New Parent

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Becoming a new parent is an exciting (and of course tiring) time in your life, however it can also be a time of feeling isolated.

I remember after my first child, once the frenzy of well-wishers had come to visit the baby, there was a lull in adult company. I knew people were respecting the fact that I needed to rest when the baby slept and that it was hard for them to know when that would be, but all the same I remember feeling very alone. I was also overwhelmed by the changes in my life – the responsibility for caring for a child 24 hours a day, a lack of sleep and the changes in hormones as my body adjusted from being pregnant into being a full-time milk bar.

Having moved house a few weeks prior to having the baby, I didn’t have any friends nearby and my old friends were not at the same stage in life, so they were busy with work commitments. I remember when my husband went back to work that I felt a bit lost. I could go all day without any adult conversation. Of course, I was besotted with our new baby, but I also felt that I had little purpose beyond caring for our daughter.

Being a first time parent, I was keen to ensure my baby was in a routine and so my life revolved around a strict regime that I inflicted upon myself. I also lacked the confidence to know that my baby would be okay unattended in her cot while I got on with chores – I would even take her into the bathroom with me when I showered, so I could keep an eye on her.

With experience came confidence to start going out and when I joined a mother’s group, I found a supportive network of new friends who were experiencing the same issues with their babies as I was with mine.

I laugh at the contrast of my first time parenting experience with that of my fourth child. My youngest child’s routine was to sleep in the car as I ferried his older sisters to and from school. He adapted to the family routine and I no longer feared leaving my baby unattended in the cot for a small amount of time to do chores. Furthermore, I no longer isolated myself at home, instead I continued with the social commitments for my other kids and to be frank I didn’t have time to feel lonely when surrounded by friends and our combined hoard of kids.

What did you find the hardest adjustment to being a new parent?

(Image courtesy of Danillo Razzuti, freedigitalphotos.net)

BIG MOTHER

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My teenage daughters enjoy watching ‘Big Brother’, so I have seen snippets of the show in passing. This week, in an effort to inject a bit of fun (and less nagging) into our household, I adapted a task from that show to get my kids to do as they are asked.

The premise is simple – ‘Big Mother’ (my alter ego for this week) will offer the housemates (aka my kids) the opportunities to do tasks (ie. chores). They each only have one chance to not immediately complete their task or they are eliminated from the competition.

At the end of the week, the remaining housemates who have completed all tasks are involved in a cash grab. I will stand at a balustrade from our second storey and each housemate will get an opportunity to catch $5 notes that I throw down. My husband and I practiced the cash grab to make sure that you can actually catch some money, but that it is challenging enough that hopefully the kids won’t catch too much!

The kids and I have been having great fun as I periodically call out to one child or another “This is Big Mother. Please report to the bathroom, you have 3 minutes to brush your teeth – do you accept this task?” or “All housemates, please report to the dining room.” For fun I even add in a few fun tasks, like when I asked my daughter if she would accept the task of doing 10 star jumps!

So far, this week has seen the kids being attentive and chores being done promptly. I’m all for thinking outside the box to come up with new and interesting schemes to get my children to do as they are told. Maybe I should start watching ‘Big Brother’ regularly to get more inspiration to help manage the kids.

What wacky schemes have you used to motivate your kids?

(Picture courtesy of nirots, freedigitialphotos.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)

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!

PLEASE DON’T MAKE ME BE A NAG!

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In a perfect world I would have a sublimely serene relationship with my children where I would have them so well trained that I wouldn’t even need to utter the words, ‘Please clean your bedroom,’ or ‘hang up your towel,’ or ‘put your plate in the dishwasher’ or any other number of daily requests that I seem to repeat over and over in what must be a sound vacuum as my kids clearly don’t seem to hear me.

So many times I have pleaded with my kids to not make me a nag. I don’t want to be a nag and they don’t want me to nag them, but realistically, I will continue to repeatedly request that these simple chores be done until it escalates into a loud voice met with rolling eyes.

As a parent, it’s my responsibility to ensure that I raise children who are capable of rudimentary tidiness and I refuse to give in and do it for them, because a) I already know how to be tidy and b) they need to know there is no cleaning fairy who will magically arrive and get their rooms in order!

I’ve sat my kids down on several occasions and explained that if they do what I ask the first time then there is no need to increase the level of frustration I feel in repeating myself; it will mean they won’t be so annoyed by my persistent nagging and it will allow for the household to remain calm (and clean). At the end of the day, they know that I will ensure they do what I’m asking whether they do it straight away or after I confiscate their phone or other treasured items. So it’s in their best interests to do it immediately.

I try to reinforce rewards for doing their chores without being asked (or even if I just remind them once), but I’m yet to crack the code that has them automatically put away things they have used.

I want to be a fun, joking, loving Mum – not an annoyed, yelling disciplinarian!

I have even employed technology to put a fun spin on my nagging. I recorded my daily nag and turned it into a song on my Songify app so that I didn’t have to directly ask them to do their chores. It wasn’t successful, but it was a catchy rap! Maybe the key is to play that to them in their sleep to subliminally brain-wash them!

A phrase my Mum used to say repeatedly when I was a kid was ‘Don’t put it down, put it away!’ Now that I think of it, maybe I was guilty of making my Mum be a nag too! Perhaps there is hope that one day my nagging will result in my children changing their habits – after all it worked for my Mum!