at the start of the list took offence to this method, so I changed to subbing the kids off in order of their jersey number, until one of the dads complained that it kept our two best players off at the same time. Add to that the grief from the child that just doesn’t want to come off the field. Some days I just feel like pulling my hair out!

So I was ecstatic this week when someone told me about a phone app that does all the hard work for you – all my wishes have come true! For all you parents who are coaches/managers do yourself a favour and download ‘FairCoach’ (I’m not paid to endorse this app – I am genuinely thrilled to have found it). It allows you to mark off which kids are present, set the format for the game (halves, quarters etc), set the time of the game and then it spits out which children are to come off at what exact time. It even allows you shuffle the players so it changes week by week – Hallelujah!

I used it for the first time last night at my son’s basketball and it was great – any time a kid moaned about it not being their turn, I could just say ‘the phone app says it is your turn’ and that shut them up. I love when technology makes your life easier in the most unexpected ways. Now if someone could just design an app that could drive the kids to their sport and wash their uniforms after, then life would be truly perfect!

 

 

(Photo courtesy of freedigitalphoto.net)

REWARD SCHEMES

If there is one thing I can say with certainty, it is that not all kids respond the same to reward schemes and even if you find one that works, it won’t necessarily remain working for your kids.

I have tried every type of scheme I can think of. Some of the most memorable ones have been:

Sticker Chart

When my kids were little, it was a great way to reward them for good behaviour. However, there are two problems with this system: a) I would forget to update it when we got home and b) you can’t pull stickers off the chart when they don’t behave. For example is it okay to reward them for brushing their teeth and making their bed, when they have just hit their sibling for stealing a toy?

$100 Disney Money      

We had planned a trip to Disneyland with our kids, so I set up an incentive scheme for spending money. I gave them each a chart with $100 ‘Disney’ money. Each time they did something that was wrong they lost $1. Whatever was left at the end of the month they got to spend at Disneyland. One child ended up with nothing, one with $5, one with $75 and one with $90. The thing is, the one that doesn’t need an incentive to behave received a lot of money and the ones that the scheme was intended to incentivize, ended up with nothing.

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Jellybean Jars

I bought each child their own coloured jar and each time they were good they got a jellybean put in their jar, each time they were bad they lost a jelly bean. I figured this would give them a visual and tasty reward for good behaviour. Once again, one kid practically ended up in a sugar coma from so many jellybeans whilst another got none. It seemed unfair to continue this scheme when it obviously wasn’t having its desired effect for my youngest kids. They would even occasionally open someone else’s jar and eat their jellybeans, which meant they then lost any jellybeans they had earned. All in all, it was too hard to monitor.

Iphone App

This has worked well for us as I always have my phone nearby and can instantly add or take away stars as required. It can be customised to include chores appropriate for that child and the rewards can also be customised – my son may get Pokemon cards, whilst my daughter may get jewellery. The app I use is called iRewardChart, but there plenty of them on the market that do the same job. 

A girlfriend was telling me what is working for her at the moment is bribing her son with time to work on his ‘village’ in some game he plays. Each day he knows he will be allowed to have screen time once all his chores are done. He is so motivated by this that he is dressed and ready for school in a flash so that he can ‘save his village’. Obviously this is working a treat for my friend because her son is so invested in this game. I guess the key is that this can work for any game, sport etc if the child is passionate and motivated by it.

The main thing is to keep your mind open to any concept that you think will work with your kids. Then try them out and if they work that’s great; if they don’t, then try something else.  Even re-trying reward schemes that haven’t worked previously can be useful as kids change and may be more receptive than in the past.

Good luck. You deserve a gold star for trying!

 

Let me know what you have tried and if it was successful. It may help inspire another parent to come up with an incentive scheme for their kids. 

 

 

 

(Photo courtesy of freedigitalphoto.net)

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Do you ever feel that whatever food you prepare for your kids they have some form of complaint about it?  Maybe it’s just me, but it seems that whatever I prepare for dinner someone has an issue with it. If I try new and exciting meals, one or more of my kids will say they don’t want to eat it. If I prepare tried and true dishes they complain that we always eat those meals and ask for more variety. Considering I don’t like preparing meals at the best of times, I have to grit my teeth and take a deep breath before mumbling something neutral to the effect that I will make something different tomorrow night – and so the cycle goes! 

I only serve my kids small portions, but I expect them to eat what is on their plate. If they are still hungry they can have more once they have finished their meal.

If they complain vigorously about the taste of the meal, I tell them they can hold their nose while they eat so they can’t taste it. Eating and holding your nose simultaneously can make breathing a little difficult, but they work out pretty quickly what is more important – oxygen versus the horrible taste of Mum’s cooking! I, of course, give them the standard lecture about children around the world starving while they have the privilege of getting a hot meal for dinner. This is usually met with nodding and not too subtle eye rolling.

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On a good night when the issue is not the taste of the meal, but the fact that the kids are taking too long to eat their meals I play a ‘whistling’ game with them. The rule is that to qualify to play they must have a mouthful of food before I start each round where I whistle a tune and they have to guess the song. Once they have finished their meal they can have a turn at being the whistler (as it’s impossible to whistle with food in your mouth). This game is a win, win situation for us all. The kids eat their meals, I can’t nag them to eat while I’m whistling and we all have fun to boot!

It is a struggle for me to prepare healthy, nutritious meals for the family that will be met with excitement and eaten with fervor. As with every group of people, there are different tastes and preferences in my family and trying to find meals that satisfy everyone is an arduous task. With my non-existent passion for cooking and limited time to prepare meals after I return from running the kids around to their extra curricular activities, I think everyone should be grateful that there is any meal on the table! Maybe one day I should just serve them up a ‘third world’ meal of a small bowl of rice to help give them perspective!

 

 

 

 

(Photo courtesy of freedigitalphoto.net)

THE MINI-BREAK

We are so busy living our everyday lives that sometimes it takes a change of scenery and routine to re-connect.  This last weekend our family packed up the car and headed south to the little seaside town of Kiama. It wasn’t that far away nor so different from where we live, but it was a place where our family could solely spend time with one another without any external distractions.

We headed to a water park with the kids and even the older girls (and to be honest my husband and I too) were like little kids again, riding water slides and playing around. It was such a relaxed environment to have a few laughs and not worry about our day-to-day concerns. 

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We visited scenic lookouts to appreciate the natural beauty of the region and ate out every meal, getting the kids to try their tastebuds out on Mexican and Indian food.

This change of pace and scenery allowed our kids to interact in a way they seldom do at home when we are busy with our individual social lives. As much as we have amazing friends and our kids do too, the beauty of this weekend was time spent just as a family unit. I think this mini-break had such a profound effect because it is so different from the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives.

I took lots of photos in an effort to store away beautiful memories of this weekend, as I see my kids growing in front of my eyes everyday. I know that in the blink of an eye they will be grown up and that all the time we spend together now is priceless.

We are now back home in the normal weekly routine but all feeling calmer and more re-connected from our mini-break away. I’m just left bewildered by one thing – how can two days away create so much washing????

 

 

HIGHLIGHTS

I have noticed in the Twittersphere that there is a lot of hype around Thanksgiving at this time of year. Obviously in Australia we don’t celebrate this holiday, however our family has its own tradition when we sit around the dinner table.

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I used to ask the kids what they had done at school that day and the response was normally ‘nothing much’, leaving me wondering why we were paying private school fees for them to sit around all day. We then introduced ‘highlights’ to our dinner routine, where each person around the table takes the opportunity to talk about what the highlight of their day was. It turns out the kids don’t actually sit around all day and in fact their days are varied and fun. Stating your highlight to the family gives each person a chance to be in the spotlight, as usually the dominant personalities generally control the flow of conversation. It also gives us an insight into what has gone on in the child’s day and to see what things they find fun/interesting/comforting. It also puts a positive spin on the events of the day.

My husband will often just say his highlight is ‘sitting down to dinner with his gorgeous family’; which is not a momentous occasion, but given he has been at work all day he doesn’t have a huge choice of events from which to choose. That, or he is tired from work and chooses the path of least resistance – sucking up to his family!

I have one child who often finds it hard to narrow her highlights down to one event and may list a whole heap of experiences as her ‘highlight’. Whilst we try to encourage her to choose her absolute favourite time of the day, I feel so blessed that she is living a life where there are so many wonderful times that can be shortlisted.

Every now and again someone will try to throw in a lowlight for the day, but that brings the mood of the discussion down. Whilst I’m always happy to discuss any issues my kids are having, I prefer to do that one on one and keep the mood of the dinner table upbeat.

So whilst in our household we don’t have Thanksgiving once a year to remind us to be grateful, we have daily highlights to be appreciative every single day.

 

 

 

 

(Photo courtesy of freedigitalphoto.net)

 

CHILD LABOUR

All too often we wrap our kids up in cotton wool and do too much for them. The way to make your children responsible is to give them responsibility. As such, I think it character building for a child to help around the house. It’s not like I have my kids working in a sweatshop producing black market garments, but my kids all have chores.

I used to have a rotating schedule where one would pack the dishwasher this day, unpack it another day, set the table another and sweep the floor another. This was so confusing to keep track of whose day it was for each chore. One of my kids suggested that it would work better to have a chore day where they are responsible for all the chores for that whole day, but then have a few days off chores. We have adopted this system, which is great because now we all know who is responsible each day. I also added a clause that stipulated if the person on chores didn’t do all their chores on their day, then they would become responsible for the next day’s chores as well.

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The chores my kids do aren’t that taxing. They unpack and pack the dishwasher (although each individual is responsible for putting their own plate in the dishwasher after use); they set the table and wipe it down after meals; they keep the bathroom tidy; replace bin liners and pick up dog poo. They are each expected to keep their rooms tidy and hang up towels after use, which you would think is easier than the other chores, but seems for them to be the hardest thing to enforce!

They get 20 cents per chore, which means at the end of the week they should have a few dollars pocket money if they have done everything set for them.

Discussing chores with friends, I’m always shocked to find out that most people I know do everything for their kids. Considering children make 90% of the mess in the house, shouldn’t they contribute with at least 10% of the cleaning? 

I think when everything is done on your behalf you learn to expect that and have no appreciation for the effort outlaid to do the chores.

For example, on average I will do 10-12 loads of washing a week. My kids have no gratitude for the hours I spend collecting dirty clothes, sorting, washing, hanging out washing, bringing in washing, folding and putting clean clothes back in their wardrobes. The only time that I’m aware they know that I do this for them, is when they can’t find something they want to wear. I then have to draw upon a photographic memory to recall if I washed that item and where it is currently residing (more often than not, in a wash basket awaiting folding.)

I recently suggested that one of my daughters might like to earn $10 pocket money to fold up and put away the week’s washing. She was really keen, until she had folded about 6 items. She then declared it wasn’t worth it and left the washing to be folded by me. She didn’t persevere with the chore, but I hope it gave her an insight into what is involved in making sure she has clean clothes to wear.

There are so many years we do absolutely everything for our kids from wiping their bums to blowing their noses, so just as we relinquish these tasks to them, we should also include other jobs that assist the family as a whole.

Don’t underestimate the workforce you have bred!