It’s as easy as riding a bike  

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There are certain times throughout parenthood where you are faced with a scenario where you need to teach your child a skill, but may want to put it off as it is a tedious or painful task for you.

A prime example of this is when you teach your kids to ride a bike. They generally start riding bikes with the assistance of training wheels. These allow them to have a sense of freedom as they wobble side to side from one training wheel to another, never having to really master balancing the bike.

Your child knows the basics of riding a bike and they can ride for fun. You have that internal conversation with yourself whether you bite the bullet and teach them how to balance and ride, or is it easier (for both you and the child) to let them use training wheels until they are an adult? It’s one of those jobs that you know is going to back-breaking but eventually you have to dedicate the time to teach them a life long skill. This means you have to try to hold the bike seat whilst running alongside the child, all the while barking orders and trying to not let the bike fall over sending the kid (and/or you) over the handlebars. It’s not an exercise for those with weak backs as it is unnatural to twist your back, pulling and pushing on the bike frame, whilst running.

My son loved riding his bike as a toddler and insisted we remove his training wheels at two years of age. As you can imagine, his bike barely reached my knees, so running, twisting, bending and manipulating the bike was a nightmare. Thankfully he was so motivated that he picked it up quite quickly, whereas my daughter was seven before we could convince her she needed her training wheels removed.

Apart from having to manipulate your body into what resembles a yoga pose while running, it also takes a bit of deception to make the child think you are holding them, while intermittently letting go in the hope that they will start to balance the bike by themselves. Eventually they will get the knack and before you know it, your hard work has paid off. They will eventually have a skill that they can recall and use anytime in life – hence the saying, ‘it’s like riding a bike’.

There is immense relief once you have taught your child to ride a bike (assuming that is without injury to you, the child or the bike) and the effort seems worthwhile. So if there is a task you have been putting off with your child, embrace the challenge and give it a go – there’s no time like the present.

(Picture courtesy of digitalart, freedigitalphotos.net)

What age can I leave my child at home alone?

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I was having an interesting conversation the other day when the question was posed, ‘at what age can I leave my kids at home by themselves?’

It prompted me to review the law – which in my state of NSW Australia there is no set age although in Queensland it is age 12. It also varies around the world, some states in USA have a law that the minimum age is 8 years while in another state it is 14.

I guess the real question is how independent and responsible are your children? I will leave my youngest two (13 & 9) at home together for half an hour to go pick up my other kids but I wouldn’t leave them for a prolonged length of time without an older sibling or adult around to supervise. I also wouldn’t leave my 9 year old son at home alone yet – much to his disgust!

A key indicator that the child is ok to stay at home alone is the fact that the child feels safe and confident to be left alone. Obviously you wouldn’t leave a child at home under duress.

The maturity and willingness of a child of 10 to be home alone may be higher than a child of 14 – you need to assess each child to determine whether they can be trusted to be sensible if left alone. I assume that the discretion to know whether your child is mature enough to be home alone is the reason our state has no strict law on age eligibility.

In order to be left home alone some of the key skills children must have are:

  1. be able to follow instructions you have left
  2. be able to use a phone to call you if needed
  3. recall their address if they have to contact emergency services
  4. know when it is necessary to call for help
  5. know to not do any dangerous things (eg playing with fire) when home alone.

The other issue related to this whole grey area of whether a child is responsible enough to be home without adults is whether there are younger children to be supervised and whether the older child is capable of looking after those kids.

So in answer to the question I posed – there is no definitive answer, just the parent’s discretion to ensure their kids are safe.

(Photo courtesy of photostock, freedigitalphotos.net)

EASTER MIRACLES

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This year I witnessed several Easter miracles. The first happened when for the first time in history not even one of my kids woke in darkness to scope out the living room for hidden eggs.

The second miracle was that when my youngest woke first he (to my complete and utter surprise) patiently waited over an hour before asking if he could wake his sleeping sisters so they could do the Easter egg hunt.

The final miracle was that when doing the egg hunt, they all calmly collected eggs and then once they were sure they had found them all, decided of their own volition to pool the eggs before dividing them equally amongst themselves to ensure everyone got the same amount of eggs.

I was less surprised by the instant consumption of the chocolate eggs before breakfast – but as my kid’s seem to have inherited my chocoholic genes, I understand that they revel in the fact that there is one day a year where chocolate is the staple food supply for the day!

I hope you all had an enjoyable, choc-filled Easter with quality time spent with family and friends.

(Image courtesy of debspoons, freedigitalphotos.net)

GROWING UP

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I was recently having a deep and meaningful conversation with an eight year old girl about growing up. She told me that she couldn’t wait to be an adult so she didn’t have to go to school and she could choose what she would do every day.

I explained to her that she is currently in the best time of her life. As a school kid, she gets around twelve weeks of holidays each year and that when she is grown up she will only get four weeks annual leave per year. I also explained that instead of going to school until 3pm she would have to work until at least 5pm, probably even later. Finally I discussed with her the fact that all her hard work and effort would allow her to earn money that she would have to use to pay bills for food, clothing, housing and all her entertainment, whilst at the moment her parents pay for all those things for her.

After this enlightening speech I taught her about the old adage ‘the grass is always greener on the other side’ and said that although it might look like much more fun to be a grown up, the best time of your life is when you are a kid. There aren’t too many adults that wouldn’t like short days spent with friends, where you get multiple breaks to play, plenty of holidays and don’t have to pay for a thing!

As with anything in life, you often don’t appreciate how good things are until they change. So my advice to this little girl was to not wish away her childhood but to embrace and love life now, because once she is grown up, there’s no going back!

(Photo courtesy of stockimages, freedigitalphotos.net)

BEST AGE  

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The other day I was pondering when are your kids at their ideal age? I know we love them dearly at all stages and every age is unique but I came to the conclusion the best age is when they are seven!

At seven they are finally able to be rid of those bulky, restrictive car seats that harbour a treasure trove of things from lego pieces, to Barbie shoes to enough crumbs to do a schnitzel dinner. Finally you’re free from the restriction of having to always ensure that if they travel with a friend that they have a spare car seat or alternatively go through the motions of undoing copious amounts of straps to pass over your kid’s seat to reveal a whole new array of items such as sultanas, stray fries and old happy meal toys, hiding underneath. I can’t tell you what a relief it is to not have to deal with car seats again!

Furthermore, by seven, kids are a little independent – they can shower themselves, dress themselves and are skilled in the art of turning on the television in the morning, leaving you to doze (as best you can with the TV blaring) until a reasonable hour. They can ride a bike, swing on a swing without needing to be pushed and can play independently with friends. Parenting just becomes that bit easier.

At seven, they are also not too independent, which means they are too young to let their social lives ruin yours. They just come along with the family to friend’s houses, can be taken to a restaurant and are equally as happy to have a family night in! Once they become teenagers, they develop their own social lives, which inhibits yours, as you are their taxi service.

Homework is also great when they are seven. It’s usually just one sheet they get at the start of the week that needs to be returned at the end of the week, as opposed to high school where homework is a nightly chore. You also don’t need to refresh your quadratic equation and trigonometry skills when they are seven (just a hint – you will by the time they are in high school, so you might want to start studying now!).

One final thing that is great when they are seven is that they are usually missing teeth which leaves them with goofy smiles and a cute lisp whenever they have to say their age (how ironic this stage of life happens when they are ssssix and sssseven).

It’s funny that when they are little you can’t wait for them to grow up and when they are older, you wish you could turn back the clock. I don’t think I truly appreciated my kids being seven at the time, but with hindsight I realise that seven is the golden age!

What age do you think was your kid’s best age?

(Photo courtesy of stockimages, freedigitalphotos.net)

FIRST CAR

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Our eldest daughter is about to get her driver’s license and was less than impressed that we didn’t buy her a car for her seventeenth birthday, as many of her friend’s parents did. Although we can afford to buy a car for our daughter, we feel that it is more important that she learns a life lesson of earning money so she can appreciate the hard work that goes into paying for things. We also believe she needs to learn to save for a goal and in doing so hope that she will take better care of a car that she has had to work hard to earn. Kids need to learn that not everything in life will be handed to them on a silver platter!

We did however offer to match her dollar for dollar to help her save enough money to purchase a half decent car. Our bare minimum requirements for her car were that it had to have the safety features of ABS and airbags and that it mustn’t have an excessive amount of kilometers on the odometer.

Initially my daughter’s sole condition was that the car had to be black. After searching cars in her price range her criteria widened to become anything with wheels!

After a lot of searching, my husband located a car he felt fit the criteria (although silver not black). The owners were relocating overseas and were desperate to sell (always a good sign they are keen to negotiate!). When my husband and daughter saw the car in the flesh it was grubby but ran smoothly as it been serviced regularly. My husband made it his own little project to detail the car by washing, polishing and waxing the car until it looked as close to new as it ever will.

So now my daughter has a cute little silver hatchback car that gleams and she is beyond excited about being able to take advantage of the freedom that comes with owning a car. I just hope she will treat it with TLC and keep it shiny and clean.

(Image courtesy of Stuart Miles, freedigitialphotos.net)

ARTWORK ARCHIVING

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From early on in a child’s life, every parent is faced with the situation where their child proudly presents them with copious amounts of ‘artwork’ (by which I mean random scribbles on a page or paint splattered across cardboard) for them to admire and cherish.

You have a few options with the way you handle this artwork:

  • You can admire it and place it on the fridge with all the other ‘artwork’ you have received, which leaves to you having to timidly open and close your fridge to avoid dislodging the masterpieces.
  • You can file it away somewhere safe, such as an archive box for keepsakes. You just have to make sure you have enough storage room for at least 10 years of artwork.
  • You can frame and display the best work and then file the rest in that special round file (aka the bin).
  • You can photograph it and then eventually print a book of your child’s artwork. This leaves you free to share the love, by passing on the original artwork to those nice garbage men who come visit each week.
  • You can use the artwork as personally designed cards and wrapping for family gifts.
  • You can give them to proud grandparents, aunts and uncles so that if they choose to throw it away, at least it is on their conscience and not yours!

With my first born, I was so proud of her first attempts at artwork that I kept every little drawing, finger painting and craft item she made at home, pre-school, playgroup etc. My plan was to give her this box of keepsakes once she left home. After several years and several boxes of artwork, we moved house. Prior to the move I opened up the boxes to review the artwork and came to realization that she was no Picasso and that neither of us was ever going to do anything with the boxes other than let them sit on a shelf collecting dust. I made the executive decision to throw them away to de-clutter. The important thing was the excitement at the time and the attention I gave her for her achievement – not the actual physical ‘artworks’.

We are lucky that our children’s school does a lovely portfolio of their work throughout the year, so at the end of the year we get a sample of their work stored in a handy folder that the kids can keep and review in years to come. That frees us up to dispose of other artwork, unless it of a particularly high standard.

What do you do with your children’s artwork? Feel free to share, so I can let other parents know strategies for dealing with their budding artist’s catalogue of work.

(Image courtesy of hinnamsaisuy, freedigitalphotos.net)

A SUGGESTION FOR SANTA

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I would like to suggest to the jolly man in the red velvet suit who brings joy to children all around the world, that he really needs to send out a manual to all parents so they understand the way he operates.

We all know he is magical in the way he manages to deliver presents all over the world in one single night, but realistically, with varying time zones he really gets just shy of 48 hours to complete this task!

What parents need to know are a few key things:
a) Do you need to leave food for reindeers, if so what do they prefer?

In my household we always leave out carrots for the reindeers and occasionally magic oats with red and green glitter.

b) What food should be left for Santa?

We always leave a sweet treat and a glass of milk, although I know plenty of people leave out an alcoholic beverage, but do we really want to encourage Santa to drink drive?

c) Where should Santa stockings/sacks be left?

I know traditionally they are left hanging on the mantelpiece of the fireplace near the snow encrusted windows, but as we live in Australia and we don’t have a fireplace, not to mention any hint of snow in the middle of Summer, we leave the sacks on our children’s beds.

There always seems to be confusion amongst kids (and parents for that fact) as to why Santa leaves lots of gifts for some kids and a single present for others. My kids always wonder why Santa gives them trinkets, whilst he leaves trampolines and bikes for other kids. I just tell my children that obviously those other kids are much better behaved than them 😉

It would be great if Santa were to have a standard set of rules to alleviate the confusion at this time of year, as it may help in reducing the number of ‘Is Santa real?’ type questions that seem to plague many parents at Christmas. For the record, I always assume the ‘If you don’t believe, you don’t receive,’ mantra and it seems whilst ever my kids are receiving gifts they are happy to believe (or at least make me believe that they believe!)

Ho ho hoping you have a Merry Christmas and that you made it onto the nice list this year!

(Picture courtesy of stockimages, freedigitalphotos.net)

PERFECTIONISTS  

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I recently had an interesting discussion with a mum who has been attending a course addressing anxiety in children. The lecturer made the point that people who are perfectionists often suffer anxiety if things are not done to the standard they desire. This requirement for perfection is then forced upon their children, also making them anxious if things aren’t done right.

She went on the say that parents who have a high level of expectation on their children, often intervene and actually take over the task their child should do (eg. homework, making bed, packing bag etc) to ensure it is done to their standard. This creates a vicious cycle because the child doesn’t learn to do the tasks for themselves and if the parent forgets to do something for the child it leaves the child feeling anxious and upset.

The advice the lecturer gave to the parents attending her course, was to let their children be more independent and to learn the consequences of not having things done perfectly. This will help build more resilient kids and will teach them a level of responsibility for their actions. A teacher is more interested in seeing a child’s attempt at homework, rather than the polished version that a parent has assisted (ie. done) for their child. If a child forgets to pack their library books, then they need to understand they can’t borrow new ones, until they remember to return the ones they already have.

I felt vindicated that a professional has the same opinion as I do on the subject of letting your children do things for themselves. I wrote a post last year ‘The fine line between assisting and doing’ on the subject of giving your children guidance but leaving them to do their homework themselves.

Children need parents to set examples for them, teach them life skills and give them a chance to take responsibility for their actions so that they grow into well-adjusted adults. So if you are a parent who is a perfectionist, take a deep breath and try to live with a little imperfection in your life so that you don’t create anxiety in your children. Kids need to live and learn – so let them!

“The most valuable thing you can make is a mistake – you can’t learn anything from being perfect.” – Adam Osborne

(Photo courtesy of David Castillo Dominici, freedigitialphotos.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)