Keeping Your Cool

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Time to build a mutually rewarding relationship with your child and be the parent you want to be

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A New Spin On Teaching Our Kids

Our toddlers are learning new skills every day, everything they do is about learning new skills. Listening, short-term memory, impulse control, logic, reasoning, self-regulation.... Toddlers live in the NOW. They don't reflect on their behaviour or even understand how their behaviour affects others. It's not in their brain capacity yet. Did you know a fully functioning brain is not developed till mid-twenties? (Crazy right!)

Let's look at an example: A little boy of 2 and a girl of 4 with mum and dad were sitting having lunch in a cafe. After a short while, the little boy wanted up. He was busy walking around the empty table next to his. How do we respond?

Sometimes we talk TOO much!

I was eager to collect my daughter from school. I had dropped her off at school that morning with her swimming bag packed. She was going swimming with her class for the first time. She was super excited and had prepared her swimsuit, towel and goggles days before. As I was waiting at the school gates I could see her coming towards me, she did not look as excited as I thought she would be. A bit wet and bedraggled, and NOT happy.

Bananarama may have really been onto something! “It ain’t what you do, but the way that you do it – and that’s what gets results.” I know that sometimes this wonderful journey of parenting seems to get increasingly difficult.  Especially so when we just want an easy life by getting our children out of the house in the morning, for them to pick up their own toys and for them to come to dinner with washed hands and on time. If this sounds familiar, it’s because it is familiar to pretty much every family at some point. The key to changing these frustrating patterns is to take control and break the cycle.

Tempers were rising. Mum wanted all the family to go for a walk and Leon was defiant, he was not going. He sat on the floor of his room, was feeling exhausted and misunderstood. His little body tired and worn out from all the arguing. Leon just wanted to stay at home and build his Lego. But Mum had other plans and neither person was going to budge even an inch.

When I mess up, lose my cool or have a full-blown adult tantrum, I own up and apologise. I did actually lose it tonight, I ended up in a stupid power struggle with my daughter and really did have a full-blown adult tantrum. I did apologise and all is back to calm.

Kids behave according to the perceptions they have of themselves. So, think about your daily communication with your child. Do they think of themselves as lazy, naughty, loud, annoying, stupid, not good enough, that they can’t make good decisions and their needs are unimportant? Or do they see themselves as capable, able, valued, understood, that their needs and wants are accepted and valid?

I get it!  Parenting is hard work, sometimes it is a struggle just to make it through the day. Threats are easy, they roll off the tongue so quickly and to begin with, we might even think that they work.  However, the positive results we get from threatening our children with consequences are mostly short term. If you take a deep breath and step back, you can become aware that our own behaviour and reactive tools we use actually have a negative effect in the medium to long-term and makes parenting a whole lot more stressful than it needs to be.

A few years ago, I was in daily battles with my 5-year- old daughter, I saw her acting out and defiance as something I need to punish, to teach her a lesson. I went down the road of taking toys away, cancelling play dates all in the mistaken belief that this would change her behaviour and this is what I was meant to do as her mother, that this was the way to teach her wrong from right.  However, this lead to more power struggles and it might have changed her behaviour in the moment but not in the long term and it was taking its toll on our relationship. It was only when I started asking myself these 5 questions did I see a huge change in her behaviour and our relationship was stronger and more connected than ever.  

I hate the word naughty! I really want us to answer the question “What is naughty?” Is it naughty or is it just a child being childish? Are they just using the best resources, skills and brain development they have at that moment? If my child could do any better at that moment, don’t you think they would?  

How can we help our children to grow up with this quality? We all want our children to grow up to be successful, happy, well-adjusted adults able to cope in the world. How many of us think of kindness, compassion or empathy? Before I had children, there was a value I knew for sure I wanted my children to have. Kindness. Yes, I want my child to show empathy, compassion and bucket loads of kindness.

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